Tokyo, eyeing 2020, reinforces Japanese character

Tokyo is under design as an ideal city in the future. (Yingcong (June) Fu/MEDILL)

By Yingcong (June) Fu

Tokyo is pointing toward its second Olympics, in 2020, after more than half a century. Different from the situation in 1964, when Japan’s economy was emerging after World War II, Tokyo is trying to bring a new global image this time after decades of economic stagnation in Japan.

Consistent with the slogan of “discover tomorrow”, the Tokyo government is polishing the city with well-designed details to depict an ideal urban life in the future–heated seats and women-only cars in the subway system, delicatedly-designated public smoking areas, and extremely clean streets with only a few trash cans.

The Japanese tradition of high self-discipline is also reinforced in the modernization of the city, attempting to distinguish Japan from other developed countries. You can hardly find a smoker outside a smoking area, nor can you spot anyone eating or drinking in the public. In recent years, more natives tend to wear surgical masks on the street, to protect themselves from pollution and allergy.

According to a report by the World Lung Foundation, Japan ranked fifth among the countries with the highest cigarette consumption per person in 2014. In 2009 Kanagawa became the first prefecture to pass an anti-smoking ordinance in public areas, and Tokyo tightened smoking regulations in 2015. (Yingcong (June) Fu/MEDILL)
A smoker lights up in a public smoking area. Smoking is declining. An annual survey conducted by Japan Tobacco Inc. found that only 19.3 percent of adults were smokers in Japan in 2016, the lowest in history. (Yingcong (June) Fu/MEDILL)
trash can
Even though few trash cans are available, you rarely see litter on the street. Japan has a complex trash sorting system. Trash cans have different categories. (Yingcong (June) Fu/MEDILL)
women-only cars
Women-only cars began to operate in Tokyo early in 2001, to protect women from sexual harassment in packed subways. Terminals and cars are marked with signs with a pink background to make women-only cars distinguishable. (Yingcong (June) Fu/MEDILL)
surgical masks
More Japanese, ever health-conscious, wear surgical masks on the street after the flu pandemic in 2009 and the earthquake and nuclear accident in 2011. (Yingcong (June) Fu/MEDILL)
The classic Japanese cuisine–healthy, delicate and well-organized–also speaks to the tradition of self-discipline. (Yingcong (June) Fu/MEDILL)
Photo at top: Tokyo mundanely bills itself as “a city of the future.” (Yingcong (June) Fu/MEDILL)