Tokyo

Travelling is a change that can be more than a rest; new places, new people and different perspective is a fresh breeze on one’s creative soul.

I’ve been traveling in Asia; Taichung and Taipei and now I’m in Tokyo with my sons. Japan has exhibited incredible poise and strength in the aftermath of earthquake, tsunami and a subsequent nuclear crisis. It jolted the average Japanese citizens’ faith in the business men and politicians that run their country but there seems to be real changes in motion to solve the problems of an ageing population, high public debt and deflation that were plaguing Japan long before the disaster. It is fascinating to observe and to reflect on the changes that are unfolding in Tokyo, the centre of this crucible of change. It is is an incredible, vibrant city of contrasts. Creative and repressed at the same time, it is a hyper-kinetic chaos that seems to merge with the traditional Japanese aesthetic and philosophical approaches drawn from a rich cultural heritage into a whole; a whole that is magnitudes greater than the sum of it’s collective parts.

Geoffrey West, a physicist at the Santa Fe Institute who has looked into the maths of cities and the creator of the meme that “cities are powerful networks” postulates that there is an urban constant that holds good the world over: “that every doubling in the size of a city brings a 15-20% increase in wages, patent output, the employment of “supercreative” people, the efficiency of transport systems and many other good things associated with cities. There is a similar increase in crime and pollution, but the benefits of higher wages and greater opportunities evidently outweigh those disadvantages.” Tokyo is the poster city (paradoxically with out the increase in crime and pollution). While it is impossible to predict the what and when of the next “new thing”, Tokyo is going there so watch this great city, it is the future in the making.

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2 thoughts on “Tokyo

  1. You would think that there would be a break point to the expansion/growth of a city when it would start to swing back in the other direction, devolving into disruptive factions within a “super city”… as a result of crime, pollution, and inability of the infrastructure (physical and governance) to handle it all.

  2. The rapid acceleration of urban growth over the last few decades where for the first time more humans live in an urban setting than rural has spurned the recent development of “urban science”. Geoffrey West, a physicist, correlated the ubiquitous principle where the metabolic rate of a creature is equal to its mass taken to the three-fourths power. So while an elephant is 10,000 times the mass of a mouse, it needs only 1,000 times the energy. For all creatures. He later postulated and similarly concluded through of the analysis massive amounts of urban statistics from cities around the world that cites similarly have an urban “metabolism”; that when a city doubles in size, it requires an increase in resources of only 85 percent, that economic activity, from patents issued to wages, increases by approximately 15 percent per capita and unfortunately accompanied by a 15 percent per capita increase in violent crimes and socially transmitted disease. So there must be obvious limits, great cities such as Tokyo, London and NYC have cities have distorted these relationship to the good through lucky or prescient policy/regulations, supportive social norms. This all as opposed to suburban sprawls such as Phoenix and Las Vegas which are below-average in all areas.

    Regardless, the migration to these super-metropolises is has taken an inexorable course of it own around the world. As West has put it, “They can’t tell people where to live or what to do or who to talk to. Cities can’t be managed, and that’s what keeps them so vibrant. They’re just these insane masses of people, bumping into each other and maybe sharing an idea or two. It’s the freedom of the city that keeps it alive.”

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