Mapping Japanese City Spaces: Greater Tokyo
Now that I’ve written about some major but relatively simple urban areas to introduce the topic, I figured I should address the Big One. Greater Tokyo. This is the most populous urban area in human history. Many other cities proper around the world are more populous than the Tokyo Ward Zone (the closest thing to a City of Tokyo), and some are even a lot denser. But none go on the way Greater Tokyo does, stretching on for miles across multiple prefectures and including other cities of over a million (three going on four!) as satellites. And it’s certainly changed over the years. This is gonna be a reeeeeal long post…
You can click on any map to enlarge it.
Greater Tokyo was already one of the most populous urban areas in the world by 1960. At the time it was still dominated by the Tokyo Ward Zone proper, where almost two-thirds of the urban population lived. Interestingly, a lot of what is now part of Greater Tokyo was still independent, including the significant city of Hachioji in Tokyo Prefecture itself, as well as lots of scattered small cities in Saitama Prefecture.
Tokyo-Yokohama-Kawasaki Metro Area 12,237,406 1st
Hachioji Metro Area 93,464 54th (Tokyo)
Kumagaya Micro Area 45,549 95th (Saitama)
Gyoda Micro Area 22,884 (Saitama)
Noda Micro Area 21,884 (Chiba)
Miura Micro Area 19,107 (Kanagawa)
Ome Micro Area 18,686 (Tokyo)
Fukaya Micro Area 16,860 (Saitama)
Fussa Micro Area 16,027 (Tokyo)
Hadano Micro Area 15,684 (Kanagawa)
Kisarazu Micro Area 15,164 (Chiba)
Mobara Micro Area 14,950 (Chiba)
Hanno Micro Area 13,877 (Saitama)
Atsugi Micro Area 12,779 (Kanagawa)
Higashimatsuyama Micro Area 12,238 (Saitama)
Kazo Micro Area 11,274 (Saitama)
Iwatsuki Micro Area 10,873 (Saitama)
Sayama Micro Area 10,119 (Saitama)
Tokyo Ward Zone 8,108,157 1st
66.3% of metro area
Yokohama City 1,116,591 5th
9.1% of metro area
Kawasaki City 565,657 7th
4.6% of metro area
Population was highly concentrated in Tokyo, with many wards over 20,000 people per square kilometer, and Taito (think Asakusa) at almost 32,000 /km^2, a density not seen in current-day Japan. At the same time, Tokyo proper wasn’t completely urbanized yet, with the ragged edges of wards like Nerima, Adachi, and Edogawa attesting to rural areas at the periphery. Note also the far less extensive facilities of Tokyo Harbor. Odaiba hadn’t been created yet, and the harbor still retained three of its 19th-century island forts.
Urban Yokohama in 1960 was still centered around the prominent cape that defined Yokohama Harbor, with only a few small dense neighborhoods in Yokohama’s vast rural inlands.
By 1970, Greater Tokyo was already arguably the largest and most populous urban area on the planet, passing New York and London. Suburban expansion was extremely rapid. To the north in Saitama, “fingers” of development began to extend along major rail lines. To the east in Chiba, large satellite cities developed next to Tokyo while new industrial cities emerged further along the coast. To the west in Tokyo itself, the prefecture began to “fill in” with satellite cities, some already at or near 100% urbanization of land. To the south in Kanagawa, the rural interior began to fill with suburbs in a more haphazard pattern. Suburbanization also meant decentralization as Tokyo proper’s share of the population plummeted, and the dense core was rapidly losing people and “hollowing out”.
