Tokyo, among Japanese cities, is in a class by itself. That much everyone would grant. Home to 13.5 million, 11 percent of the population, it’s the economic and cultural lifeblood of the nation. Other cities are footnotes in comparison.
But life goes on there too, each city having its good points and bad points, residents going about their daily affairs with little thought of how they stand relative to the metropolis.
How do they stand relative to each other? Shukan Gendai (May 19) looks at the 20 most populous cities, and considers life in them from various points of view.
Wealth, for instance. The wealthiest city besides Tokyo? Yokohama – followed by Saitama, Kawasaki and Fukuoka.
Yokohama’s median annual income is 7.5 million yen; Saitama’s, 7.06 million. In last place among the 20 is Kumamoto (5.19 million).
“Elegant but not extravagant,” is how researcher Seitaro Kihara characterizes Yokohama. It’s immediately noticeable, and surely significant, that the three wealthiest cities are within commuting distance of the capital. But fourth-ranked Fukuoka (6.87 million yen) is a good ways off, in distant Kyushu. It’s one of the non-Tokyo commercial hubs, with Japanese and Asian firms amply represented. Fukuoka grows on you. It’s nicknamed, affectionately, “the black hole.” Japanese who get transferred here may balk at first, only to find after a time they don’t want to go home – or rather, that Fukuoka has become “home.”
Kobe, in terms of savings, ranks third, after Yokohama and Chiba. “You don’t need much money to live well here,” says researcher Shinichi Yano, explaining the high savings rate. Nagoya, sixth in terms of savings and eighth in terms of wealth, has a reputation for “stinginess” – but its evolution lately, says Yano, is “from stingy to smart.” Toyota, headquartered nearby, seems a likely bulwark against economic anxiety, which it seems at last to have become, now that it’s the world’s number one car seller.
Educationally, Sendai wins the laurel. Its elementary school kids do best on nationwide tests. Close behind are Saitama, Shizuoka and Kobe, Osaka in the cellar in 20th place. Sendai has a long tradition of academic excellence. You’d think there’d be a connection between that and the number of libraries a city has, but in that department Sendai ranks a sad 17th – behind Osaka in 12th place and far behind front-runner Hamamatsu. Yokohama, so well favored in other respects, has fewest.
But its crime rate is lowest, followed by neighboring Kawasaki, with Osaka again in last place – as it is also in terms of longevity, male and female (78.8 and 86.2 years, respectively). Who lives longest? The women of Okayama (87.9) – but women everywhere live so much longer than men that the top-ranked city for male longevity, Kumamoto (81.9), lags nearly five years behind the bottom-ranked city for women (Osaka, 86.2). As for Osaka men, theirs is the only average life expectancy under 80.
Put it all together and which is the best Japanese city, other than Tokyo (if that qualification is called for), to live in? Saitama, says Shukan Gendai, followed by, to name only the top five, Hamamatsu, Yokohama, Kawasaki and Okayama. Osaka in 20th place is no surprise; Kyoto in 9th is. You’d think a city so globally known for its beauty would do better. Its popularity with tourists is no small part of the problem – crowds aside, it drives the cost of living up well beyond the comfort level.© Japan Today