Congratulations go to Tokyo, 2015 winner of most liveable city as rated by Monocle magazine’s annual Quality of Life survey. Home to 38 million people, Tokyo is also the world’s largest urban area and qualifies for mega-city status. Defined as a city with more than 10 million people, mega-cities are on the rise. According to the United Nations, there are currently 34 mega-cities in total, projected to increase to 41 by 2030.
Like it or not, megacities are the future. Urban populations are growing and it’s not just because people have to be in cities. Many of us love urban areas and want to inhabit these dynamic spaces. Young, old, rich and not so rich – all and sundry are drawn to urban living. But what makes a city attractive to live in?
Unlike other such surveys, Monocle’s goes beyond the typical criteria used to evaluate candidates by throwing intangibles into the mix. So, as well as assessing stats around crime, healthcare, education and transport, the Quality of Life survey also considers several lifestyle and cost of living measures, such as the price of a cup of coffee; glass of wine and decent lunch; commitment to culture; closing time of bars, and access to seas, lakes and mountains.
In a video published in January this year, The School of Life (founded by philosopher Alain de Botton) argues that aesthetically appealing cities are particularly desirable – and that ugly buildings and cityscapes pose a danger to quality of life. They’re not wrong; a number of studies support the idea that, in addition to its conditions, the design of a city correlates strongly with the happiness of its residents.
‘Compactness, with well-designed squares and public spaces, is also said to add to a city’s feelgood factor. A higher density residential environment, incorporating all the required infrastructure facilities and amenities, encourages social interaction, as well as walking and cycling’ – activities proven to be beneficial to wellbeing.
The late Libby Burton, Professor of Sustainable Building Design and Wellbeing, also noted a range of factors that contribute to city-dwellers’ happiness. Among them are the observations that, along with good sound insulation, urban homes and spaces should include as much greenery as possible, as “Natural elements in the built environment help people recover from stress and mental fatigue and generally lift their mood.”
As a Londoner lucky enough to have experienced living well in Japan, I wholeheartedly agree that Tokyo is hard to beat. A lot cheaper and greener than some might think, with ridiculously convenient convenience stores, the Japanese capital rightly deserves its spot at the top of the world’s most liveable city list. As Monocle says, “Tokyo 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 has everything covered – “London and New York, take note.”