Tokyo was originally known as Edo, which means “estuary”. Its name was changed to Tokyo when it became the imperial capital with the arrival of Emperor Meiji in 1868, in line with the East Asian tradition of including the word capital (京) in the name of the capital city. During the early Meiji period, the city was also called “Tōkei”, an alternative pronunciation for the same Chinese characters representing “Tokyo”, making it a kanji homograph. Some surviving official English documents use the spelling “Tokei”. However, this pronunciation is now obsolete.
Meiji Shrine (明治神宮, Meiji Jingū) is a shrine dedicated to the deified spirits of Emperor Meiji and his consort, Empress Shoken. Located just beside the JR Yamanote Line’s busy Harajuku Station, Meiji Shrine and the adjacent Yoyogi Park make up a large forested area within the densely built-up city. The spacious shrine grounds offer walking paths that are great for a relaxing stroll.
At the middle of the forest, Meiji Jingu’s buildings also have an air of tranquility distinct from the surrounding city. Visitors to the shrine can take part in typical Shinto activities, such as making offerings at the main hall, buying charms and amulets or writing out one’s wish on an ema.
Meiji Jingu is one of the Japan’s most popular shrines. In the first days of the New Year, the shrine regularly welcomes more than three million visitors for the year’s first prayers (hatsumode), more than any other shrine or temple in the country. During the rest of the year, traditional Shinto weddings can often be seen taking place there.
The Tokyo Skytree (東京スカイツリー) is a television broadcasting tower and landmark of Tokyo. It is the centerpiece of the Tokyo Skytree Town in the Sumida City Ward, not far away from Asakusa. With a height of 634 meters (634 can be read as “Musashi”, a historic name of the Tokyo Region), it is the tallest structure in Japan and the second tallest in the world at the time of its completion. A large shopping complex with aquarium is located at its base.
The highlight of the Tokyo Skytree is its two observation decks which offer spectacular views out over Tokyo. The two enclosed decks are located at heights of 350 and 450 meters respectively, making them the highest observation decks in Japan and some of the highest in the world.
Tembo Deck, the lower of the two decks is 350 meters high and spans three levels with great views from all of its floors. The top floor features tall, broad windows that offer some of the best 360 degree panoramic views of the city. The middle floor has a souvenir shop and the Musashi Sky Restaurant, which serves French-Japanese fusion cuisine, while the lowest floor features a cafe and some glass panels on the ground from where you can look all the way down to the base of the tower.
A visit to the Tokyo Skytree starts on the 4th floor where the tickets for the first observation deck (but not for the second deck) are sold. A fast and smooth elevator ride takes visitors to the top floor of the first observation deck where tickets for the second observation deck can be purchased. Visitors then access the second deck before descending back to the lower floors of the first observatory where they board the elevator down to the tower’s exit on the 5th floor.
Tokyo Tower’s two main revenue sources are antenna leasing and tourism. It functions as a radio and television broadcasting antenna support structure and is a tourist destination that houses several different attractions. Over 150 million people have visited the tower in total since its opening in late 1958. Tower attendance had been steadily declining until it bottomed out at 2.3 million in 2000. Since then, attendance has been rising, and it has recently been attracting approximately 3 million visitors per year. The first area tourists must visit upon reaching the tower is FootTown, a four-story building stationed directly under the tower. Here, visitors can eat, shop and visit several museums and galleries. Elevators that depart from the first floor of FootTown can be used to reach the first of two observation decks, the two-story Main Observatory. For the price of another ticket, visitors can board another set of elevators from the second floor of the Main Observatory to reach the final observation deck—the Special Observatory.
Akihabara gained the nickname Akihabara Electric Town (秋葉原電気街? Akihabara Denki Gai) shortly after World War II for being a major shopping center for household electronic goods and the post-war black market. Nowadays, Akihabara is considered by many to be an otaku cultural center and a shopping district for video games, anime, manga, and computer goods. Icons from popular anime and manga are displayed prominently on the shops in the area, and numerous maid cafés are found throughout the district.
The influence of otaku culture has shaped Akihabara’s businesses and buildings to reflect the interests of otaku and gained the district worldwide fame for its distinctive imagery. Akihabara tries to create an atmosphere as close as possible to the game and anime worlds of customers’ interest. The streets of Akihabara are covered with anime and manga icons, and cosplayers line the sidewalks handing out advertisements, especially for maid cafés. The idol group AKB48, one of Japan’s highest selling contemporary musical acts, runs its own theater in Akihabara, from which the group’s name is derived.
Release events, special events, and conventions in Akihabara give anime and manga fans frequent opportunities to meet the creators of the works they follow so closely and strengthen the connection between the region and otaku culture. The design of many of the buildings serves to create the sort of atmosphere that draws in otaku. Architects design the stores of Akihabara to be more opaque and closed to reflect the general desire of many otaku to live in their anime worlds rather than display their interests to the world at large.
Akihabara’s role as a free market has also allowed a large amount of amateur work to find a passionate audience in the otaku who frequent the area. Doujinshi, amateur manga (or fanmade manga based on an anime/manga/game) has been growing in Akihabara since the 1970s when publishers began to drop manga that were not ready for large markets.