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The Center of the Universe, as well as pink bunny neon signs.

The political and economic center of Japan, Tokyo (東京都 Tōkyō-tō, lit. "Tokyo Metropolis") is the center of the largest metropolis in the world at 35 1/2 million people, roughly 30% of the entire Japanese population. (OK, legally Tokyo is one of Japan's 47 prefectures that encompasses the original city itself as well as the western suburbs and a string of islands up to 1000 kilometers south to Iwo Jima, but the whole place including Saitama, Chiba, and Yokohama is so crowded and built-up it's easier to treat it as a single city.) That's pretty much the reason why Tokyo Is the Center of the Universe as far as Japanese media is concerned.

A History of the Center of the Universe

Up to the end of the 16th century, it was a small fishing village called Edo (江戸). The political center of Japan at the time was in Kyoto, while the economic center was in nearby Osaka - both located in the Kansai Plain. The Kanto Plain, where Tokyo now resides, was at the frontier of Japanese civilization (the "Wild East", as it were.) Following the Sengoku Jidai, Tokugawa Ieyasu set up shop in Edo because of its rich farmland and made it his center of power. The capital was still officially Kyoto, and the Emperor still lived there, but the true power in the 17th through mid-19th centuries was in the Tokugawa Shogunate's hands. Tokugawa Iemitsu, Ieyasu's grandson, established the policy of sankin kōtai ("alternate attendance"), which required every daimyō to reside in Edo every other year.

When Commodore Matthew Perry arrived in 1853 in his Black Ships, Japan realized just how far behind they were compared with the "barbarian" West, and set upon a crash modernization program. By this point, Edo had grown to a million people, and when the capital and the Emperor were transferred to the city it was renamed Tokyo, which literally means "Eastern Capital" (東京).note  From here on, Tokyo (really all of Japan's cities) exploded in growth as the nation industrialized.

Tokyo had its share of disasters - the Great Kanto Earthquake of 1923 caused massive fires all over the city (it struck around lunchtime when people were cooking, and buildings were made of wood because said earthquakes discouraged building with heavier materials), and during World War II it was the target of many Allied air raids, the most (in)famous of which were firebombing runs. Tokyo wasn't the only city that got torched, but as the largest city and with so many buildings made of wood, those bombing runs killed more people (directly) than even the atomic bombs dropped on Hiroshima and Nagasaki. This is part of the reason why The Tokyo Fireball is used so often in Japanese media - it's been such a part of their history (not that it's good or that it was just World War II that placed it in the collective consciousness.)

After the war Tokyo and the rest of Japan rebuilt themselves. Foreswearing war as a political tool (Article 9) and reliant on the US for defense in the Cold War, Japan set about dominating the world economically. The Japanese economic miracle in the 1960s and 70s was hailed as a triumph of capitalism, and Tokyo as the central engine of it rode the boom to the top of the world's greatest cities. The city felt the effects of success in the 1980s when real estate in Tokyo began to reach truly mind-boggling heights - by 1989, office space in Ginza, Tokyo's main business district, reached the price of 100 million yen (US$1 million) per square meter.note  Corporate Japan felt invincible, and most of the US was inclined to agree.

Then 1991 came around.

The bubble burst, the Nikkei (the main stock index for the Tokyo Stock Exchange) tanked badly, Japan's economy hit turbulence, and thanks to the Japanese government's closeness with its business (the very same closeness that enabled Japan to rocket out of World War II's destitution in the first place), it did too little too late to turn it around in time. Japan's economy experienced two decades of stagnation — two "Lost Decades". For Tokyo's part, its real estate price fell to just 1% of that 100 million yen figure in 1989.

Still, Tokyo continues to grow even as Japan as a whole ages and its overall population declines.

