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How big is Tokyo?

Tokyo is often regarded as the biggest city in the world, or the city with the largest population. But the matter can be a little confusing with numbers that conflict hugely with each other. A 2016 United Nations estimate puts the total population at 38 million people and yet many other sources (including some of our own marketing literature on the city) state a more modest 12-13 million people.

The fact of the matter is that Tokyo city has grown into several cities around it and has formed one gigantic urban sprawl that forms one metropolitan area. However, for administrative purposes, the local city governments have remained independent and still quote their own population statistics etc.

From this perspective, Tokyo city itself has a population of 12-13 million people, but given that there is little or no break in densely populated urban areas between it and its neighbouring cities of Yokohama, Saitama, Kawasaki, Chiba, Sagamihara and others, the more realistic figure for Tokyo’s population is approximately 38 million people.

Japan’s 6,800+ islands comprise a total land area which is nearly twice that of the UK, but 30% of its 127 million people (again approximately twice that of the UK) live in the greater Tokyo area. The geographical area of the greater Tokyo area is huge as can be seen from the image overlaying greater Tokyo onto the UK.

It is clear why renting a bicycle to get around Tokyo is not really an option, or not for the faint hearted. Better leave the city tours on a bike to more manageable cities like Kyoto or Hiroshima.

Without visiting Japan, it is really hard to fathom how concentrated and densely populated the city really is. But even when visiting Tokyo, it is hard to grasp the enormity of the city unless viewed from the sky. We recommend a visit to Tokyo’s Sky Tree Tower (below) to see the 360 views from the 450 metre high viewing platform (where the above photo was taken from). The Tokyo sky tree, which opened 5 years ago, is the tallest tower in the world and the second tallest man made structure (after the Burj Kalifa in Dubai which still holds that record).

A lot has been said about Japan’s declining population and how it has the oldest population in terms of average age. However, rural areas in Japan will suffer the most from depopulation as young people from around the country continue to make the move to their nation’s capital city seeking the endless opportunities that lie there. By the year 2025, Tokyo will still be the world largest city. By 2050 the city is projected to fall to 7th place but will still remain one of the most wealthy cities in the world.

Without question, it should be on everyone’s travel bucket list! And from the mega-metropolis that is Tokyo, a trip to some of Japan’s stunning scenic prefectures and countryside offers the perfect contrast for an exciting holiday break.

If you want to learn more about what planning and ground services Unique Japan Tours can provide for you, please contact us to discuss your travel plans.