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The Imperial Palace, Bullet Trains and the Tokyo Station Area

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The Imperial Palace

Home to Emperor Heisei and other members of the Japanese Royal Family, the Imperial Palace sits on land that was once occupied by Edo Castle. It became the official imperial residence in 1868, when Emperor Meiji transferred the seat of power from Kyoto to Edo and changed the name of the city to Tokyo.

Throughout history the palace has been rebuilt many times – most recently in 1968. In the raids of 1945 it was almost completely destroyed, and that was in spite of the popular belief that a pond full of goldfish would scare the bombs away.

To get the best view of the palace you need to stand close to Nijubashi Bridge. (The palace itself is only open two days a year – January 1st and the Emperor’s birthday, December 23rd,) To find the bridge leave Tokyo station via the Maranouchi Exit, follow the broad avenue up to the Imperial Palace Plaza and cross over the moat. Next take the gravel roadway round to the left; Niju Bashi Bridge is then close to the police box.

The Imperial Palace East Gardens are nearby. The entrance is just through Otemon Gate.

Tokyo Station and Its Surrounding Area

Built in the Taisho Era (1912 – 1926) and in the style of Amsterdam Station, Tokyo Station also contains a hotel and an art gallery. There are two main exits. The Maronouchi Exit serves Maronouchi, a business district, while the Yaesuguchi Exit opens onto Nihombashi, a shopping and financial area.

Marunouchi

The Marunouchi District was able to establish itself as an important commercial centre in the mid 1920′s. It was one of the few areas that survived the 1923 earthquake.

Some of the first office blocks were put up by the Mitsubishi Company and with London’s Lombard Street the model, the area became known as “London Town”. Sadly “London Town” was pulled down in 1960. Tokyo Station was to go too, but protest saved it.

During the American Occupation that followed World War II, Marunouchi was the stamping ground for General Douglas McArthur. He used the Daiichi Insurance Company Building as his headquarters. After that, in the 1950′s with profits obtained from the Korean War, the area was extensively re-developed. Today, banks and insurance companies occupy many of the buildings.

Nihonbashi

Nihombashi is famous for two reasons. One, it’s the site of the oldest western style department store in Japan – the Nihombashi Mitsukoshi. And two, it’s known for Nihombashi Bridge, the point from which all distance is measured. For reasons of ugliness alone the bridge is worth a look – in the 1960′s an expressway was built right over the top of it!

Also in Nihombashi you’ll find Tokyo Stock Exchange. The nearest station is Kayabacho Subway Station on the Hibiya Subway Line or the Tozai Subway Line. Viewing times are Monday to Friday, 9:00 am to 11:00 am and 1:00pm to 4:00pm. Leave the station via exit 10 or 11.

The Bullet Train (“Shinkansen”)

Tokyo Station is a big bullet train (“shinkansen”) terminal. Trains shoot in and out with phenomenal punctuality, and frequency. For a close up look, a platform ticket (a “niujyouken” pronounced “new-jaw-ken”) can be bought from the Shinkansen Ticket Office. It costs only 130 yen and will allow you on the platform for up to two hours.

How to get to Tokyo Station

Tokyo Station is on the JR Yamanote Line, the JR Chuo Line, the JR Yokosuka Line, the JR Keihin Tohoku Line and the JR Keiyo Line. It’s also on the Marunouchi Subway Line.

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