Now for the A-ward Ceremony

As mentioned before, Tokyo is legally one of Japan's 47 prefectures. Other prefectures are subdivided into cities, towns, and villages; so is the western half of Tokyo Prefecture (the Tama Area). The eastern half, however, is divided into 23 special wards (特別区, tokubetsu-ku) - before 1943 this area was known as Tokyo City (along the lines of Kyoto and Osaka Cities) before the government reorganized it. This reform has, effectively, caused the City of Tokyo to be merged with and into the Tokyo Prefecture, with the Tokyo Prefecture performing the duties previously performed by the City, while the City's wards and their management were maintained as-is. The main intent of the reform is to eliminate the elected Mayor of Tokyo (City) and the Tokyo City Council, so as to prevent insubordination should things so south.

The special wards act much like municipalities elsewhere in Japan (they elect their own mayors and city councils) but they don't have quite as much control over their area as regular municipalities - they can't pass their own laws, for instance. Local councils do promote the local economy and take care of things like car registration (That Other Wiki compares the situation to the boroughs of London), mainly using money granted to them by the metropolitan government. Confusingly, each special ward titles itself as a "City" in English (e.g., "Chiyoda City").

  • 01. Chiyoda (千代田)
    • The center of Japanese politics - the ward itself is centered on the Imperial Palace ("Chiyoda" translates as "field of a thousand generations" and is another name for the Imperial Palace) and extends about a kilometer in each direction, encompassing the National Diet and the Prime Minister's residence are located here. Also here are the Budokan, Tokyo Station, and Yasukuni Shrine. The boundaries largely correspond to the historical outer wall of the old Edo Castle (the current Imperial Palace is just its central part) and the land that's been reclaimed from the sea since: historically, the castle ended roughly where the Tokyo Station currently sits.
    • There's this one district in its northeast that anime fans might have heard of called Akihabara. Aniplex is also based in this ward.
    • Michelle and Maggie went bananas at Jinbocho in Kanda, with store after store of used books. Jinbocho also holds the headquarters of major publishers Shueisha (publisher of Shonen Jump), Shogakukan (publisher of CoroCoro Comic and Shonen Sunday), and Hakusensha (publisher of Hana to Yume and LaLa).
    • Here also is the headquarters of the Tokyo Metropolitan Police, roughly Japan's equivalent to Scotland Yard. Very prominent in Case Closed, among other series.
    • Both Kadokawa and Toho are centered here. Gaming companies Game Arts, Game Freak (Pokémon), Grasshopper Manufacture, G.rev Ltd., Hal Laboratory, and Irem are also headquartered in this ward.
    • Four of Japan's Big Five national newspapers have their central offices here: the conservative Yomiuri Shimbun (currently the most circulated), Nihon Keizai Shimbun/Nikkei (focused on economy), and Sankei Shimbun (leans into far-right), as well as the liberal, left-wing Mainichi Shimbun (the oldest of the five). The Japan Times, the country's leading English-language newspaper, is also based here.
  • 02. Chuo (中央, Chūō)
    • Literally "Central Ward-ward", as it is more or less in the center of the 23 wards, as well as the location of Nihonbashi, the bridge where all highway mileage markers to Tokyo are measured. It is the historical commercial center of Tokyo (though Shinjuku has recently been an upstart rival in that department). Many companies remain headquartered here, including Access Games, Konami, Genius Sonority, Sony, and Toei Company.
    • The Ginza district (famous for high-end shopping) is here, right next-door to the aforementioned book capital of Kanda.
