Tokyo – World’s Largest City

By Joshua, Year 10

Written as part of Factory Feedback

The capital of Japan and the world’s most populous metropolis, Tokyo is 13,572 km^2 in size and located at the head of Tokyo Bay, in the Tokyo prefecture at 35.6762° N, 139.6503° E part of the Kantō Plain on Japan’s main island, Honshu. Tokyo is a bustling megacity, famous for many things, from their high-speed train system, their favourable social environment, to their forward-thinking environmentalism and conglomerate companies. The city thrives economically, with 37 million residing in the city and a GDP of US$1.8 trillion, being both the most populous metropolitan area and the one with the highest GDP. Urbanisation has many effects, of economic, social and environmental nature, both positive and negative, that shape the city and its development.

Urbanisation has a variety of positive and negative economic effects. Tokyo exemplifies this, as the world’s metropolitan area with the highest GDP. Urbanisation attracts wealth, by increasing job availability, higher quality education and population size by increasing supply and demand as well as attracting educated people from rural areas and abroad. Tokyo was home to 600,000 USD millionaires in 2018 and 3,700 USD UHNWIs in 2019. Additionally, urbanisation induces infrastructural and technological advancement as a city becomes a major population centre in a country. Tokyo is the largest city on the planet by population and by GDP; through this, it is considered the most technologically advanced city in the world by multiple indexes with its high-speed train system and innovative technology. However, Tokyo and by extension, Japan is hindered by problems due to its rapid urbanisation and industrialisation. Japan’s population is slowly aging, which also reduces the size of its workforce. Urbanisation causes contraception availability and urban residency costs to rise, so Japan’s population pyramid displays the shrinkage of Japan’s workforce. Tokyo slows this process down by internal growth; attracting people from the countryside and abroad to work in the city, but it will soon feel the effects of this demographic shift. It is clear that urbanisation has had significant positive impacts on Tokyo, but the problems that have also arisen will need to be addressed by the city in the future.

Moreover, urbanisation has social effects on a city and its surrounding area. Tokyo’s overall social efficiency is a result of its urbanisation. Due to Tokyo’s compact nature and high population density, there is better access to services, thus its universal access to clean drinking facilities. There is also a universal healthcare system, rated first-class and affordable, reflected by Japan’s high life expectancy. Tokyo is also a centre of tourism as people can easily travel to and from Tokyo due to an extensive transport network. These elements boost overall productivity. Urban areas also concentrate government resources on urban planning and development, seen in Tokyo being technologically ahead of other areas in Japan. On the contrary, Tokyo is facing numerous problems in its social environment. The city grapples with multiple problems that stem from its overpopulation and majority native population. Tokyo is facing overpopulation as it attracts people from other areas of Japan and this is also causing a housing shortage in numerous parts of the city. Furthermore, the city is over 98% native-born and maintains this rate through internal migration, discriminating now being a significant issue for foreigners. Additionally, social isolation still occurs as people fail to acclimatise to a new social environment and competition for jobs also occurs when availability declines due to taken job opportunities. The social implications of urbanisation are evident within Tokyo and will continue to influence its development.

Finally, there are a multitude of environmental impacts, stemming from urbanisation. Tokyo’s forward-thinking environmentalism and technology capture this. Japan has been considered one of the world’s most progressive countries in terms of environmental issues, extending this to its capital, Tokyo. 83% of the plastic produced in Tokyo is recycled and reused. Japan’s aggressive environmental policies have allowed the classification of its cities as having some of the cleanest air in the world. The country is also the 2nd largest installer of photovoltaics (PVs) in the world, which is a form of solar energy. On the other hand, Tokyo’s urbanisation has caused multiple negative impacts on the environment. The environment has suffered as Tokyo has expanded and attracted industry and a larger population. The heat island effect is higher temperature experienced by urban areas than surrounding areas; Tokyo’s large industry and population have caused an increase of 3 degrees Celsius over the past century compared to 1 degree for Japan as a whole. Sixty thousand premature deaths occur due to air pollution annually in Japan. Japan produces 1.2 billion metric tons of CO2 annually, the world’s 5th biggest carbon emitter and this primarily originates from the usage of fossil fuels, responsible for 82% of total energy supply, with over 62 million tons emitted from Tokyo’s metropolitan area. The significance of urbanisation’s environmental ramifications cannot be ignored and are instrumental in driving the future development of Tokyo’s future and environment.

Factory Feedback was created with, and generously supported by, the Dusseldorp Forum.

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