Monday, February 2, 2015

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The world's safest city revealed: Tokyo

I work as a criminal lawyer. It's a hard job dealing with people who lie, cheat, and steal every day of their lives, but you eventually get used to working with other lawyers.

I also love travelling. But given the number of robberies and random violence I have dealt with in my career, to say that I am on high alert when I travel is an understatement, a bit like saying the owner of an All you can eat buffet restaurant is on high alert after seeing a bus load of sumo wrestlers pull up.

I also love Tokyo. While I have previously written about my love affair with Tokyo (and affair is the correct term, having had three liaisons already, the longest for three months), one of the many things I love about Tokyo is the fact that it is safe.

Perhaps you think I am biased, or just making this up. Wrong.

A few days ago, Tokyo, which is the world's most populated city with over 38 million people, (not to mention perhaps the craziest place on earth) is also the safest according to the recently released 2015 Safe Cities Index by The Economist.

The index looks at a whole range of measures including, of course, personal safety, but also digital security, health security, and infrastructure safety. So apart from being number one overall, Tokyo also amazingly ranks in the top five for personal safety and infrastructure safety, despite suffering regular earthquakes.

So why is Tokyo so safe?

To be honest, despite having reading numerous books and law journals about the topic, I am still not entirely sure. The topic is certainly worthy of an entire post by itself, if not a series of posts, but I still have no idea how they do it. Yes, of course they still have murders and robberies and sexual assaults and corruption and Yakuza (a 'gang' like Japanese equivalent), but nothing like the rates in most western cities.

So apart from being a city on steroids that vomits neon lights at every street corner, and apart from having the most and best number of restaurants than any other city in the world (not to mention my favourite, Ramen), it has children playing safely in the street and riding the train across town with no parent in sight. It has women travelling safely home on public transport late at night, and old people (and I mean a lot of old people) going about their business without being scared in their own homes.

I accept that Tokyo as a whole is not a beautiful city like Sydney, or Stockholm or San Francisco, but it is as charming as it is peculiar, like a beautiful woman holding a ferret dressed as Pikachu. It is as exciting as it is awkward, like falling in love with your best friend's mother.

Yet the Safe Cities Index, while naming Tokyo number one, does not allow for the health of its gardens, the quality of its architecture, or the joy of its culture. It does not include the beauty of its haiku or the strength of its Sumos, the intelligence of its public transport or the integrity of its station attendants. The Safe Cities Index measures neither Tokyo's wit nor its peculiarity, neither its treatment of tourists, nor its downright weirdness, it measures everything in short, except that which makes Tokyo worthwhile.

Do I love Tokyo? Absolutely. Is it because it is now the world's safest city? It is but one small factor.

(Photograph from here)

(Photograph from here)

In case you are interested the Top 5 cities were Tokyo, Singapore, Osaka, Stockholm and Amsterdam (with my own hometown Sydney coming in at Number 6). And in case you are interested the Bottom 5 cities were Jakarta, Tehran, Ho Chin Min city, Johannesburg, and Riyadh.


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