Theodore Bestor :: Sometimes Japanese refer to Tokyo as a big collection of villages. Of course, its not a village; its one of the worlds largest cities, highly industrialized and all those sorts of things. But, what I think they mean when they talk about it as a collection of villages is that Tokyo, like many Japanese cities, still retains a strong sense of neighborhood, of very small spatially discrete, socially discrete, areas that have a real flavor and character of their own.
Oftentimes these neighborhoods are organized around a Shinto shrine. They may be organized around some other local institutions: a neighborhood association; a local shopkeepers association that may be sort of a Chamber of Commerce, but for an area that may only be eight or ten square blocks, so these are very small, small-scale units.