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The beautiful photo of Marunouchi above is courtesy of Tsutomu Kuriyama from the Panorama Tokyo Review.

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Tokyo Station is where I first arrived when I went to Tokyo by bullet train from Kobe (South).  When I got to the station for the first time I had planned to meet a friend at the gate of the "shinkansen" - bullet train but when I got out I couldn't find her.  Well don't make the same mistake I did and not realize how huge the station is and that there is more than one exit for the shinkansen.   Anyway I was lucky because I had her "keitai" - cellular phone number handy and could call her up, which I did and we met no problem, well almost no problem.  It was hard for even her to find where I was even by me telling her the name of the exit I was at (which is in English and easy to see) So I recommend find out this information before you meet anywhere in Tokyo.

1.  Find out what your contacts cellular phone number is. (Everyone in Tokyo has a cellular phone)

2.  Decide a good meeting place before hand, and exact place, or you'll have trouble meeting. (Even people who have lived there their whole lives have trouble)

After that it was mostly a blur going back to her place to drop off my bags.   We must have switched trains and subways five times with a mad rush of literally a million people in our way the whole time.  It was one of the best days of my life because I had a great feeling of satisfaction knowing that I had done what I set out to do, that is go to Tokyo during my trip, and there I was.  It was more of everything than I could have imagined.  Bigger, busier and more exciting.

After the first night staying on the fourth floor of a building that was my friends family store, (on the first floor) I ventured out by myself to see the city.  Keep in mind though that I had already been living in Japan for many months, could speak Japanese and knew the transportation system fairly well.  If all of these things don't apply to you I recommend you don't go flying around by yourself on the first day out, you'll probably get lost.  If you have a friend to help you, it's better to have he/she help you out a bit at first.

1.  If you know you'll be going around all day on the subway (which goes everywhere) buy an all day pass and save some money.   It's easy to and rack up some serious spending on all the short trips and transfers in the Tokyo area, that you'll make going around.

2.  If you're there for more than a few days and will be using the subway a lot, buy eleven tickets for the price of ten? or nine? and again save some money.  Just buy for the lowest fair and adjust at the machines if you're going further.  It's easy!

I went back to Tokyo station that first morning (after rush hour of course) got out of the station on the wrong side (I wanted to go to the Imperial Palace but I went out the East exit by mistake) and started walking around.  It was fun and really relaxing because I had no planned destination and I was by myself so even if I did go to some place I shouldn't go or go out the wrong exit it didn't really matter. 

I walked east along a main street all the way to the bay (Tokyo Bay) and across a neat bridge.  Seeing as that itself was about a two kilometer walk I was tired and turned around and went back along a different street as It was pretty obvious that I wasn't heading towards the palace going east.  I went back through the underground walkway under Tokyo Station (every big station has one) to the west side and could immediately see the palace gardens.  It was really neat and I saw this so much in Tokyo.  The two sides of the big stations always look totally different.  East of Tokyo station was a great wall of twenty story buildings and every way you turned it looked exactly the same (honestly).  Another thing to take into consideration is that most streets in Tokyo have no names.  They are unmarked and hard to follow.  So don't count on street names for landmarks.  I usually use the biggest building I can see and navigate around that so I don't get lost.  There are many in Tokyo so it's pretty simple, right?  Maybe not so simple.  From the station's west entrance I again ventured forth.  When I turned around I was surprised.  The west end of the station is the original side made of red brick, called the Marunouchi facade.  The Marunouchi district is the area in front of the Imperial Palace which extends to Tokyo Station and down all the way to Yurakucho.  Marunouchi means in Japanese "within the wall" because during the Edo period the area was well within the defense circle for the city.  Except for the station itself none of the original buildings survived the modernization that is always on the go in Tokyo.  Because at the time all the buildings were built with red brick in a late Victorian style it was called London Block.  Today everything is new and still changing.  London block is gone too except for Tokyo Station which was once used exclusively by the Imperial Family.  Today however the station is used by about five times as many people everyday than New York's Grand Central Station, and more than 3,000 trains pass through the station everyday.   Incredible, but still this is not Tokyo's biggest or busiest station.  Not by a long shot.  That status goes to the worlds largest and busiest station Shinjuku Station.

