The Journal The Authority on Global Business in Japan

The vast majority of Tokyo’s foreign residents are aware that this city is a very good place to live, work, and be entertained. It is, by and large, accessible, safe, convenient, and clean—and there never seems to be a shortage of new and fascinating things to do or places to visit.
The latest edition of the Global Power City Index (GPCI), compiled by the Mori Memorial Foundation’s Institute for Urban Strategies and released in November, concurs with that assessment and places Tokyo in third place on the list of the best cities in the world. London is once again named as the most magnetic metropolis, followed by New York City, Tokyo, and Paris. But the Big Mikan will certainly have an eye on usurping the Big Apple for second place in the near future thanks to a significant anticipated boost from the 2020 Olympic and Paralympic Games.

New York’s economic strength continues to outpace Tokyo’s.

Fine Details
The GPCI, first compiled in 2008, evaluates and ranks the world’s major cities according to their comprehensive power to attract people, capital, and enterprises. Rankings are assigned according to the measurement of six functions:

■ Economy
■ Research & development
■ Cultural interaction
■ Livability
■ Environment
■ Accessibility

Each of these is broken down into multiple indicator groups which, in turn, have a total of 70 indicators that are used to determine the final score. The highest possible total is 2,600.
The economy function, for example, includes a market size indicator group, which has nominal gross domestic product (GDP) and its per capita as indicators. The cultural facilities indicator group has separate benchmarks for the number of theaters, museums, and stadiums.
The latest GPCI saw no changes among the top 10 metropolises in the 48-city comprehensive ranking.
Although London maintained its top position for an eighth consecutive year—having overtaken New York City in 2012—its total score of 1,669.1 is down from the previous year’s 1,692.3. The authors of the study attributed the marginal decline to economic and political turmoil surrounding the at times acrimonious debate over Britain’s divorce from the European Union. They pointed out, however, that London took a top-five position in 12 of the 16 cultural interaction indicators, underlining its attractiveness to visitors.
New York City came out on top for economy as well as research & development, thanks to high scores for its GDP, stock market capitalization, and startup environment. It also fared well for cultural interaction and accessibility, but the number of foreign residents declined for the third straight year. The Big Apple’s comprehensive ranking also fell, shrinking from 1,565.3 points in 2018 to 1,543.2.
That could have been an opportunity for Tokyo to narrow the gap, but positive developments here were not enough to offset the negatives. The comprehensive score for the Japanese capital was 1,422.2, down from 1,462.0 in 2018.
“Tokyo’s status as a balanced city is continuing to gradually strengthen, as it lacks both exceedingly strong and extremely weak functions despite being a comprehensively powerful city overall,” the report states. It does point out, however, that fourth-place Paris narrowed the gap separating it from Tokyo to a mere 34.5 points, meaning that the city needs to be on its toes if it wants to retain the third spot, which it has held since 2016, let alone challenge New York for second.
“Among the top three cities of the GPCI—London, New York, and Tokyo—it is Tokyo that appears to be most balanced in all six functions,” Mori Memorial Foundation Executive Director Hiroo Ichikawa told The ACCJ Journal. “Meanwhile, London and New York display extreme strengths in specific functions—London in Cultural Interaction and New York in Economy as well as R&D.”

Upgraded Outlook
For 2020, however, Tokyo may have a number of advantages over its rivals. Cities around the world are going to feel the impact of challenges such as US–China trade friction, the ongoing unrest in Hong Kong, stagnating GDP growth in both Beijing and Shanghai, and continued disharmony between London and its European neighbors.
Perhaps the biggest boost will come from the Tokyo 2020 Olympic and Paralympic Games, which begin in July. The city’s authorities and central government have embarked on an ambitious development program to construct a number of new sporting facilities that will remain in use long after the Games. This includes the state-of-the-art New National Stadium, completed eight months ahead of schedule on November 30 and officially opened on December 21.
The previously rather desolate Harumi Wharf, on Tokyo Bay, is being transformed into accommodations for athletes and team officials. After the closing ceremony, these will become housing units.

The 2024 Olympic and Paralympic Games will likely boost Paris in the GPCI rankings.

Infrastructure—from roads to subways, bridges to airport facilities—has been improved and enhanced by the government, and the private sector has also played its part. Tokyo has many more hotels to suit all budgets than it had even five years ago.
In the same way that London received a boost after it hosted the 2002 Olympic and Paralympic Games—widely regarded as one of the best organized and most financially responsible—Tokyo hopes to score better in the next GPCI in terms of the number of foreign visitors and hotel rooms, air transport capa­city, inner-city transportation, and several other indicators.
But Tokyo will not be able to rest on its laurels for long, as the leg up it receives from being the focus of the global sporting world this summer will shift to Paris in 2024, when the French capital plays host to the Games. It has only been four years since Tokyo hurdled Paris to claim the coveted third spot in the GPCI. It will not want to drop back to fourth.
Ichikawa, who is also professor emeritus at Meiji University and a professor at Teikyo University said, “The challenge for post-Olympic Tokyo could be strengthening its power in a particular function to keep up with London and New York, and to stay ahead of Paris, leading Tokyo to further develop its comprehensive power.”

Count on Culture
Tokyo ranks fourth in terms of cultural inter­action but lags noticeably in one key indi­cator: nightlife options. The study puts the city 13th in this category, behind places such as Bangkok, Barcelona, Chicago, and even Singapore. If Tokyo does indeed aspire to have tourists make repeat visits to the city—particularly the younger demographic—then it needs to address this particular shortfall.
The figures also identify one broad area in which Tokyo needs to up its game: the environment.
The Swiss city of Zurich outperformed the rest of the world in this indicator, and was followed by Stockholm, Copenhagen, Helsinki, and Sydney. Tokyo came in 23rd, one spot behind London but one ahead of Paris and four ahead of New York City.
If Tokyo wants to do better, it needs to increase its renewable energy rate and waste recycling figures, as well as improve air quality by cutting CO2 emissions, enhance water quality, and expand the amount of urban greenery.
Tokyo is also in a disappointing 11th place for livability, only narrowly above Osaka (13th) and behind Toronto, Berlin, and Amsterdam. Tokyo’s figures are affected by relatively high living costs, which include rent and work hours.
There are, unquestionably, downsides to life in Tokyo, including a tough commute for many people and a distinct shortage of green spaces in the heart of the city. But the positives outpace the negatives. Just ask one of the millions of tourists who have visited for the first time in the past year or so. It’s a fairly safe wager that the majority would very much like the opportunity to return, and quite a few would have been sufficiently impressed to start exploring employment opportunities here.

Julian Ryall is Japan correspondent for The Daily Telegraph.
If Tokyo wants to do better, it needs to increase its renewable energy rate and waste recycling figures, as well as improve air quality by cutting CO2 emissions.