N.Y., London, Paris still beat Tokyo

by Mariko Kato

Factoring together culture, environment, economy and accessibility, Tokyo ranks fourth out of 35 major cities worldwide and only, but still, lags behind leader New York, No. 2 London and third-place Paris, but it has the potential to go higher, a report released Thursday by an urban development research center says.

Prepared in Japan, the report ranks cities based on how attractive they are to businesses, researchers, artists, visitors and residents. Japanese and foreign experts assessed 69 indicators on the economy, culture, environment, accessibility, particularly in regards to airports, and living standards.

Like last year, when the rankings were first published, Tokyo, as a city, trailed New York, London and Paris.

“Tokyo’s low pollution levels are particularly impressive, considering it’s a major city, and its ratings will improve when Haneda airport is expanded and the new administration focuses on improving tourism,” Hiroo Ichikawa, professor at Meiji University’s Graduate School of Governance Studies, said, referring to the new Democratic Party of Japan-led government of Prime Minister Yukio Hatoyama.

Ichikawa helped compile the report for the Institution for Urban Strategies, a nonprofit group run by the Mori Memorial Foundation.

Although Tokyo excels in its business environment and eco-friendliness, Paris tops it in cultural interaction and accessibility, the report says. Tokyo was also only the 19th-easiest city to live in, a category whose indicators include working hours, population density and quality of international schools.

If Tokyo wants to improve, it should match Singapore, which jumped to fifth from 11th this year, in its international airport infrastructure, the report says. Suggested initiatives include reducing the travel time from the center of the metropolis to 30 minutes and increasing direct international flights. Narita airport in Chiba Prefecture, roughly a 45-minute train ride from central Tokyo, is currently the major air hub.

But transport minister Seiji Maehara recently said he wanted to turn Haneda airport, which mainly handles domestic flights and virtually abuts the city center, into a hub for international flights. Haneda will open its fourth runway next October. Narita just has two.