Lists matter and rankings count for a great deal. You can love them or hate them but it would be crazy to ignore the flood of current global surveys.
Lots of folk have to take the numerical rankings of cities very seriously indeed. It can well determine what salary you may get or where your children receive their education and the international reputations of entire nation-states.
The very latest report on comparisons of urban office space cites Tokyo as having regained the No. I spot. No, I didn't believe it either, but CB Richard Ellis, whose business is to know these things, assures us that Tokyo has just overtaken London to win the gold medal. Office space in Tokyo apparently costs $184 a square foot in premier locations.This is a wee bit more than rentals presently being coughed up in London, Moscow and Hong Kong -- in that order, since you asked.
Two quibbles though come to mind. First, given the extraordinary secrecy of the Japanese real estate market, it would be interesting to learn how the figures were acquired in a city where landlords are wary of providing too much information. Secondly, I wonder if urban geographers can even agree on what constitutes the central business market for our capital. Where exactly is the CBD in a city that must have half a dozens centers? Hardly the Ginza presumably, though for years during the bubble era, we were told time and time again that space on its main drag no bigger than an average doormat cost at least a fortune and a half.
Hard on the heels of the prime real estate stats comes the Financial Times' verdict on the world's "most liveable cities." Calculating this list is the result of a much more complicated cocktail. The originator of the charts explains in the FT that "in addition to looking at obvious cut-and-dried statistics such as average salaries, school performance and health care costs," he wanted to incorporate "softer issues -- physical and technological connectivity, tolerance, the strength of local media and culture, and, of course, late-night eating and entertainment options." Talk about ambitious and surely more than difficult if outsiders were involved in marking their cards over such tricky items as non-Michelin restaurants and private clubs.
But how did it all work out? The surprise result, according to Tyler Brule's extensive research, was that Tokyo came out as top city in Asia and -- wait for it -- No. 3 in the world. Applause indeed and a decent bit of good news both for the Japanese government and a host of tourist agencies, real estate offices, eateries and international schools.
And to add to the celebrations, the FT also announced that Fukuoka comes in at 16th (up one place), while Kyoto is ranked 22nd. Germany, by the way, is the only other nation to be able to boast of having three cities in the top 25 with Munich (No. 4), Berlin (10th) and Hamburg (23rd).
Of course, the whole exercise tends to examines issues that impinge on the lifestyles of business elites. The hard-pressed salaryman on the Chuo line at eight in the morning during the rainy season is unlikely to care too much about the views of expat readers of the FT. Yet the fact that Tokyo remains relatively clean, crime-free and civilized impinges on each and everyone in our metropolis. The city can surely pat itself on the back and enjoy basking in a spot of international admiration.© Japan Today