Cities Today – Chapter One: The Tale of Japan

By 25th March 2016Smart Cities

In the previous installment we touched on the history of cities and today we’d like to talk about well.. today, specifically the state of cities today. The number of population has grown exponentially in humanity’s short existence. In 1960 the total world population according to the World Bank was 3.06 billion and at the time of writing the latest statistics from World Bank Indicate that the population is at 7.2 billion. Without the need of advanced mathematical prowess one can easily say that the population has doubled and this explosion of growth does not seem to have brakes installed.

Imagine double the amount of people needing access to water, energy, healthcare, and housing to name a few. The question here is, are cities really prepared to deal with this with their aging infrastructure? What are the anthropogenic implications caused by this increased population?

It is obvious that we as society cannot continue going doing down this unsustainable path. This is of course not a zero-sum game, humanity will have to look at ways the planet’s resources more sustainably. If we are to start being more sustainable the logical thing to do will be to look at the obvious suspect; cities. Cities alone consume 75% of the world’s energy amongst other precious resources.

Let’s look at some interesting examples of how some Smart Cities in Asia deals with these problems

 

Japan

Japan, the third largest economy in the world is home to some of the world’s largest metropolis. While being a largely hegemonic society with 98.5% of it’s population being ethnic Japanese, Japan is famed for it’s rich heritage and it’s vibrant culture. Japan, largely known for it’s near legendary civic sense of duty, remains the envy of many city leaders and societies. It’s also home to an increasingly aging population and country with the second highest life expentancy

Tokyo

Of all the cities in the world, Tokyo is the one with the highest need to be a smarter city. This is because Tokyo is the city with the largest population in the world with a staggering number of 37,833,000 people with the land mass of 2188.54 square kilometre.

That’s really dense.(Is the same thing we would say to the Japanese government if they didn’t take any action)

To their credit The Monocle Quality of Life Survey 2015 ranked Tokyo as the most livable city in the world

Tokyo

(Tokyo) The new and worthy winner, Monocle has made this little secret of its love for Tokyo through the years. It manages to do something no other global metropolis can provide; a great quality of life for those who live there and also visit, from culture to security, food to courtesy it had everything covered.

London, New York take note. – Monocle

It’s interesting to note that there were two other Japanese cities listed in the “Monocle Quality of Life Survey 2015”, namely Kyoto and Fukuoka. They’ve actually made a pretty nifty video if you’re interested to find out which other cities are included in that list.

[clear] tokyo ieseIn IESE Insights has also ranked Tokyo as the 7th Smartest City in the world and they came in 2nd in Asia Pacific in their recent study on “Which Are The World’s Smartest Cities”

As you can see from the chart , Tokyo unsurprisingly scores very high on Social Cohesion and Environment. However on the the categories of Mobility, Urban Planning, Governance and Public Management requires much improvement.

Tokyo’s ranking has droppped from the first place to the seventh place from the previous year, signalling a clear and urgent need to improve.

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Kamikatsu- The Zero Waste Town

View from the hillside near Kamikatsu, Katsuura, Tokushima Prefecture, Japan, July 7, 2014.

View from the hillside near Kamikatsu, Katsuura, Tokushima Prefecture, Japan, July 7, 2014.

But perhaps the most interesting case of all hails from a little town named Kamikatsu with 1700 residents. Though strictly speaking Kamitatsu is hardly a city, we believe that it’s commitment to sustainability is worthy of an honorable mention. While most cities separate it’s trash into four to five categories : Plastic, Paper, Organic, and Glass. The residents of Kamitkatsu puts the rest of us to shame and feels that 5 categories is 30 categories too little.

That’s right folks. Kamikatsu seperates its trash into a whopping thirty five categories. 

Since the program began in 2003, 80% of the town garbage gets recyled, reused and composted and the rest gets sent to a landfill. In 2020, which is four years from now Kamikatsu plans to be 100% zero waste and have nothing sent to the landfill.

Kamitkatsu also practices a circular economy, the town has a shop name “Kuru Kuru” which means circular in English where residents can bring in and take use items for free. There’s also a factory where local residents make new products out of discarded items.

Pictured above Akira Sakona, Deputy Chief of Zero Waste Academy wearing Japanese fish flags that is repurposed to be a Kimono

According to the Deputy Chief of this zero-waste program. Akira Sakono, ever since they’ve started the program they have cut down the cost by one third compared to when they were incinerating their waste. Akira is also seen wearing Japanese fish flags from Kuru-Kuru that is repuporsed to be a Kimono

I don’t know about you guys, but I’m signing up for Japanese lessons today and the town of Kamitkatsu will soon have a population of 1,701 instead of 1,700.


About the Author

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Vincent Fong is the General Manager of Knowledge Group and a self-proclaimed pundit of Smart Cities

 

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