Tokyo and Kyoto Top International City Rankings

Society Culture Lifestyle

A Megalopolis with a Feeling of Tranquility

Tokyo was selected as the world’s most livable city and Kyoto as the best for travel in recent international magazine rankings that gave Japan a welcome boost.

The British magazine Monocle published in its June 2015 edition its annual survey on quality of life in the world’s major cities. Tokyo topped the list for the first time since the survey began nine years ago, rising from second place last year. The Japanese capital was praised for its “defining paradox of heart-stopping size and concurrent feeling of peace and quiet,” as well as being the world’s safest city. Other strong points cited include its direct air and sea links with 127 cities around the world and its environmental friendliness, with the magazine noting that 19.5% of commuters in the city use a bicycle.

The ranking is based on such factors as crime rate, health infrastructure, education, natural environment, and public library access. As well as looking at statistics, the magazine sent correspondents to directly experience such intangible livability factors as commitment to culture, bar closing times, the price of a good lunch, and proximity to seas, lakes, and mountains. Monocle writes that it is possible to buy a good lunch in Japan for €7.5, or around ¥1,000, while in London, Paris, and other major European cities, this will only get a sandwich from a supermarket or café. The depreciation of the yen has helped make Tokyo more competitive in these kinds of comparison.

Vienna was runner-up to Tokyo, with Berlin, Melbourne, and Sydney rounding out the top five. Fukuoka and Kyoto also appeared among the 25 most livable cities in twelfth and fourteenth place, respectively. European cities were particularly dominant, supplying 15 of the locations on the list, while the United States was represented only by Portland, Oregon, and some regions did not appear at all. Despite their global fame, New York and London also missed out on the top 25.

Monocle Ranking of the World’s Most Livable Cities (June 2015)

1 Tokyo 14 Kyoto
2 Vienna 15 Paris
3 Berlin 16 Madrid
4 Melbourne 17 Auckland
5 Sydney 18 Lisbon
6 Stockholm 19 Hong Kong
7 Vancouver 20 Amsterdam
8 Helsinki 21 Hamburg
9 Munich 22 Geneva
10= Zurich 23 Oslo
10= Copenhagen 24 Barcelona
12 Fukuoka 25 Portland
13 Singapore

Kyoto Again Voted World’s Best City

In July, readers of US magazine Travel + Leisure chose Kyoto as the world’s best city for the second successive year. The magazine’s mainly affluent North American readership seem to have selected the city for its array of shrines and temples, many established over a millennium ago, and the appeal of its traditional cuisine, including the vegan shōjin ryōri originally served at Buddhist temples.

Foreign visitors to Kyoto are on an upward trend with the annual total staying overnight doubling over a decade to reach 1.13 million in 2013, surpassing the 1-million mark for the first time. Since 2012, the ancient capital has been bolstering free wi-fi services for international tourists in hundreds of locations from bus stops and subway stations to convenience stores and public facilities. It has also introduced a 24-hour multilingual call center to assist foreign guests at the city’s traditional ryokan inns.

Charleston, South Carolina, came second in the poll, followed by Siem Reap—which lies next to the temple complex of Angkor Wat in Cambodia—Florence, and Rome. The cities were ranked on six factors, including tourist attractions, culture, food, and hospitality of local residents.

Kyoto Mayor Kadokawa Daisaku said at a Tokyo press conference that “Kyoto’s selection as top city shows how highly regarded Japan is as a whole.” A record 13 million international tourists visited Japan in 2014, spurred on by a weaker yen and the increased scope of tax exemptions for foreign shoppers. This number is expected to rise again in 2015, and the tourist industry will hope that attention given to Tokyo and Kyoto will also help attract visitors to explore the nation’s other destinations.

Travel + Leisure Ranking of the World’s Best Cities as Tourist Destinations (July 2015)

1 Kyoto
2 Charleston
3 Siem Reap
4 Florence
5 Rome
6 Bangkok
7 Kraków
8 Barcelona
9 Cape Town
10 Jerusalem
(Written by Murakami Naohisa of Banner photo: Scramble crossing at Shibuya, Tokyo.)

tourism Tokyo Kyoto city rankings