Elements of Urbanism: Tokyo

June 12, 2009 20 comments Open printer friendly version of this article Print Article

There are some things that you just can't compare. Holding Urban Jacksonville up against Japan's largest city just doesn't seem fair. Nevertheless, Metro Jacksonville shares the sights from one of the world's premier urban centers: Tokyo.


Tokyo Population 2007: 12,790,000 (City); 35,700,000 (Metro) - (incorporated in 1457)

Tokyo Density: 36,873 per square mile

Jacksonville Pop. 2006: 794,555 (City); 1,300,823 (Metro) - (incorporated in 1832)

City population 1950: Jacksonville (204,517); Tokyo (???)

City Population density 1950: Jacksonville (6,772); Tokyo (???)

In terms of population size, Tokyo was the largest urban agglomeration in the world in 2005, with 35 million residents. Tokyo is expected to remain the largest metropolis although its population will not grow substantially. It is followed today by Mexico City, New York, Sao Paulo and Mumbai (Bombay). Of these cities, Mumbai is expected to become the second largest mega-city in 2015 with a population of 22 million, followed by Mexico City, Sao Paulo and Delhi.

Unique Tokyo

- The Greater Tokyo Area is the world's most populous metropolitan area with 35 million people.  By comparison, Jacksonville is Florida's fourth most populous metropolitan area with 1.3 million people. This makes Tokyo's population 27 times larger than Jacksonville's.

- The Greater Tokyo area is the world's largest metropolitan economy with a GDP of US$1.191 trillion in 2005.

- Tokyo was originally known as Edo, meaning estuary.

- Tokyo was rated by the Economist Intelligence Unit as the most expensive (highest cost-of-living) city in the world for 14 years in a row ending in 2006.

- Rail is the primary mode of transportation in Tokyo, which has the most extensive urban railway network in the world and an equally extensive network of surface lines.

-Tokyo is the seat of the Japanese government and the Imperial Palace, and the home of the Japanese Imperial Family.

-Tokyo is one of the three world finance "command centers", along with New York and London.

Tokyo's Rail Network

Rail is the primary mode of transportation in Tokyo, which has the most extensive urban railway network in the world and an equally extensive network of surface lines. JR East operates Tokyo's largest railway network, including the Yamanote Line loop that circles the center of downtown Tokyo. Two organizations operate the subway network: the private Tokyo Metro and the governmental Tokyo Metropolitan Bureau of Transportation. The metropolitan government and private carriers operate bus routes. Local, regional, and national services are available, with major terminals at the giant railroad stations, including Tokyo and Shinjuku.

27.42 million people use public transportation daily within Tokyo alone.

The Shinkansen is the world's busiest high-speed rail line. Carrying 410,000 passengers a day, it has transported more passengers (4.5 billion) than all other high speed lines in the world combined. Though largely a long-distance transport system, the Shinkansen also serves commuters who travel to work in metropolitan areas from outlying cities.

In normal service, the Shinkansen travels at 186 miles per hour, but test runs have achieved 275 miles per hour.

Great Kanto Earthquake

In September 1923, Tokyo was devastated by the Great Kanto Earthquake. The fires caused by the earthquake burned the city center to the ground. Over 140,000 people were reported dead or missing, and 300,000 houses were destroyed. After the earthquake a city reconstruction plan was formulated, but because the projected costs exceeded the national budget only a small part of it was realized.

Architecture in Tokyo has largely been shaped by Tokyo's history. Twice in recent history has the metropolis been left in ruins: first in the 1923 Great Kantō earthquake and later after extensive firebombing in World War II (known as the Pacific War in Japan). Because of this, Tokyo's current urban landscape is one of modern and contemporary architecture, and older buildings are scarce.

Tokyo Time Lapse

Photos by Daniel Herbin