Tokyo-Yokohama-Tachikawa Metro Area 18,303,422 1st + 49.6%
Kimitsu Micro Area 65,089 86th + 329.2% + 181 ranks (Chiba)
Kumagaya Metro Area 63,419 87th + 39.2% + 8 ranks (Saitama)
Ichihara Metro Area 53,408 101st [new DID] (Chiba)
Noda Micro Area 30,320 + 38.5% (Chiba)
Atsugi Micro Area 28,744 + 124.9% (Kanagawa)
Fukaya Micro Area 26,316 + 56.1% (Saitama)
Gyoda Micro Area 23,051 + 0.7% (Saitama)
Hanno Micro Area 19,382 + 39.7% (Saitama)
Higashimatsuyama Micro Area 19,047 + 55.6% (Saitama)
Ome Micro Area 28,423 + 52.1% (Tokyo)
Kazo Micro Area 15,623 + 38.6% (Saitama)
Mobara Micro Area 18,345 + 22.7% (Chiba)
Hanyu Micro Area 12,431 + 31.3% (Saitama)
Tokyo Ward Zone 8,793,123 1st + 8.4%
48.0% of metro area – 18.3% of metro area
Yokohama City 1,935,412 3rd + 73.3% + 2 ranks
10.6% of metro area + 1.5% of metro area
Kawasaki City 907,004 7th + 60.3%
5.0% of metro area + 0.4% of metro area
While the suburbs of Tokyo expanded in every direction, the dense city center lost population. Especially affected were Chiyoda and Chuo wards (the central business and government district), and Taito and Arakawa wards (formerly the densest part of the ward zone). Toshima and Nakano wards remained dense, though, moving the residential center of Tokyo west somewhat.
Despite major loss in the densest areas, Tokyo proper still grew in population in the 1960s due to expansion and development of its rural outskirts. Note also the major increase in artificial land in the harbor.
Yokohama began to take on a suburban character from the 1960s, with residential developments rapidly growing in the formerly rural inlands. Port facilities in Yokohama and Isogo Harbors also expanded, radically changing the coastline and accounting for an apparent drop in population density. The vast and rapid changes in the city caused it to leap ahead two ranks in population, and its share of the overall metro area increased even as Tokyo’s share dropped.
Kawasaki also grew inland, beginning to take shape as a long strip of urban land.
Greater Tokyo continued to expand and suburbanize through the 1970s. By 1980 the area had more or less taken on its distinctive current shape: Saitama’s “railway fingers”, Chiba’s low-density industrial coast, Tokyo Prefecture’s solid ovoid of urban development, and Kanagawa’s complicated patchwork of residential areas. Expansion of the employment area accelerated during this period, as more small neighboring cities fell into Tokyo’s orbit. Some small urban areas temporarily split from Greater Tokyo, oddly enough. At the same time, Tokyo proper had begun losing population to its own suburbs, a phenomenon more often associated with American and European cities.
NOTE: By Tokyo University’s calculations, Narita was already a satellite of Tokyo in 1980, based on the definition of Chiba as a secondary core of the metropolitan area. By strict application of their definitions, though, Chiba did not meet the requirements of a core city until 1995. Minus the influence of Chiba, my calculations show Narita to have remained independent until 1995.
Tokyo-Yokohama-Kawasaki Metro Area 23,436,297 1st + 28.0%
Kumagaya Metro Area 80,340 83rd + 26.7% + 4 ranks (Saitama)
Kimitsu Micro Area 66,809 92th + 2.6% – 6 ranks (Chiba)
Ome Metro Area 53,188 + 87.1% (Tokyo)
Fukaya Micro Area 42,579 + 61.8% (Saitama)
Hanno Micro Area 33,296 + 71.8% (Saitama)
Gyoda Micro Area 31,370 + 36.1% (Saitama)
Narita Micro Area 30,088 + 201.8% (Chiba)
Higashimatsuyama Micro Area 27,644 + 45.1% (Saitama)
Samukawa Micro Area 21,651 [split from Tokyo] (Kanagawa)
Kazo Micro Area 19,931 + 27.6% (Saitama)
Hanyu Micro Area 14,561 + 17.1% (Saitama)
Mizuh Micro Area 12,232 [split from Tokyo] (Tokyo)
Tokyo Ward Zone 8,351,893 1st – 5.0%
35.6% of metro area – 12.4% of metro area
Yokohama City 2,594,398 3rd + 34.0%
11.1% of metro area + 0.5% of metro area
Kawasaki City 1,015,620 8th + 12.0% – 1 rank
4.3% of metro area – 0.7% of metro area
By 1980, Tokyo proper had finally urbanized 100% of its surface area, but the ward zone had already lost more than 400,000 people since 1970. The population loss was most pronounced in the formerly densest wards. Taito-Arakawa and Shinagawa practically evaporated as major residential centers, and overall population density was beginning to diffuse and become more uniformly spread across all wards.