    • Tsukiji fish market (famous for...well, fish. And the auctions that start at four in the morning) to the south, towards the Minato-ku, was here until it closed in October 2018 - the market moved to the Toyosu area of Koto.
    • The ward also hosts the world's third largest stock exchange by market capitalization, the Japan Exchange Group (which owns the Tokyo and Osaka Stock Exchanges).
  • 03. Minato (港)
    • Exactly What It Says on the Tin if you read Japanese - "港" literally means "port" and this ward contains the port facilities of Tokyo itself (though most actual shipping into and out of the Kanto area nowadays is in Yokohama). Tokyo Tower is located here.
    • Odaiba is an island full of various amusement areas and research parks, and includes the unusually-shaped headquarters of Fuji Television, as well as a life-size Gundam. A little known fact is that actually very little of the whole area is situated in Minato ward, most of the development being spread through the neighboring districts of Koto and Shinagawa. Odaiba is connected to the rest of the Minato ward by the famous Rainbow Bridge.
    • Azabu-juban is located here. And the first anime's Hikawa Shrine is based on a real shrine in Akasaka.
    • It is also the seat of the other, more Westerners-oriented entertainment district of Tokyo, Roppongi. Though it's not only the merry-making, Roppongi also houses many of the foreign embassies, including the Russian one with its infamously long and ugly concrete fencenote  that everyone has to pass while walking from the station towards the Tokyo Tower (which also happens to sit there, as does the Roppongi Hills Mori Tower). The current tallest fully-habitable building in Tokyo, Toranomon Hills, is also found here.
    • Keio University, among the country's most prestigious, is located in Mita district.
    • Video game companies Bandai Namco Entertainment, KAZe, Nexon, and Spike Chunsoft, as well as animation studio Polygon Pictures are based here.
    • Other than Fuji TV, Animax, Nippon Television, Tokyo Broadcasting System, TV Asahi, and TV Tokyo all operate from here.
    • The 47 Ronin and their liege are buried in Sengaku-ji in the southern neighbourhood of Takanawa.
    • "Shinagawa" station is actually located here rather than in the namesake ward to the south. It is often advertised as a preferable transfer point for the tourists heading West, towards Kyoto and Osaka, as both Narita Expressnote  and Tokaido Shinkansen to Osaka stop there, and the station itself is much smaller and easier to traverse than the enormous Tokyo Station.
  • 04. Shinjuku (新宿)
    • Literally translates as "New Lodge", which makes sense as this was one of the least-devastated areas of Tokyo in the 1923 Great Kanto Earthquake and today contains a great deal of skyscrapers. Most of the metropolitan government's offices are located here - you might recognize the buildingnote  as the headquarters of Hypnos. It was the tallest building completed in Tokyo in the 1990s.
    • When the sun goes down, the area remains lively with a wide array of entertainment options around Shinjuku Station, the most (in)famous area being Kabuki-cho (where most of Gintama takes place, though that might be a bit obscured by the general premise of the series; also the real-world model for Kamuro-cho in the Like a Dragon games). Ichijinsha (publisher of Yuri Hime) is based in this ward.
    • Ōkubo is most known for being Tokyo's most prominent neighborhood of Koreans in Japan.
    • The gigantic Shinjuku Station is literally the busiest passenger station in the world, serving about 4 million passengers a day (and delivering one of the most heartbreaking goodbyes in anime history).
    • Cave, Kairosoft, Natsume, Square Enix, and Taito are based here. Square Enix modeled the city of Insomnia from Final Fantasy XV after Shinjuku.
    • Keio's rival, Waseda University, also one of Japan's most prestigious, is based here.
