Tokyo – Waterfront City of the World

I recently saw a fascinating documentary on Tokyo produced by the Discovery Channel in 2013, called Waterfront Cities of the World. You can view the documentary here, and for other cities here. The documentaries are actually very interesting and have a lot of great information.


Below are some of the most interesting segments of the documentary on Tokyo that I wanted to share with you –

1) Japan is one of the world’s most homogeneous countries

  • Although this is not hugely surprising or a new fact, it is quite startling that the Japanese population is roughly 98% Japanese.
  • But what is also important to note here is how this information is collected – the Japanese census collects data on nationality, not ethnicity. Therefore, there is no official data on the ethnic breakdown of Japanese residents

2) Japan’s population is currently 130 million. By 2050, their population is anticipated to be less than 100 million

  • This is something that has been known for quite some time. Similar to many industrialized countries, Japan is facing low natural population growth and ageing demographics. The country has not embraced immigration as much as other industrialized countries have as a potential solution to maintain and grow their population.
  • Something very interesting however was mentioned by an interviewer in the documentary – Japan’s population in the mid 20th century (1950) was about 80 million , so returning to a historic population level would not be a huge deviation for the country. Maybe Japan will have another baby boom starting in the 2050s; who knows? – the country after all has a history that spans more than a millennia.

3) The average lifespan of a building in Tokyo is 26 years.

  • This I heard for the first time from a friend here, and it was such a surprise to me. The following explain this phenomenon-
    • An attempt by the Japanese government to maintain economic growth by way of consistent development of buildings (as a contributor to the GDP)
    • Frequent changes to the building code are necessary due to the fact that Japan sits in a volatile earthquake zone
  • Why this is such a fascinating phenomenon is largely because there is virtually no resale market, and little home renovations take place in Tokyo. Furthermore, Tokyo does not have the run-away real estate market evident in places like London, New York, Toronto and Vancouver.
  • The loose zoning regulation in Tokyo also grants property owners significant rights, as this Financial Times article points out- “Japan’s constitution declares that “the right to own or to hold property is inviolable”. A private developer cannot make you sell land; a local government cannot stop you using it. If you want to build a mock-Gothic castle faced in pink seashells, that is your business.

4) The address system is very different than in the rest of the world

  • The system is based on a name or number assigned to a city block, and then a name or number assigned to a building within a city block based on when that building was built
  • People navigate by way of land marks, and not really street addresses. This is something common in many places across Europe as well.



Watch this –


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