Sunday 25 January 2015

How many people live in Tokyo?

Back in August 2014 when I was preparing some material for teaching students how to query data in a GIS, I devised a very simple example where they had to select all the countries in the world with a lower population than the Tokyo Metropolitan Area (or Greater Tokyo Area, as it's sometimes called). I did this just as an example but since I found the results quite interesting, I quickly turned it into a map and posted it on Twitter, complete with 'Toyko' typo in the subheading. It was really just a quick example of how to query data in a GIS but it also highlighted the massive population of the Tokyo metropolitan area. You can find the full size, original image here. I was prompted to write this blog because the map was reposted on the Canadian Twitter feed @AsapSCIENCE a few days ago and since then my inbox has been a bit busy.

Now, back to the original question of how many people live in 'Tokyo'. Well, when I say 'Tokyo' in the map, I'm referring to the wider metropolitan area, which in 2014 the United Nations World Urbanization Prospects said has a total population of 37,833,000, far beyond the next largest urban agglomeration, Delhi, at 24,953,000. By way of comparison, using the urban agglomeration population (rather than a city's administrative boundaries), Toronto had 5.9 million, London had 10.2 million and Beijing had 19.5 million. Clearly, these definitions include other urban places that are not Tokyo (e.g. Yokohama) but they are recognized as being part of a fairly coherent metropolitan area. 

So, in the map, I'm using a figure of 'approx 36 million' as I say but in reality the UN figure is a bit higher. If we want to narrow the definition down to just the inner urban area then obviously the figure reduces significantly. I'm not usually one to cite Wikipedia, but in this case it's a good place to go to learn about the various definitions of the Greater Tokyo Area/Kantō region. If you don't want to click, here's a summary of some Tokyo populations...
  • Former city area (23 'special wards') - 8.95 million people
  • Tokyo Metropolis - 13.05 million
  • Tokyo Metropolitan Employment Area - 31.70 million
  • National Capital Region - 43.47 million
If we take the metropolitan definition used by the United Nations, then Tokyo does indeed have more people than Canada, at 35.5 million (2014 Statistics Canada estimate) and far more than Australia at 23.7 million (see their population clock). The Tokyo metropolitan population is roughly the same as the whole of California, which currently stands at about 38 million.

Link to chart

This was all just a little bit of map trivia and whilst it seems to have annoyed some people who live in a red country, the point was just to demonstrate the simple analytical power of GIS in addition to the size of Tokyo (to make it more interesting). The data I used are from Natural Earth if you want to have a look yourself and the software I used is a free GIS called QGIS, which is really good. Some other random facts about what happened to my original tweet...

Tokyo metropolitan area