- The unique sensibility, high culture and education which grew into maturity in the Edo period became the driving force in the rapid modernisation of Tokyo, helping it to establish a strong position in international society.
- The city of Tokyo intends to create a tangible and intangible cultural legacy from the 2020 Tokyo Games. The Tokyo Vision, the City’s long term cultural plan for the coming years, aims to use the Games to promote Japanese art and culture around the world.
- Tokyo’s awareness of accessibility and inclusion is on the rise. There has been an increased number of inclusive cultural opportunities for participants with and without disabilities to co-create work.
City data: Key facts
- Geographical area: 2,130 sq. km
- Total population: 13,513,734
- GDP (PPP) (million): US$ 1,015,342
The area now known as Tokyo began around the city of Edo, which established itself as a centre of commerce, art and high culture in Japan during the 17th and 18th centuries, known as the Edo period. It was renamed Tokyo and became the capital of Japan in 1869. During the late 19th century Japan underwent rapid modernisation and cultural change, including the building of roads, railways and telecommunications lines. The city was heavily damaged by the Great Kanto Earthquake in 1923, and later during World War Two. Cycles of economic boom and bust took place throughout the late 20th century, matched by the rise of consumerism and cycles of rapid population decline and growth in the city. Tokyo now has a population of over 13.9 million people in its centre and over 38 million in its metropolitan area, making it the largest city in the world.
The city today is one where innovation meets tradition. Tokyo is known for its historic shrines and temples, and performing arts such as Noh, Kabuki and Rakugo, which have been enjoyed for centuries. Major venues which celebrate Japanese cultural traditions include the Kabukiza Theatre, the National Noh Theatre and the Kokugikan Hall. It is also renowned for new trends in fashion, music, art, technology and animation, and as a cultural centre for creators in Japan and beyond.
In 2020, the Tokyo Metropolitan Government faced a once in a generation set of challenges. Like every world city, it had to manage the Covid-19 outbreak and the need for cyclical restrictions on ordinary life. In addition, 2020 was supposed to be the year of the Tokyo Olympic and Paralympic Games – something the City had been working towards as a central focus of its sporting, cultural and international relations plans for several years. Attached to the games was the cultural programme, Tokyo Tokyo FESTIVAL, aimed to showcase Japanese culture alongside the best of international work. Although the Games and Tokyo Tokyo FESTIVAL were postponed for a year, and with diminished crowds, the City showed considerable resilience in adapting to the situation. Tokyo Tokyo FESTIVAL Special 13, the core of the cultural programmes, was held with preventive measures in place and partly through online broadcast, with exhibits and performances at landmarks, such as around the National Stadium and beside the Sumida River. Over five years, in the run up to, and during the Olympic and Paralympic Games, around 39 million people participated in 160,000 events in person or online.
Since 2015, Tokyo’s cultural vision has centred around discovering diverse talent and nurturing young artists. This ambition was threatened as the pandemic closed performance spaces and made the sector’s many freelancers especially vulnerable. Tokyo was the first city in Japan to offer direct pandemic grants to artists to present their work to audiences online, thus retaining talent in the sector. It has also made progress on its plans for a more inclusive cultural offer, both for children and disabled people, with an international conference on arts and social inclusion, held as a legacy of the Olympic and Paralympic Games. The Tokyo Metropolitan Government has recently built on this work with the 2022 publication of its cultural strategy to 2030, which also includes horizon scanning about how society and the sector will look in 2040. Its ambition is for a city where everyone can enjoy the arts, whether that’s ‘culture on the street’ or ‘culture online’, retaining the best of pandemic learning about spreading culture in new forms, creating a strong network of arts within and outside of the city, and establishing stronger ecosystems for artists and cultural organisations.