Yokohama’s rural inlands continued to fill with residents, but like Tokyo the city center was slowly starting to lose population.
Kawasaki’s growth slowed a little, but the city had become large enough to be divided into wards, showing a distinct concentration of population at the center.
The pace of Tokyo’s suburban sprawl slowed in the 1980s. Already urbanized areas grew in density, while small developments continued to emerge around the edges and more local cities joined the employment area. By this point, Chiba had extensively reshaped its coastline with artificial land, mostly for steelworks and refineries.
Tokyo-Yokohama-Kawasaki Metro Area 26,973,979 1st + 15.1%
Kumagaya Metro Area 149,564 65th + 86.2% + 18 ranks
Kisarazu-Kimitsu Metro Area 110,591 80th + 65.5% + 12 ranks
Narita Metro Area 54,734 + 81.9%
Gyoda Micro Area 44,828 + 42.9%
Kazo Micro Area 28,390 + 42.4%
Hanyu Micro Area 18,089 + 24.2%
Tokyo Ward Zone 8,163,573 1st – 2.3%
30.3% of metro area – 5.3% of metro area
Yokohama City 3,080,051 2nd + 18.7% + 1 rank
11.4% of metro area + 0.3% of metro area
Kawasaki City 1,158,209 9th + 14.0% – 1 rank
4.2% of metro area – 0.1% of metro area
Tokyo continued to lose population and even out into a more uniform density, hollow at the center where the business, government, and high-end retail districts were.
In the 1980s, Yokohama passed Osaka to become the second most populous city in Japan. With suburban sprawl slowing, Yokohama’s residential wards mostly increased in density rather than area, especially Konan south of the city center. At the same time, downtown Nishi-ku had dropped in density to the point of near uniformity with the suburbs.
Kawasaki had lost some ranking to other cities, but continued to grow at a good pace and increase in density overall.
Greater Tokyo reached the height of its decentralization in the mid-1990s. Tokyo proper accounted for just over a fourth of the urban area, as opposed to almost two thirds in 1960. Suburban sprawl had largely stalled, with existing districts mostly increasing in density rather than surface area. At the same time, Tokyo’s population loss was stalling too, and the trends were beginning to reverse…
Tokyo-Yokohama-Kawasaki Metro Area 28,817,981 1st + 6.8%
Kumagaya Metro Area 170,494 65th + 14.0%
Kisarazu Metro Area 32,700 75th + 20.0% + 5 ranks
Gyoda Metro Area 53,000 + 18.2%
Mizuho Micro Area 22,898 [split from Tokyo]
Hanyu Micro Area 22,454 + 24.1%
Tokyo Ward Zone 8,134,688 1st – 0.4%
28.2% of metro area – 2.1% of metro area
Yokohama City 3,338,859 2nd + 8.4%
11.6% of metro area + 0.2% of metro area
Kawasaki City 1,241,704 9th + 7.2%
4.3% of metro area + 0.1% of metro area
From the 1970 peak of almost 8.8 million, the Tokyo Ward Zone reached its nadir in 1995 at just under 8 million. By 2000, though, it was actually growing again for the first time since the late 1960s- very slowly at first.
Note: the apparent “fragmentation” of Tokyo Harbor is due to the Japanese government changing the way it surveyed urban areas to incorporate more detail.
Yokohama experienced a burst of development in the north that formed the new low-density residential ward of Tsuzuki out of a formerly rural area in Midori-ku. Apart from that, both Yokohama and Kawasaki generally increased in density overall, and the city centers had largely stopped losing population.
A new trend has emerged in Japan’s largest urban areas. After decades of suburban decentralization, they are recentralizing. After losing some 800,000 people from 1970 to 1995, the Tokyo Ward Zone has already recovered that number to set a new population record! At the same time, the suburbs and satellite cities continue to increase in density. The Greater Tokyo employment area absorbed some significant local cities over the 2000s, like Kumagaya and Kisarazu, but some notable cities actually broke off and became independent, like Narita and Koga.
Greater Tokyo, having passed 30 million people even excluding rural areas, is still decisively the world’s most populous urban area, though some Asian cities (especially Seoul) are beginning to approach the same scale.
