Think you’ve heard all there is to know about Japan’s colourful capital? From the robot hotels to the world’s busiest intersection, we’ll bet you haven’t heard some of these interesting facts about Tokyo before.
Interesting facts about Tokyo
1. Tokyo was called Edo for a very long time
Tokyo was once a small fishing village called Edo. Founded in 1603, it eventually became the seat of the Tokugawa shogunate but it was known as Edo until the 19th century. In 1890 during the Meiji Restoration, it became Toyo, which means ‘Eastern Capital’ in English.
No official rules have actually made Tokyo the capital of Japan. In fact, some Kyoto locals insist that the former imperial city is the rightful capital.
2. It’s home to the world’s busiest intersection
The Shibuya Crossing is the busiest intersection in Tokyo – and the world. There are 7 crossings from either side of the streets and as many as 2,500 people cross the intersection every time the lights turn green. Locals call this moment ‘the incredible scramble’. The sight of cars stopping in all directions to make way for the huge wave of pedestrians is mesmerising.
3. Tokyo is home to a robot hotel
The Hen na Hotel in Tokyo Ginza is the world’s first and only hotel run by a robot. Ideal for antisocial travellers who prefer to avoid human contact at the end of a long day of sightseeing, multi-lingual robots staff the hotel. They can turn their heads, blink and carry luggage. “Henn” means “to change,” which represents the hotel’s commitment “for evolution in striving for the extraordinary sensation and comfort that lies beyond the ordinary.” There’s also keyless locking and entry through facial recognition and free WiFI.
Tokyo is also home to a robot restaurant. In Shinjuku, you can visit the Robot Restaurant to see robot monsters, dancers and lasers perform as you snack on bento boxes.
4. There are anti-suicide lights in Tokyo’s metro stations
In 2009, authorities installed blue lights at train stations in a bid to prevent suicides. In 2013, a scientific paper revealed that they were working, with suicides falling by as much as 84%. The blue light is thought to bring people experiencing psychological stress to a state of relaxation more quickly.
5. You can purchase almost anything from a vending machine in Tokyo
Hamburgers? Easy. Umbrellas? No problem. Fish broth? Check the vending machine. Tokyo is the vending machine capital in the world. There’s one at least every 12 metres in Tokyo, with an average of one vending machine per 23 people. Some of the most fascinating vending machines include the Natto Kobo Sendaiya that dispenses natto (fermented soybeans), a banana vending machine and a ‘mystery vending machine’ which, as the name suggests, distributes a ‘mystery’ object wrapped in white paper.
6. It boasts the most Michelin stars in the world
Tokyo has held onto its title for more than a decade. The city boasts the most Michel stars in the world, with 212 Michelin starred restaurants in total. There are 14 three-star, 42 two-star and 158 one-star restaurants. Kanda, Quintessence, and Joël Robuchon are three of the most famous three-star restaurants in the world.
7. Tokyo has its own Eiffel Tower
One of Tokyo’s tallest freestanding towers, the Tokyo Tower, is inspired by the Eiffel Tower. Built in 1958, it soars 90 m (295 ft) high, making it taller than the Eiffel Tower itself. Authorities re-painted the structure orange and white to adhere to air regulation. The tower holds the master control over the Tokyo metropolitan area, broadcasting television signals, FM radio reception and transmission, traffic information transmission, as well as weather and air pollution data collection.
The Tokyo Sky Tree is now the world’s tallest tower. Measuring 634 metres (2080 ft) tall, it’s also the second tallest structure in the world after the Burj Khalifa, which measures 829.8 metres (2,772 ft) tall. The Japanese architectural firm Nikken Sekkei designed the soaring structure.