    • The ward hosts the offices of Seikyo Shimbun, the country's third-most circulated daily newspaper. It is affiliated with Soka Gakkai, Japan's most widespread new religious movement, which claims 12 million adherents all over the country.
    • For a look at its darker side, check out Tokyo Godfathers.
    • Also home to the Japan Self-Defense Forces.
    • On a downer note, Shinjuku was site of Japan's deadliest terrorist attack in modern history, when a doomsday cult called Aum Shinrikyo (since been renamed "Aleph") attacked train lines on the way to the National Diet with sarin gas on March 20, 1995, killing 12 and injuring over 6,000 people.
  • 05. Bunkyo (文京, Bunkyō)
  • 06. Taito (台東, Taitō)
    • Senso-ji, the Buddhist temple with the very famous Kaminarimon gate and long rows of small shops, is located in Asakusa.
    • Ueno contains, you'll never guess, Ueno Park - the park contains several national museums and temples and holds a statue to Saigo Takamori, the real Last Samurai. It's also home to many of Japan's homeless (parks in general are favored sleeping spots of the homeless in Japan; the fact that Ueno Park is both large and one of the country's first public parks just takes it to the logical conclusion).
    • Keisei Ueno Station, which is physically separate from the JR station, is the terminus of the Keisei Skyliner between Tokyo and Narita Airport.
    • The ward is home to developers nitro+, Sting Entertainment, and Type-Moon, but ironically not its namesake.
    • The famous Ameya-Yokochō open-air market, better known as Ameyoko, stretches between Okamachi and Ueno Stations here.
  • 07. Sumida (墨田)
    • Another mostly residential quarter made famous by a couple of traffic inspectors from the Bokuto neighborhood, which ironically never had a police precinct in Real Life. Now known as the location of the Tokyo Skytree, the tallest tower in the world and the 2nd tallest structure in the world behind the Burj Khalifa, though as far as fully-habitable buildings are concerned the much shorter Abeno Harukas in Osaka is the victor in Japan.
    • The 1894 Tokyo earthquake had its epicenter in Sumida. It was the last time any area in the metropolis became the epicenter of a major earthquake (even though the 1923 Great Kanto earthquake badly affected Tokyo, it actually stroke nearby Kanagawa Prefecture).
    • Honjo Matsuzaka-cho Park is where the residence of Kira Yoshinaka, the target of The 47 Ronin, used to stand.
  • 08. Koto (江東, Kōtō)
    • Tokyo Big Sight, where the twice-annual Comiket is held, is located in Ariake out on Tokyo Bay (next to Odaiba).
    • While Odaiba is usually being thought of being in Minato, most of it is actually in Koto — technically speaking, only a very small part of the whole development (officially called Tokyo Rinkai Fukutoushin, or Tokyo Waterfront Secondary Downtown), centered around Daiba station of the Yurikamome line, is officially named Daiba and is in Minato. The rest of the neigborhood, south of Wangan Road, is actually called Aomi, and, together with neighboring Ariake island, is in Koto ward. Odaiba is a strictly unofficial name and refers to the whole area, including as well the Higashi-Yashio district in Shinagawa.
    • Home to many Kawaiiko attractions, from the Rainbow Bridge to a whole Hello Kitty theme park.
  • 09. Shinagawa (品川)
    • A mostly residential and commercial district (8ing/Raizing, Kojima Productions, and Sega are headquartered here), it was formerly a large suburb and a first station on the historical Tokaido road between Tokyo and Osaka.
    • Together with Roppongi in Minato, the ward's Shinagawa district houses most of the foreign embassies in Tokyo.
    • Yet another part of the whole Odaiba, Higashi-yashio, also happens to be there.
  • 10. Meguro (目黒)
    • Home of the Meguro Parasitology Museum.