From Tokyo Station the Yamanote Line goes north and south.  The Kehin Tohoku Line goes north and south.  The Chuo Line goes west. There are many other lines including subways, but these are the main lines for Tokyo Station.

Another quick thing to remember:

Notice above that I wrote the Train Lines in different colors.  This is because every train line in the Tokyo area is color coded.  It is sometimes easier to remember the line's color than it's name.  This is also very useful to remember when looking at train maps which can seem like a mess without looking at the line colors.

Tokyo Station area, or Otemachi, is the place where the major banks and the head offices of many corporations are located.  The word Tokyo in Japanese means "eastern capital" and this is definitely the feeling on the west side of Tokyo station as this is where the great Imperial Palace is located.   The Imperial Palace and its grounds marked the historical beginnings of the capital and today they still mark the geographical center of the city, and the country.  As my own journey continued my second full day in Tokyo, I walked from the red brick west side of Tokyo Station and stopped at the Imperial Palace Outer Garden where there is a beautiful fountain.

Most people think that Tokyo doesn't contain much in the way of greenery, parks and trees, and this is true, but only partly true.  You must first consider the immense size of the city.  It is huge.  Much larger and denser than almost any North American city.  There aren't as many skyscrapers, except in Shinjuku, compared to a city like New York, but there is a good reason for this.  The situation with real estate in Tokyo is I think quite unique.  The land value in the center of Tokyo especially near the Imperial Palace is so high that it is not economically feasible to place expensive buildings there for most companies.  That is another reason why Tokyo is such a dynamic city.  Buildings don't stay up for many years and the skyline is constantly changing because the land is more valuable than the buildings that stand on it.  This means big expensive buildings don't make much sense for the average company to build.  Not that the average company could build big expensive buildings anyway, but you know what I mean.  Back to what I was saying about parks and green areas.  The city actually does have some incredibly beautiful areas and great parks, like Ueno Park, but they are just so spread out and in the middle of such a large area that it doesn't seem like much.  Also there are no large parks because it would be impossible to keep them there.  The land value would make it really tempting for even the government to sell it off and build something there, so it is really not economically possible to have large parks.  The exception of course is the Imperial Palace, but that land is not government owned land and therefore they have no control over it.   For that matter it is not even a park of course.  It is the home of the Emperor and his family.  The longest running monarchy in the world exists here, and still today even though the Emperor is more of a symbol these days and has not much governmental power the people have great respect for the Emperor which keeps the monarchy in full swing.

The fountain was nice but unexpected only a block away from the crammed together area near the station where no building has any space between it and it's neighbor.  Walking across the street from the fountain got me to the south part of the Eastern Garden.  It is a flat gravel covered area bigger than a large North American stadium.  It is actually quite shocking.  With the land prices being so high, there is a huge area covered in gravel with absolutely nothing on it except for a few trees.  It is so large it took me a few minutes to cross to get to my destination.  This though I found out, is a show of wealth and power by the monarchy.  A typical contradiction in Japan.  My destination was the famous Nijubashi.  The bridge in to the Imperial Palace center that is on so many postcards in stores.  It was neat to be there, but really there wasn't much to see.  You can't actually see the imperial palace buildings which are hidden around a far corner.  So, no I wasn't disappointed but I left soon after taking a quick snapshot and asking a guard to take my picture for me.  What I really should have done is enter the East Gardens.  The public is allowed to enter the gardens I believe and it is quite beautiful, but since I never went I can't say that for sure.

Well I don't think there's much else for the short term tourist around Tokyo Station.

Foreigners living in Tokyo will want to know that the Tokyo Immigration Bureau is walking distance from Tokyo station, but actually the best way to get there is from the subway's Otemachi Station.  Then it is only one block North from the exit if you came from the Chiyoda line.

Also near Tokyo Station that is very famous but maybe not worth making an extra trip to see is Nihonbashi.  It is the feudal center of Tokyo and all of Japan.  It's name in English is Bridge of Japan.  All distances in the country were measured relative to this bridge.  Today though it is barely visible under highway overpasses and concrete buildings.