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The Dark Side of Living in TokyoWe’ve always known this, but it is nice to be officially declared – Tokyo is the world’s best city to live in. The city was selected the world’s most livable city in the June 2015 edition of the British magazine Monocle. Tokyo came second place last year and it is the first time Tokyo topped the list since the magazine began the annual survey on quality of life in the world nine years ago. Top five cities included Tokyo, followed by Vienna, Berlin, Melbourne and Sydney. The Dark Side of Living in Tokyo the 2015 World’s Most Livable City.

The mega city was commended for“defining paradox of heart-stopping size and concurrent feeling of peace and quiet,” as well as being the safest city in the world. Other major contributing factors include its direct air and sea links with 127 international cities and its environmental friendliness. The fact that 19.5% of commuters use a bicycle especially impressed the magazine.

What do they take into consideration in ranking livable cities? Factors they look at are crime rate, health infrastructure, education, natural environment, and public library access. In addition, the magazine actually sent correspondents to actually check out first hand such factors as commitment to culture, bar closing times, the price of a good lunch, and proximity to seas, lakes and mountains. It sounds very much like they had a great time exploring Tokyo;-)

In terms of lunch, the magazine noted that you can get a fairly satisfactory lunch in Tokyo for US$8.00 or 1,000 yen, but in other cities such as London, Paris and other major international cities, you can only afford a sandwich from a supermarket. Well, a bowl of ramen in Sydney could cost AUS$20.00.

Having lived in a number of cities around the world and having lived in Tokyo for a while, we cannot agree more with the survey results. But they fail to offer a balanced understanding of the city by not being honest about the down side of Tokyo. Here are what we can think of.

The dark side of living in the world’s livable city Tokyo:

  • Too many choices of cheap to exquisite restaurants, cafes and bars that it takes forever to decide for  even a small get-together among friends and families.
  • 24/7 access to great food of varying prices that we are constantly eating and had to sign up for a gym recently, which is open 24/7.
  • The trains are so punctual and frequent (especially Yamanote Line) that “oh I missed my train” can’t be used as an excuse for being late.
  • You get bored in the elevators as an elevator personnel does all the work and we have nothing to do.
  • You can’t sleep at night because you can’t help but fall asleep on the super quiet trains during the day – there are millions onboard but phone calls are not allowed and the Japanese whisper to each other on public transport.
  • Planning for weekends is stressful as there is a depressingly large number of free attractions and free events happening throughout the year.
  • Downtown Tokyo makes us sad because we are reminded that our home countries haven’t got such cool traditional ways of life and matsuri festivals like Edokko (referring to people born in Tokyo) do.
  • Police officers lack authority as they are so friendly, kind, considerate and non-violent.
  • You feel bad all the time as everyone who passes in front of you or beside you apologies to you like there is no tomorrow.

I’m sure that fellow foreign residents in Tokyo can easily add another dark side of living in Tokyo to this list. Tell us what makes you feel so down about living in Tokyo!


  • Takaski says:

    Thanks, Mike, for adding another dark side to our list. It’s indeed quite excruciating not to be able to complain about anything when we live in a foreign country:-8

  • Mike says:

    My biggest complaint was always that there was nothing to complain about. Coming from the UK, complaining is our national sport.