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Tokyo, capital city of Japan since 1869, is one of the most populated metropolitan cities in the world. Believe it or not, Tokyo City is complex, big and always on the move. Be warned, if you are in Tokyo City for the first time, you will be greeted with the city's saturated big concrete high rise building, very wide roads, raised concrete expressways crossing one another.
This remarkable city is also where the old meets the young. You can be in the most modern place such as Roppongi in one minute and you can wonder down the street to experience a traditional old shrine or town the next moment. This is the beauty of exploring the City of Tokyo.
Greater Tokyo has 23 wards (ku), 26 smaller cities, 7 towns and 8 villages. To have an appreciation of its size, the distance from the east to west is 88 km (55 mil) while it is 24km (15 mil) from north to south. The way Tokyo City is organized seems to be a bit complicated in terms of finding a place even with address. You are not alone as the local themselves find it difficult as well. The best way to go about it is to ask for direction. In Tokyo city, there are numerous koban (local police box) where you can approach for help. Believe it or not, the policemen spent most of their time helping people finding their destination. The lesson here is to always bring along the location map of your accommodation. You can get it from your hotel.
The City of Tokyo is really a big place and the best way to know this city is to have an introductory city tour. You can start your day by visiting the Meiji Shrine at Shibuya ku. The Meiji Shrine sits in Yoyoji Park. This is one of the must-see religious sites in Tokyo which was dedicated to Emperor Meiji, the first emperor of modern Japan. During New Year, it draws a million-plus of crowds. This gives you enough good reasons to pay a visit.
The next place to visit is the Imperial Palace East Garden. Along the way, you will travel past the National Diet Building recognized by its pyramid-shaped dome. This building houses the Japanese parliament. There is a free 60-minute tour of the Sangi-in or House of Councillors or Lower House when the Diet is not in session. If you are interested and have sufficient time, do come back here again.
The Imperial Palace East Garden (Higashi-Gyoen) is open to public but not everyday. It is close on Monday and Friday. If you happen to be there on these two days, can visit the Imperial Palace Plaza instead. In the garden, you can have a closed up view on the massive stones that built the castle walls, visit the Museum of Imperial Collections and enjoy a stroll on the typical Japanese garden. There are three gates to the garden and the most commonly used gate is the Ote-mon on the east. The Ote-mon is closed to the Tokyo Station and this was the principal entrance to Edo Castle for more than 200 years.
After visiting the Imperial Place East Garden, it will be almost half a day gone and is a good time take a rest and have lunch. If you are with a tour group, your lunch will mostly be included. However, if you are on you own, do not worry. There are plenty of eateries in the city of Tokyo, ranging from restaurant to fast food outlet. One of the best bet is to get into the basement of a department stores where you can find food in the basement food hall. You can visit the nearby Mitsukoshi Department Store in Tokyo's Gina district where you can eat to your hearts content. Finding suitable choices of food to suit you appetite is never a problem in Tokyo because there are simply too many to chose from. If you are not in for Japanese food, then go for a simple burger.
The next stop will probable be the most celebrated district of Asakusa. Do you know what, I visited this place twice when I was in the City of Tokyo. This place is famous for the Sensoji Temple (Asakusa Kannon Temple) and the colorful Nakamise walkway leading to the temple. The Nakamise walkway is lined with many colorful stores leading up to Sensoji Temple, Tokyo's oldest and most famous Buddhist temple. This is where you can get all your souvenirs.
The last visit on your agenda might be the futuristic Odaiba which has become one of Tokyo's most popular areas. You can cross over to this island via the Rainbow Bridge and enjoy the view of Tokyo bay. At Odiba you can visit places like the Palette Town, the Aqua City and the unusual shopping mall of Venus Fort. It is rather a big place with some wonderful parks to stroll.
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