    • Also home to gaming companies INiS and Monolith Soft, as well as the head offices for Amazon Japan, Books Kinokuniya, Don Quijote, Unilever and Walt Disney Japan.
    • The Meguro River is a popular Cherry Blossoms viewing spot.
    • Starbucks lovers will find the Starbucks Reserve Roastery Tokyo, second largest outlet in the world, here.
    • Actor Takuya Kimura and Nobuyo Oyama, former voice actress of Doraemon and Danganronpa's Monokuma, are known celebrity residents of the ward.
  • 11. Ota (大田, Ōta)
    • Mostly a residential suburban district with an industrial waterfront and home to Haneda Airport.
    • Den-en-chofu, an area of European-style architecture famous for being expensive and exclusive even by Tokyo standards and home to many celebrities, can be found here.
    • "Ward" is "ku" in Japanese, and the obligatory jokes about "Ōta-ku" reached another level in 2015 when card-carrying otaku Minoru Ogino was elected as assemblyman.
  • 12. Setagaya (世田谷)
    • The most heavily populated ward, and home to the headquarters of some famous video game companies, such as Atlus, creator of Shin Megami Tensei franchise, and animation studio OLM Incorporated.
  • 13. Shibuya (渋谷)
    • Home of a really famous scramble crossing and a famous statue of Hachikō the dog, both in front of the train station. Major fashion center, both in front of the station itself and in Harajuku.
    • The ward headquarters Cygames, FromSoftware, Grezzo, and Idea Factory.
    • NHK broadcasts from here.
    • The famous NTT Docomo Yoyogi Building is located, as the name implies, next to Yoyogi Station in its Sendagaya district. The dilapidated building central to Weathering With You's plot also used to be in the vicinity until its demolition in 2019.
  • 14. Nakano (中野)
  • 15. Suginami (杉並)
  • 16. Toshima (豊島)
    • To the west of Ikebukuro Station is Otome Road, an anime merchandise center catering to female fans. Including those.
    • To the east, meanwhile, stands Sunshine 60, which was the tallest building in Japan completed in the 1970s. It was built atop the old Sugamo Prison which housed and was the execution site of several war criminals, including former Prime Minister Hideki Tojo — ghost stories from that time permeate the local rumors.
    • Ikebukuro district, in general, is where Durarara!! takes place.
    • Compile Heart has its headquarters in this ward.
    • The ward is host to Gakushuin University, a traditional alma mater of Japan's old aristocracy, including the Emperor himself, and, surprisingly to many, Hayao Miyazaki.note 
  • 17. Kita (北)
    • Literally translates as "North", and is indeed one of the northernmost wards, with Saitama Prefecture on its northern border.
    • Home of the Kyū-Furukawa Gardens with their rose garden, a National Place of Scenic Beauty, as well as Oji Shrine, one of the Tokyo Ten Shrines.
    • Home ward of Megumi Hayashibara.
    • Tabata Station, made famous by Weathering With You, is located here.
  • 18. Arakawa (荒川)
  • 19. Itabashi (板橋)
    • Also a quiet northern ward bordering Saitama Prefecture.
    • Home to four universities, two botanical gardens and the Jorenji Temple with its giant Tokyo Daibutsu Buddha.
  • 20. Nerima (練馬)
  • 21. Adachi (足立)
    • A sprawling, yet sleepy, shitamachi area, mostly wedged in between the Arakawa and Nakagawa River with a small portion stretching to the northern bank of the Sumida River. This portion is Kita-Senju, a funky residential neighborhood centered around a major transfer station (for the Joban Line Rapid service, Tobu Skytree Line, Tsukuba Express and two subway lines) of the same name.
  • 22. Katsushika (葛飾)
  • 23. Edogawa (江戸川)
    • The easternmost ward, with the Edo River that gives it its name serving as a natural border with Chiba Prefecture. "Tokyo" Disneyland and DisneySea are just across said border.
    • Diamond and Flower Ferris Wheel, Edogawa Natural Zoo, Tokyo Metro Museum and Tokyo Sea Life Park are found here.

