Tokyo in pictures: a megacity that works

Tokyo tells the story of a successful megacity, one that is highly efficient, clean, safe, and vibrant. The city understands that long-term and continuous planning for its urban infrastructure is critical to ensure the city’s growth in a sustainable and efficient manner. Long before it burgeoned into a megacity that it is today, Tokyo already started laying the foundations for an extensive and good public transportation network and continuously updated it over the decades. The city has a vision to facilitate freedom of movement regardless of class. In this photo essay, we look at how Tokyo builds on its spirit of continuous improvements to create a megacity that simply works.

From post-war recovery to modern day metropolis
In the second half of 20th century, Tokyo developed to cope with the rising challenges due to urbanisation, increasing population, and rapid economic expansion. The city pursued urban infrastructure development to support its rapid population and economic growth, which led to its prosperity at the end of 20th century. By taking a conscientious and long-term approach in its urban development, Tokyo today is a city that is widely reputed for its high efficiency, technological advancements, and excellent public transportation.

Tokyo in the past

Tokyo and Mt Fuji
Tokyo before and after © Tokyo Metropolitan Government

From car-based to highly advanced public transportation
Tokyo’s public transportation network today is arguably one of the world’s most extensive and complex. In most parts of central Tokyo, it takes approximately 5-10 minutes on foot to reach the nearest train station, and 64% of the area within the JR Yamanote loop line is within 5 minutes to the nearest train station.

The modal split for transportation by train in the city’s 23 Special Wards is 48%, higher than any other city in the world. Approximately 80% of commuters in the city use public transportation such as trains and buses. The city’s measures to ease congestion, such as construction of new lines, adding tracks to existing lines, making trains longer, and enhancing through-services between railway operators, has seen its congestion rate improved over the years.

Tokyo in the past
Tokyo in the past: a car-based city that is often clogged by traffic jams

Tokyo public transportation
Tokyo today: an efficient city based on a highly advanced public transportation network

From sombre suit-and-tie to vibrant and inclusive business environments
The city employs a strategy of multiple centres and continually renews them as vibrant business centres to enhance Tokyo’s international competitiveness. The Central Business District of Otemachi, Marunouchi and Yurakucho (OMY District) between the Imperial Palace and Tokyo Station is one such urban renewal area that has been revitalised.

Mitsubishi Estate – a real estate developer and major landowner in the OMY District, understood the development of good public infrastructure that benefits the community would in turn benefit the private developments themselves, and took the lead in collaborating with other landowners to revise the district master plan, turning around what could have been a sterile concrete jungle into a far more hospitable environment lined with plentiful public spaces for all to enjoy.

Marunouchi in the past
Marunouchi in the past: a sterile business environment

Marunouchi today
Marunouchi today: a vibrant and inclusive business environment © Urban Redevelopment Authority Singapore

A special scheme that allows the transfer of built area to surrounding developments made the restoration of the Tokyo Station to its former glory possible © Urban Redevelopment Authority Singapore

Lushly planted sidewalks, ample seating places and shops create a casual environment in the Marunouchi district that appeals to not just the businessmen © Urban Redevelopment Authority Singapore

Outdoor areas within developments in the Marunouchi district offer a place of respite for office workers © Urban Redevelopment Authority Singapore

Marunouchi underground link
Developments within the Marunouchi district are seamlessly connected to one another via underground links © Urban Redevelopment Authority Singapore

Marunouchi underground link
Underground links are adorned with artwork to provide visual relief © Urban Redevelopment Authority Singapore

From a garbage dump to a green haven
The Umi-no-Mori (sea forest) project – a conversion of a garbage dump in the Tokyo Bay into a park, creatively transforms a previously inaccessible and unsightly place into a new public space. The project is an innovation in creating more public spaces in the city and offering more recreational opportunities for the people. Since its inauguration in 2008, the project involved some 23,366 people selected by the public and 478 organisations in the planting of trees, giving them a sense of ownership. The park is slated to complete in 2020 and would increase the provision greenery in the city, as well as help raise awareness on the importance of recycling.

Umi no Mori before
Before the transformation: an unsightly waste landfill site is about to be transformed into a new park

Umi no Mori
In the process of transformation

Umi no Mori
The tree-planting process for Umi-no-Mori took over 7 years. The park is slated to open in 2020.

This article was first published in November 2018. All images contained within this page are copyright of and used with permission from the Tokyo Metropolitan Government (except otherwise indicated), and shall not be copied, modified, or reproduced.