Tokyo-Yokohama-Kawasaki Metro Area 31,331,790 1st + 8.7%
Narita Metro Area 115,221 80th [split from Tokyo]
Koga Metro Area 71,677 97th [split from Tokyo]
Mizuho Micro Area 23,272 + 1.6%
Tokyo Ward Zone 8,945,695 1st + 10.0%
28.6% of metro area + 0.4% of metro area
Yokohama City 3,589,469 2nd + 7.5%
11.5% of metro area – 0.1% of metro area
Kawasaki City 1,417,671 7th + 14.2% + 2 ranks
4.5% of metro area + 0.2% of metro area
As Greater Tokyo recentralizes, the wards that are growing the most are the same dense and central areas that emptied of people from 1960 onwards. Central Tokyo is quickly going from hollow to filled-in, especially Chuo-ku, though Chiyoda remains a non-residential district dominated by government and finance centers. The belt of wards to the north, long the densest area of Tokyo and long the region that was losing the most population, is now recovering too, with Toshima-ku especially increasing in density.
Yokohama continues to slowly increase in density, but now Nishi-ku in the city center is growing markedly and becoming distinctly dense again. At the same time, Yokohama’s share of Greater Tokyo population is decreasing for the first time as the area recentralizes around Tokyo.
Kawasaki is experiencing a major boom that has caused it to jump in rank, and in keeping with the trends the wards that have grown the most are already the densest central ones- Saiwai and Nakahara.
If there’s any city or region of Japan you’d like to see, just ask me in the comments! Really, I do requests!
National land numerical information (densely inhabited district data)
Ministry of Land, Infrastructure, Transport and Tourism
1960: A16-60_08_DID.shp, A16-60_11_DID.shp, A16-60_12_DID.shp, A16-60_13_DID.shp, A16-60_14_DID.shp
1965: A16-65_08_DID.shp, A16-65_11_DID.shp, A16-65_12_DID.shp, A16-65_13_DID.shp, A16-65_14_DID.shp, A16-65_19_DID.shp
1970: A16-70_08_DID.shp, A16-70_11_DID.shp, A16-70_12_DID.shp, A16-70_13_DID.shp, A16-70_14_DID.shp, A16-70_19_DID.shp
1975: A16-75_08_DID.shp, A16-75_11_DID.shp, A16-75_12_DID.shp, A16-75_13_DID.shp, A16-75_14_DID.shp, A16-75_19_DID.shp
1980: A16-80_08_DID.shp, A16-80_11_DID.shp, A16-80_12_DID.shp, A16-80_13_DID.shp, A16-80_14_DID.shp, A16-80_19_DID.shp
1985: A16-85_08_DID.shp, A16-85_11_DID.shp, A16-85_12_DID.shp, A16-85_13_DID.shp, A16-85_14_DID.shp, A16-85_19_DID.shp
1990: A16-90_08_DID.shp, A16-90_09_DID.shp, A16-90_11_DID.shp, A16-90_12_DID.shp, A16-90_13_DID.shp, A16-90_14_DID.shp, A16-90_19_DID.shp
1995: A16-95_08_DID.shp, A16-95_09_DID.shp, A16-95_11_DID.shp, A16-95_12_DID.shp, A16-95_13_DID.shp, A16-95_14_DID.shp, A16-95_19_DID.shp
2000: A16-00_08_DID.shp, A16-00_09_DID.shp, A16-00_11_DID.shp, A16-00_12_DID.shp, A16-00_13_DID.shp, A16-00_14_DID.shp, A16-00_19_DID.shp
2005: A16-05_08_DID.shp, A16-05_09_DID.shp, A16-05_11_DID.shp, A16-05_12_DID.shp, A16-05_13_DID.shp, A16-05_14_DID.shp, A16-05_19_DID.shp
2010: A16-10_08_DID.shp, A16-10_09_DID.shp, A16-10_11_DID.shp, A16-10_12_DID.shp, A16-10_13_DID.shp, A16-10_14_DID.shp, A16-10_19_DID.shp
Processed and edited in ArcGIS Explorer
Microsoft Bing Maps used as basemap