Tokyo is a monster of a city, with an enormous headcount of over 13 million people. That’s a huge number to imagine, but to actually see even a small portion of that number in one place is pretty amazing. Tokyo’s most populous areas get incredibly crowded; Shibuya’s famous “Scramble” sees over a thousand crossers per minute, and department stores and trains get impossibly full during weekends and during rush hour, respectively. Famous festivals and events also see an enormous amount of people.
Despite this, Tokyo remains as one of the safest cities in the world to live in, and the city boasts punctual public services and more than enough restaurants, hotels, and apartments for everybody. How does Japan’s capital manage all these people?
Despite Tokyo being one of the most highly populated cities in the world, the population density isn’t that huge, meaning there is plenty of space per person. Tokyo is 2,118 km² which means its population density is 6,158 people per square kilometer. Although this is definitely big, it isn’t so dense in comparison to other cities. Mumbai, India has a population density of 28,508 and Manila in the Philippines has a population density of 41,515. Tokyo, in comparison, is quite a spacious city for the number of people who live there.
Thousands of people flock to business areas such as Tokyo Station, Shinjuku, and Shibuya on weekdays for work. Rush hour does, undoubtedly, get crazy, with people shoving onto trains and often getting half-squashed on their way to the office. However, train and bus staff work tirelessly to make sure public transport arrives frequently and leaves as punctually as possible. In central Tokyo, there are trains every three or four minutes, cleverly handling the gigantic number of commuters.
No matter how full a train might look, there will always be people who will get on, forcing others to move along and make way. Where other people might look at a full carriage and decide to get the next one, many people who grew up in the city won’t mind forcing themselves on even if there are just a few centimeters of space!
Although there are a few exceptions, Japanese buildings tend to be quite narrow but very tall, making use of the little amount of floor space. It isn’t unusual to find a public building, such as a department store or cafe, that is only several square meters but over ten stories tall. Building like this makes the most out of the little (and very expensive) land they can use.
You will also see products crammed in every available space from floor to ceiling. A good example of this would be in Akihabara, where you’ll find many anime merchandise stores. Next time you visit Akihabara, see how many “towers” you can find!
Again, due to the expense of land, apartments tend to be a lot smaller than what you might be used to. Even houses are built very close to each other to save as much space as possible. Business hotels may offer only a small room and tiny bathroom, and it’s normal for an apartment in Tokyo to consist of just one room. Less space means more rooms.
Although you’ll see heads by the thousands flocking to Tokyo every day, many of them don’t actually live in the city. Tokyo doesn’t have to house as many people because most commuters live in neighboring areas such as Kanagawa, Saitama, and Chiba. Therefore, some of the people you’ll see crowding the areas of Tokyo later go home to other prefectures.
Although Tokyo is notorious for being crowded and busy, don’t let it deter you from visiting this fantastic city! The Japanese deal with their population very well. It isn’t all urban chaos, either – there are plenty of parks and quiet places in the city in which you can relax.
・Top 100 Things to Do in Akihabara, the Home of Japanese Pop Culture, in 2018
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・98 Things to Do in Shinjuku, the Party District of Tokyo, in 2018!