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Tokyo - The Metropolis of Asia

Tokyo is Japan's largest city and its capital.

Located on the eastern side of the main island the Tokyo Metropolis was formed in 1943 with the merger of the then city and the surrounding area and is now home to an estimated population of around 13 million.

Tokyo was originally a small fishing village called Edo and was founded in the early 12th century.

By 1457, Edo castle had been built and the area was home to the fledgling military government.

Nearly half of Tokyo was destroyed during WW II making the metropolis today a very modern, bright and vibrant capital dotted with history and culture the further you move out from the city centre proper.

The buzzing electronics industry has made Japan an economic powerhouse not only in Asia but internationally and that has attracted big business names both in industry and commerce.

Although the city can feel somewhat overcrowded and impersonal at times you don't have to travel out very far to find the warmth of the locals and their generous hospitality.

Top 5 things to do in Tokyo

Imperial Palace

Close to Tokyo Station in the Chiyoda district, the Imperial Palace is the main residence for the Emperor of Japan.

The grounds are extensive and include several park areas and many buildings along with the main palace.

The Emperor's residence has been located in this area since 1868 with building work on the current palace being started in 1888 after a fire destroyed the original building.

The main palace building is encircled by a water-filled moat and huge stone walls, however, the central complex is closed to the public for most of the year. It is open only on January 2 for New Year's Greeting and December 23 for the Emperor's Birthday when members of the Imperial Family make several public appearances on a balcony.

For the rest of the year guided tours are available, in either English or Japanese, around the rest of the estate.

The tours have to be booked in advance and you'll probably get the best deal online.

National Garden Shinjuku

The Shinjuku Gyoen National Garden can only be described as the most beautiful area in Tokyo and is a must see during your visit.

The area is split into several major gardens including: Japanese Traditional, French Formal, English Landscape and the Mother and Child Forest.

Completed in 1906, the gardens were for the exclusive use of the royalty but were destroyed in 1945 towards the end of WWII. Restored over the following 4 years the gardens were re-opened and available to the public in 1949.

With its 1,500 cherry trees the garden is at its height during the cherry blossom season (late March to early April) when tourists and locals flock in droves to see the fantastic colours and patterns throughout the area.

You are welcome to take a picnic into the area or you could relax at a traditional Japanese tea house within the gardens.

Open from 9am until 4pm Tuesday through Sunday. Entry fee is around ¥200 for adults and ¥50 for kids.

Maps are available in English so that you can make the most of the gardens.

National Museum

The Tokyo National Museum collects, houses, and preserves a comprehensive collection of art works and archaeological objects of Asia, focusing primarily on Japan.

It is the oldest and largest museum in Japan, built in 1882, and holds over 110,000 objects, 87 of which are classified as being Japanese national treasures.

Located in Ueno Park in the central northern region of Taito the museum complex consists of six galleries with exhibitions changing frequently. The current exhibitions and dates will be listed on the museum's website.

As well as the main museum, the spacious grounds are also home to a number of restaurants, shops and well kept gardens. During the summer months, outdoor exhibitions may also be on display.

Generally open daily from 9:30am through 5pm, except Mondays and year-end holidays, with last admissions 30 minutes before closing although opening hours may be extended until around 8pm during special exhibition periods.

Admission price is ¥600 for adults with free entry for under 18s (proof of age will be required for older teens).

Ueno Park

Although not as big as the National Gardens, Ueno Park is spacious enough to hold three museums within its grounds; Tokyo National Museum, The National Science Museum and the National Museum of Western Art.

It occupies the site of the former Kan'ei-ji pagoda, a former temple dating back to 1625. The original temple was destroyed in WW II and a reconstruction now stands in its place.

Shinobazu Pond takes up a large part of the park with its temple for the goddess of Benten standing on an island in the middle.

There's a famous statue of Saigō Takamori, one of the most influential samurai in Japanese history, walking his dog.

If you read a lot of Japanese fiction then you may recognise several areas of the park as it's a popular place of inspiration for authors and has been included in many books.

Tokyo Dome City

Tokyo Dome City is an amusement park/complex located in Bunkyo, Tokyo.

The complex changed its name, probably for the best, in 2001 from Big Egg City.

It includes the world's largest roofed baseball stadium called Tokyo Dome (nicknamed Big Egg by locals and hence the former name) and an amusement park area called Tokyo Dome City Amusements.

The park also contains Korakuen Hall which hosts many top national sporting events from boxing to martial arts competitions.

Towering over the park stands the very tall and very expensive 43-storey Tokyo Dome Hotel with its 1,006 rooms, 7 restaurants and spa.

The amusements include the world's first hubless Ferris Wheel, a "hyper roller coaster" and various other adrenalin pumping, gravity-defying rides.

Amusements are generally open 9.30/10am until 9pm. A day pass will set you back approximately ¥3,000 for children and ¥4,000 for adults. It's best to check what the pass does and does not include as some special performances and shows will charge an additional entry fee.

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