Tokyo, (officially called Tokyo Metropolis), is one of Japan’s 47 prefectures, and is the center of the Greater Tokyo Area as well as the largest metropolitan area of Japan.
Located on the eastern side of the main island Honsh?, Tokyo is the seat of the Japanese government and the Imperial Palace, and is the home of the Japanese Imperial Family. Formed in 1943, Tokyo Metropolis merged the former Tokyo Prefecture and the city of Tokyo.
Prior to 1868, Tokyo was known as Edo. Just a small castle town until 1603 when the Shogun warrior Tokugawa Leyasu established his feudal government there, within a few decades it grew into one of the most populous cities in the world. When the Meiji Revolution reinstated Imperial rule in 1868, the Emperor and the capital were moved from Kyoto to Edo, which was then renamed Tokyo, meaning “Eastern Capital.” During the following century, large portions of Tokyo were destroyed in the Great Kanto Earthquake of 1923 and in the allied air raids of 1945.
Today, Tokyo Metropolis consists of 23 city wards, 26 cities, 5 towns, and 8 villages, and includes the Izu and Ogasawara Islands, as well as several small Pacific Islands south of Honshu. The 23 city wards are the center of Tokyo and make up about one third of the metropolis’ area, housing roughly eight of Tokyo’s approximately twelve million residents.
Described as one of three “command centers” of world economy by noted Dutch sociologist Saskia Sassen (along with New York City and London), Tokyo was named the World’s Most Expensive City in 2009 according to the Mercer and Economist Intelligence Unit cost-of-living surveys (with some real estate priced at one million dollars per square meter), and the third Most Livable City (and Megalopolis) by the magazine Monocle.
Shibuya Station and Hachiko Square
A key component of Tokyo’s transportation system is Shibuya Station, the third busiest train station in all Tokyo (after Shinjuku and Ikebukuro), handling over 2 million commuters daily who routinely travel between the city center and suburbs to the south and west.
Shibuya Station’s main building is occupied by a Tokyu department store, while the Tokyo Metro Ginza Line uses platforms on the third floor, the JR lines and T?ky? T?yoko Line use parallel platforms on the second floor, and the Tokyo Metro Hanz?mon Line and T?ky? Den-en-toshi Line share platforms underground. The Kei? Inokashira Line uses platforms on the second floor of the Shibuya Mark City building to the west of the main station complex.
A pivotal feature of the main JR/T?ky?/T?ky? Metro complex is its six exits which open onto Hachiko Square, a rectangular space said to be the busiest “simultaneous pedestrian crosswalk” in the world, seeing approximately one million people each day, with as many as 10,000 people crossing during a single cycle of the light.
Otherwise undistinguished except for the presence of the famous sculpture of Hachiko, the loyal dog said to have met his master at the station faithfully every night at a certain hour even after his master died, Hachiko Square is about as long as the front of the New York Public Library (for those of you familiar). An extremely hectic intersection (as one might imagine), there are no seats or benches, yet is a popular tourist destination and people-watching location, and said to be a common meeting place before a night out by those who say the calming presence of Hachiko provides a sense of tranquility for all those who constantly gather near the loyal dog.
One feature of this intersection, which was seen in the 2003 film Lost in Translation, with Bill Murray and Scarlett Johanssen, is Center Gai, a narrow 120 ft. long street well-known for its clothing stores, music stores, a few shops (including Tutuanna, the Silver Shop, and Tsutaya), and video game arcades. Beginning at Starbucks Coffee (said to be the busiest branch in the world), it ends at the HMV advertisement above Gein Kawano, where three large TV screens mounted on nearby buildings overlooking the crossing project giant images day and night. (Shades of Bladerunner.)
Images via Wikipedia and japanesetourism/hachiko
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