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Marunouchi (Tokyo Station)/Japan
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Introducing Marunouchi (Tokyo Station)

The Imperial Palace is the geographical and spiritual heart of Tokyo, and has been the centre of national affairs since 1600, when Tokyo was a small bayside city called Edo. From Tokyo Station, the western or Marunouchi exit will take you out towards the Imperial Palace after a 5-minute walk. The entire station is going through a massive ¥50 billion ($651 million) renovation. If all goes well, you’ll be able admire the restored facade in time for its centenary in 2014.

In the Imperial Palace East Garden, admire some of the stones that once constituted the largest fortress in the world, Edo Castle. Save for two days a year, the Imperial Palace proper is off limits to the public, but part of it, a graceful bridge and a few buildings, is always visible. Kitanomaru-kōen, north of the palace, is renowned for the springtime cherry blossoms by its northern gate.

Once a drab business stronghold, the Marunouchi area has been reinvigorated in recent years with a slew of new buildings and high-end hotels, shops and restaurants. You could easily walk from here to Yūrakuchō, taking in the Tokyo International Forum, before hitting some museums in Kyōbashi and Nihombashi on the other side of the tracks; take the subway to save your energy. With a stroll in the Imperial Palace East Garden, you could easily spend an afternoon exploring this area. Visits to local museums may take up the better part of a day.