Japan // Tokyo //

Central Tokyo

A vast chunk of central Tokyo is occupied by the Imperial Palace or Kōkyo (皇居), home to the emperor and his family, and the city’s geographical and spiritual heart. The surrounding public gardens provide a gentle introduction to the city, with a glance back to its origins as a castle town.

East of the palace, the city really gets into its stride. The districts of Marunouchi, Ginza and Nihombashi form the heart of downtown Tokyo, with the city’s most chic shopping street, its financial centre and major train station, plus enough bars and restaurants to last a lifetime. The best approach is simply to wander, but there are several specific sights, notably a clutch of art museums and the Tokyo International Forum, with its soaring glass atrium.

Northeast of the palace is lively Akihabara, crammed with cut-price electronic goodies and multistorey manga stores, while to southwest are Akasaka and Roppongi. In the former you’ll find Hie-jinja, one of Tokyo’s most historic shrines, while in the latter an “Art Triangle” has been formed by the National Art Center Tokyo, the Suntory Museum of Art in the huge Tokyo Midtown complex and the Mori Art Museum in the equally enormous Roppongi Hills development. Tokyo Tower remains the area’s retro landmark and nearby is the venerable temple Zōjō-ji.