Western Tokyo

The rest of the Tokyo Metropolis is made up of several other cities (市 shi) collectively known as the Tama (多摩) Region.
  • 1. Hachioji (八王子, Hachiōji)
    • During the 1964 Summer Olympics, this city placed host to the road cycling and track cycling events.
  • 2. Tachikawa (立川)
  • 3. Musashino (武蔵野)
  • 4. Mitaka (三鷹)
  • 5. Ome (青梅, Ōme)
    • Home to Ome Railway Park, a railway museum.
  • 6. Fuchu (府中, Fuchū)
  • 7. Akishima (昭島)
  • 8. Chofu (調布, Chōfu)
    • The city has Tokyo's lesser known airport, Chofu Airport, which exclusively offers flights to the Izu Islands.
    • JAXA has its headquarters here.
  • 9. Machida (町田)
    • Satoshi Tajiri, creator of Pokémon, was born here, and Pallet Town was originally based on it.
    • Also the location of Buaisō, the former home of post-war bureaucrat Jirō Shirasu, who is most (in)famous for demanding a table when General Douglas MacArthur told him to put a gift from Emperor Hirohito on the floor.
  • 10. Koganei (小金井)
  • 11. Kodaira (小平)
  • 12. Hino (日野)
  • 13. Higashimurayama (東村山)
  • 14. Kokubunji (国分寺)
  • 15. Kunitachi (国立)
  • 16. Fussa (福生)
  • 17. Komae (狛江)
  • 18. Higashiyamato (東大和)
  • 19. Kiyose (清瀬)
    • TYO anime studio is based here.
  • 20. Higashikurume (東久留米)
  • 21. Musashimurayama (武蔵村山)
  • 22. Tama (多摩)
  • 23. Inagi (稲城)
    • Animation studio Mook DLE is based here.
  • 24. Hamura (羽村)
  • 25. Akiruno (あきる野)
  • 26. Nishitokyo (西東京, Nishitōkyō)

Further to the west is the mountainous, sparsely-populated Nishitama District (西多摩郡, Nishitama-gun), made up of 3 towns (町 machi) and 1 village (村 mura) rather than incorporated as cities:

  • 27. Mizuho Town (瑞穂町)
  • 28. Hinode Town (日の出町)
    • Late former prime minister Yasuhiro Nakasone had a cottage here, Hinode Sansō, where he entertained foreign VIPs. It was donated to the town in 2006 and is now a public park.
  • 29. Hinohara Village (檜原村)
  • 30. Okutama Town (奥多摩町)
    • Geographically the largest municipality of Tokyo, and also its least dense.
    • Located in the mountains of the same name, with Tokyo's highest peak Mount Kumotori separating it from Saitama and Yamanashi Prefectures. Also contains Tokyo's northernmost and westernmost points.

The Islands

Tokyo also has incorporated several islands south of the Japanese main islands as part of 4 Subprefectures (支庁 shichō), which in turn are divided into 2 towns and 7 villages. These comprise the Izu Islands and the Ogasawara Islands (also called "Bonin Islands" in English sources).

Izu Islands

  • 1. Oshima (大島, Ōshima)
    • Godzilla is trapped inside Mount Mihara in 1984. A park commemorating him can be found in the south of Izu Oshima.
    • Horror fans might know Izu Oshima as the childhood home of Sadako Yamamura.
  • 2. Miyake (三宅)
  • 3. Hachijo (八丈, Hachijō)
    • A few hundred people in Hachijo and Aogashima islands still speak a group of highly divergent regional dialects descended from East Old Japanese (while East-West distinction exists in the Japanese language, all varieties of Japanese today, with the exception of the Hachijo dialects, are descendants of West Old Japanese, because the center of the Japanese civilization at the time was in Western Japan). There are eight dialects, spread over remote villages of Hachijo, Aogashima, and a deserted island called Hachijokojima. The most notable distinction of Hachijo Japanese is that attributive form of verbs end in "-o" as opposed to Standard Japanese's "-u" (so it's iko toki instead of iku toki, meaning "when (I) go") and attributive form of adjectives end in "-ke" as opposed to "-i" (so it's akake instead of akai for "red").

Ogasawara Islands

  • 4. Ogasawara (小笠原)
    • The islands which make up this subprefecture were uninhabited before the 19th century. They were first discovered by the Spanish and settled by the British, later joined by Japanese settlers who claimed the islands for Imperial Japan in 1875. These people intermingled and produced a mixed-race people, some of whom still speak an English creole called Bonin English.
    • The Volcano Islands are administered by Ogasawara, and Iwo Jima is one of these islands, but they have no civilian population. Also, the official name in Japanese is actually "Iwo-to"note  (硫黄島 Iō-tō) and it literally means "Sulfur Island".