A megapolis like Tokyo has plenty to do. Too much to see in just 3 months or maybe even 3 years. Most very big cities like London, Buenos Aires and New York don’t have one city center but several areas which are central to business, commerce, culture and politics. Tokyo is no different and in reality consists of 23 cities rolled into one. Many of these are suburban like

A 12 carriage JR Yamanote train

Katsushika where I live. This Tokyo city has a mayor, municipal buildings and a scattering of sights like Buddhist and Shinto shrines to visit but it’s the cities which surround JR’s (Japan Rail) Yamanote line which are where things really happen. The Yamanote line forms a circle in Tokyo encompassing many of the cities and a lap of the circle will take you just over an hour. Let’s take a look at some of them.

Route map of JR’s Yamanote line which forms a circle around much of central Tokyo. The larger or more important stations are in bold.

1. Chiyoda – Imperial Palace, Yasukini shrine, Tokyo station
The ward of Chiyoda is home to Tokyo station which is a surprise really as you don’t expect mega cities to have a single train station with such a name (there’s no London station or Paris station). It is, like so many stations in Tokyo, enormous and can be confusing to find your way around. It has connections to all over the country and all parts of Tokyo especially the eastern wards though it isn’t the busiest station in the city. Nearby is the Imperial Palace whose land occupying the center of the richest city on the planet is apparently worth more than all the real estate in California. Unfortunately the Emperor is a private kind of guy so much of the palace grounds are off limits to the general public.

Buildings near the Imperial Palace

You can, however, visit some of the gardens nearby which are beautiful and relaxing on a warm day with lawns, shaded wood areas and little lakes with turtles, koi and enough flowers to satisfy all of Tokyo on St. Valentines Day! Entry is free but strangely you have to queue for a ticket which you later have to hand back on your wait out. Then there’s Yasukini shrine which is infamous for enshrining some of the war criminals from World War II although the shrine is dedicated to remembering those who fought for the emperor.

Next stop: Bunkyo for business and sport and Chuo for the finest (and most expensive) shopping in Asia…