Tokyo - An Expansive Metropolis Preparing for the Olympics

August 2nd, 2019
Skyline with Tokyo Tower and Rainbow Bridge Tokyo, Japan

The Jewel of Japan

Japan is a country of culture and tradition, with Tokyo acting as a glimpse into the future of technology burgeoning with skyscrapers, neon lights, and infinite possibilities. The streets of Tokyo enchant visitors with the seemingly organic spread of high-rises towering over the distinct neighborhoods of wooden buildings adorned with glowing lanterns. Art galleries, cocktail bars, and quiet restaurants possessing mouthwatering aromas of freshly cooked noodles are all accessible by a subway and train system that easily connects locals and visitors to the 23 central wards or the far-reaches of the island. While parts of the city act as a vision of where the world is heading, a large portion of the fascinating Japanese metropolis highlights the cultural connection to heritage with monuments, landmarks, and museums representing the growth of Tokyo as the capital of Japan from the small 16th-century castle town known as Edo.

Tokyo, Japan Sensoji Temple

History emerges from different neighborhoods of Tokyo within fascinating gardens and stunning temples, as well as within the charming green spaces within easy reach of the city-center. As the 2020 Summer Olympics approach, Tokyo is working on updating its infrastructure and civic centers to accommodate for the tens of thousands of sports fans eager to view the event in addition to the more than 11,000 expected participating athletes from 206 nations.

Japan has already shown its commitment to innovation while celebrating the culture of the Olympics and its own specific heritage by crafting 5,000 of the famous award medals out of recycled cell phones, laptops, or microwaves and by constructing the New National Stadium with a combination of steel and latticed wood with eaves decorated with greenery to help the structure blend in with surrounding lush grounds of the Meiji Shrine Gardens. A number of new buildings across Tokyo will change the landscape of the city with the eyes of locals and visitors focusing on the Aquatics Center based in the new Tasumi Seaside Park and the Kasai Canoe Slalom Center in Edogawa.

Tokyo is opening up to more visitors exploring the cultural history and contemporary aesthetics than ever before. This is resulting in more English language signs and maps scattered across the city fueled by the Olympics and an expected increase of 500,000 new international residents across Japan by the year 2025. As Tokyo readies for the 2020 Olympics, you can find the impression of the games and the traditional pursuits of the culture blending together around the city by enjoying the rich customs and distinctive heritage during your visit.

Public Transportation
Japanese Woman standing at subway train platform
The extensive subway system is a testament to the advancement of the city

Very few destinations in the world can boast about the efficiency and unique ambiance of their public transportation and the Japanese government has been upgrading the Tokyo public transportation system in the event of the predicted increase of up to 600,000 commuters wandering the city due to the Olympics set between late July and early August. Tokyo’s collection of stations embodies the greater tradition of ingenuity in public services ranging from polite attendants dressed in white gloves helping compress commuters into trains during Rush Hour to cats dressed in hats acting as the stationmaster.

The ease of travel derives from addressing the small details such as marking on the platform the point at which the doors with open and the ways in which the shinkansen swiftly clean the train compartments. Friendly staff help visitors with quick and easy recommendations on ways to navigate the labyrinthine stations and rail lines zigzagging across Tokyo. Fans of Hello Kitty can also enjoy the fast-paced ambiance of Tokyo’s public transportation when wandering through the Tama-Center, which transfers visitors into a wonderland of Hello Kitty décor including warning decals on the platforms and a radiant stained-glass ceiling shimmering at the heart of the station.

Sumo Wrestling
Sumo wrestlers
Japan's national sport will make its Olympic debut in 2020

The art of Sumo Wrestling remains the official sport of Japan and was granted full recognition as an Olympic sport by the International Olympic Committee in October of 2018 making it prospective for inclusion into the games. The roots of sumo wrestling date back to the 17th century and athletes across Japan have been helping bring awareness to the importance of the sport for international visitors while also shining a light on the significance of the Olympics in Tokyo for locals. The July Tournament will take place as scheduled in concurrence with the Olympics occurring from July 5th to July 19th of 2020 where you can witness titans of summer games clash across the Olympic venues before experiencing the magnitude of giants grappling in the magnificent hall in Ryogoku where the wrestlers build tension through minutes of stomping and intimidation.

The Imperial Palace
Imperial Palace Tokyo, Japan with bridge and river
The imperial family dates back centuries and remains a bulwark of Japanese tradition

The grounds of the Imperial complex date back to the 15th century with the palace and surrounding lush parks built in the 17th century. The Imperial Palace is one of the most popular attractions in the Marunouchi district as it reflects an important aspect of preserved Japanese history while also continuing to host the Imperial family. Visitors stroll along the Nijubashi Bridge reflected in the stoic waters and pass through the more than six-foot thick wall protecting the palace and interior gates.

The new Olympic stadiums represent the aesthetic and resourcefulness of modern-day Japan but the Imperial Palace reflects the style and engineering capabilities of Japanese heritage found in the captivating panorama of “Mt. Fuji View” Keep and the manicured foliage of the East Gardens. During the Olympics, the grounds of the Imperial Palace will act as the tranquil setting for a number of race-walking events with the colorful gardens and marvelous historic buildings glowing in the background during the Women’s 20-kilometer Race Walk Final.

Ginza District
Ginza District Skyline Tokyo, Japan
The Ginza district was and remains a commercial center of Japan

The Ginza district is the quintessential shopping area in Tokyo and has acted as the center for commercial trade for centuries due to its historic positioning as the central point where the five ancient roads connecting Japan’s cities all met. Exclusive shops line the streets beside grand stores reflecting a prestigious level of elegance. Locals and visitors wander the district stepping into quiet coffee shops or enjoying the aromas of delicious restaurants as the crowds of the surrounding streets rush between shops.

On weekends Ginza district closes to traffic hosting one of the largest pedestrian shopping centers in the world and becomes filled with neon luminosity of the bright lights bathing the streets. The district also hosts the traditional Kabukiza Theatre, the famous venue staging captivating dramatic and comedic performances based on the medieval plays presented inside an auditorium hosting up to 2,500 spectators. The essential shopping district in Tokyo is located approximately five miles from the new Japan National Stadium and offers easy access to other Olympic venues in the Tokyo Bay Zone.

Sensoji Temple
Sensoji Temple, Tokyo, Japan
Traditional Japanese architecture and culture remains a centerpiece of the city

The classic architecture and remarkable history of the of Sensoji Temple makes it an exquisite destination in Tokyo’s Asakusa district. The structure rises above the edge of the long Nakamise shopping street where a lively market hosts merchants selling carvings, masks, kimonos, and wooden toys. The temple is dedicated to the Buddhist goddess of compassion known as Kannon with the grounds dating back to the 7th century AD.

The radiant red-paper lantern adorning the Kaminarimon Gate possesses an inscription and stands nearly 11 feet tall while the earthenware jar known as Jokoro billows with scented smoke as visitors attempt to cover themselves with plumes from the burning incense in the belief it has healing properties. Sensoji Temple is one of Tokyo’s most popular attractions drawing upwards of 30 million visitors per year and while not specifically connected to the games, Sensoji Temple symbolizes the preserved tradition and strong sense of culture the newly constructed stadiums have attempted to balance.