Tōkyō (東京) is the capital of Japan. At over 12 million people in the official metropolitan area alone, Tokyo is the core of the most populated urban area in the world, Greater Tokyo (which has a population of 35 million people). This huge, wealthy and fascinating metropolis brings high-tech visions of the future side by side with glimpses of old Japan, and has something for everyone.
Tokyo is vast: it’s best thought of not as a single city, but a constellation of cities that have grown together. Tokyo’s districts vary wildly by character, from the electronic blare of Akihabara to the Imperial gardens and shrines of Chiyoda, from the hyperactive youth culture mecca of Shibuya to the pottery shops and temple markets of Asakusa. If you don’t like what you see, hop on the train and head to the next station, and you will find something entirely different.
The sheer size and frenetic pace of Tokyo can intimidate the first-time visitor. Much of the city is a jungle of concrete and wires, with a mass of neon and blaring loudspeakers. At rush hour, crowds jostle in packed trains and masses of humanity sweep through enormous and bewilderingly complex stations. Don’t get too hung up on ticking tourist sights off your list: for most visitors, the biggest part of the Tokyo experience is just wandering around at random and absorbing the vibe, poking your head into shops selling weird and wonderful things, sampling restaurants where you can’t recognize a single thing on the menu (or on your plate), and finding unexpected oases of calm in the tranquil grounds of a neighborhood Shinto shrine. It’s all perfectly safe, and the locals will go to sometimes extraordinary lengths to help you if you just ask.
Tokyo is classified as lying in the humid subtropical climate zone and has four distinct seasons. Summers are usually hot and humid with a temperature range of about 20-30 °C, though it can sometimes climb into the high thirties. Winters are usually mild, with temperatures generally ranging from 0-10 °C, though occasional cold spells can send temperatures plummeting below zero at night. Snow is rare, but on those rare occasions (once every few years) when Tokyo is hit by a snowstorm, much of the train network grinds to a halt. The famous cherry blossoms bloom in March-April and parks, most famously Ueno, fill up with blue tarps and sozzled salary men.