Tokyo Topography & Geography 

Geography of Tokyo


The most notable features of Tokyo are its size and activity. It is the most populous city in Japan, home to over 13 million people. It covers an area of approximately 2,190 km2 and is divided into 23 wards, each with its unique character and attractions. 

The central business district is in the Chiyoda ward, near the JR Tokyo Station. Shinjuku and Shibuya, the dual centers of western Tokyo, are the new Tokyo – all vitality and energy, fast-paced and constantly changing.


Another aspect of Tokyo’s geography is its location. Tokyo is located on Tokyo Bay, making the city a hub for international trade. In addition, Tokyo is surrounded by mountains on three sides: the Okutama Mountains to the west, Hakone Mountains to the southwest, and Kanto Mountains to the north. These mountains provide a barrier against strong winds and typhoons.

Source: Tokyo Metropolitan Government

Topography of Tokyo


Tokyo’s topography is characterized by a mix of low flat land (Shitamachi) and highlands (Yamanote) with a wide range of elevations. The eastern part is 10–20 m higher than the strip of land that runs along the coast. The highest mountain in Tokyo is Mt. Kumotori, 2,107 m above sea level, whereas the area around Tokyo Bay is 0–6 m above sea level.


The western part of Tokyo is mainly flat land, whereas the eastern part is hilly. The Tama Hills, located in the western part of Tokyo, are a hiking destination for locals.


The center of Tokyo is located on the border between the Musashino Plateau and the low-land area. The land is flat up to the bay to the ridge’s east. If one goes to Nippori Station near Yanaka on the JR Keihin Tohoku line, he or she will see the plateau ridge.


The eastern part of Tokyo is mainly composed of reclaimed land and is more densely populated than the western part. The western part is less densely populated and has more greenery.




The highland is a loamy layer of the Kanto region, formed by the accumulation of ash from volcanic activities of Mt. Fuji and the Hakone Mountains about 10,000 years ago.


Meanwhile, the low-land area is covered by alluvium, formed by earth and sand that was left by floods and rivers about several thousand years ago.


Yamanote vs. Shitamachi


During the Edo period, the feudal lords and samurai built their homes on the highlands. Peasants and merchants lived in low-lying basins and on the coastal plain. As time passed, these low-lying areas became residential neighborhoods for commoners and townspeople.


When the Tokugawa Shogunate ended in 1868, the new Meiji government confiscated the feudal lords’ estates and repurposed them as government institutions, parks, and embassies. Over the next century, large corporations and universities bought up land on the highlands that used to be samurai residences.


Geological Strata of Tokyo

Source: Tokyo Metropolitan Government Bureau of Environment