Is Tokyo the Best or the Worst City in the World to Live? – Comparing Two 2019 Studies

  • LIVE and WORK
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  • Tokyo
  • by Martin Danker

    For the third year in a row, the Economist Intelligence Unit has named Tokyo the safest city in the world in their 2019 rankings. Singapore came in second, while Osaka came in third. As it is to be expected, the ranking has created a sense of pride as both Tokyoites, residents, and people who hold the Japanese capital in high regard shared the many articles that talked about these results.

    However, just as Tokyo was receiving global praise, wireless security developer Kisi published a different study that ranks Tokyo as the worst city in terms of work-life balance.

    To many people living in Tokyo, both studies’ results don’t come as real shockers. They know how safe their city is, and they also know how excruciatingly exhausting life can be from Monday to Friday.

    With such an interesting contrast, it’s worth thinking about whether Tokyo is actually a good or bad city to live.

    To understand both studies, let’s see exactly what each one covered.

    Safest City in the World

    Considering Tokyo has a population of over 13 million people, and over 38 million if counting the metropolitan area, what are the things that make the Tokyo the safest city in the world?

    The thing about Tokyo is that it scores well in every single category. When checking every category individually, Tokyo’s lowest ranking is number four. That’s why Tokyo was able to edge Singapore, another incredibly safe city. So, what are the points the Economist Intelligence Unit measured?:

    Digital Security

    Tokyo is a leader in digital security (ranked number one). The city is not as affected by viruses and malware as other major cities in the world. Additionally, 91% of Tokyo’s residents have Internet access, which is far more than other cities in the top 5, including Los Angeles.

    Health Security

    Tokyo also ranked highly in terms of health security (ranked number two, just behind Osaka). This means that Tokyo has good air and water quality, safe food, access to healthcare, and emergency services that will arrive quickly.

    Infrastructure Security


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    🆃🆂🆄🅼🅸🆉🅾さん(@tsumizo)がシェアした投稿 –

    Tokyo ranked fourth in infrastructure security with a score of 94.3 vs. Barcelona’s 94.4, Osaka’s 94.5, and Singapore’s 96.9. The different scores among these cities is minimal, reflecting on how good their infrastructure security is. However, there is always room for improvement. Since Japan experienced many devastating floods last year, flood prevention continues to be one of Tokyo’s number one priorities. That’s why the city created an expensive underground reservoir to prevent floods from occurring. Governor Koike has also stated that an important priority is to make utility poles disappear by placing the cables underground. This is not only because of visual pollution, but also because Tokyo is prone to earthquakes, and those utility poles could prove very dangerous if they fell.

    Personal Security

    Tokyo also ranked fourth in personal security. In fact, Tokyo is regarded as a very safe city in this regard since residents are not very likely to experience violent and petty crimes. However, the city still faces corruption and organized crime, which is why it did not rank higher. Nevertheless, despite its levels of organized crime, Tokyo’s residents are not really affected by the groups that operate in the city. This is quite different when comparing Tokyo with other cities around the world.

    Worst City: Work-Life Balance


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    🗼😴Sleeping Tokyo😴🗼| 🇯🇵JPNさん(がシェアした投稿 –

    The second study by Kisi ranks Tokyo as the worst city in the world in terms of work-life balance. Kisi mentions that the study is not meant to show which are the best and worst cities to work in, but the index does show just how overworked Tokyo’s residents are. However, it must be noted that Tokyo is not alone here. Singapore (which also ranked high in the Economist Intelligence Unit’s index) ranks as one of the worst cities in terms of work-balance as well.

    So, why is Tokyo so overworked? If you have ever visited Tokyo, you will come to find a very energetic city that offers limitless possibilities. However, looking around to see the crowds that surround you will make you notice that there is a demographic missing in the mix: the famous “salarymen” or businesspeople. However, at around 17:00, many businesspeople start leaving work, which officially marks the start of the evening rush hour. Tokyo’s daytime population rises by 2 million people because of the sheer number of commuters that live in the prefectures of Chiba, Kanagawa, Saitama, Gunma, Yamanashi, and Ibaraki.

    People working is nothing new in any city, so seeing how intense rush hour in Tokyo can be should not come as a surprise when considering that Tokyo is the biggest metropolitan area in the world. However, when sharing trains with all those businesspeople, something one can clearly see is how tired most of them are. There are multiple Instagram accounts and articles devoted to Tokyoites sleeping on trains and in public spaces; the main theme being that Japanese people are too tired, and that they don’t get enough sleep.

    Interestingly, the United States ranked similarly to Japan when it came to the miserable amount of vacation days people take, the gap being enormous when compared with countries like Spain, France, and Germany. U.S. cities also fared poorly, with Washington D.C. and Houston also making it in the top 5 most overworked cities in the world. Hooray?


    People in Tokyo are tired, very tired. This is easy to see each time one steps into a train, for there will usually be at least one passenger taking a nap. At night, the level of stress people go through becomes even more apparent since many businesspeople have to go drinking after work despite having spent more than ten hours inside the office. The result is striking: people falling asleep on the trains and streets.

    However, people in Tokyo enjoy something residents of other large cities do not have: safety.
    They say people can’t have it all, and it seems that Tokyoites are trapped in this dilemma: they live in one of the safest cities in the world, but also in one that has a terrible work-life balance.

    There you have it! That’s why some people say Tokyo is an incredible city as a tourist but not as resident. Though it’s important to know that it really depends on the industry and individual. After all, millions of residents do LOVE living in the Japanese capital.

    *Featured Image by Sleeping Tokyo ( on Instagram