Comparing Tokyo and Mumbai

in History

A megacity is a metropolitan area that has a population of more than 10 million people. However, there is no constant definition of the megacity considering that some definitions set the minimum population density at about 2,000 persons/square km. A megacity may be comprised of only one metropolitan area or it can be comprised of two or more metropolitan areas that converge together. For a better part of history, megacities have only grown in developed world but in the recent past, there has been growing megacities in developing countries. Asia has experienced a phenomenological emergence of megacities due to increased rate of urbanizations. As of 2011, Asia had two megacities, Mumbai and Tokyo, out of four megacities in the world that had a population of more than 10 million inhabitants. However, it should be noted that the sudden growth of megacities in Asia has come with its own challenges. This study will compare two megacities, Tokyo and Mumbai. The study will look at population, demographics, sociopolitical culture, culture, religions and others. Both Tokyo and Mumbai are largest megacities in Asia that represent social, political, and economic powerhouse in the region.

Tokyo and Mumbai – largest megacities in Asia

Tokyo and Mumbai are two largest megacities in Asia. They have developed over the years to become financial and administrative hub of their countries. The following is snap view of both Tokyo and Mumbai:

Tokyo Metropolis is among the 47 prefectures of Japan. It is an island city that is located in Honshu, Izu, and Ogasawara Islands. Founded in 1943, the city had grown to become an important commercial, industrial and administrative city of Japan. It is the capital of Japan and the largest metropolitan area of the country (Worrall, Solomon & Lieberman, 2010). It is also the seat of Japanese government and also holds the Imperial Palace. Economically, Tokyo has become important part of the world economy. It was ranked alongside New York and London among the three command centers of the world economy. In 2010, the city was ranked third among global cities by Foreign Policy and it was also ranked the second most expensive city.

On the other hand, Mumbai is among the most populous cities in Asia and in the world. Formerly known as Bombay, it is the capital cit of Maharashtra state (Jeyaveeran, 2004). It is the fifth most populous city in the world and the most populous in India. The city lies in the West coast of India and has won many accolades including the 2009 Alpha World City. In addition, the city is not only the richest in India but it also has the highest GDP in South, West, and Central Asia. The city is made of up seven islands that have distinct economic activities. It is an important administrative and financial city accounting for more than 70% of capital transaction for India’s economy. It also has many cultures (Sharada, 2010).

The above review shows that the two cities have a number of similarities and differences. However, to understand each city well, the following is a close comparison between the two cities in different facets:

Population demographics

As was mentioned in the introduction, a megacity is described as metropolitan area with a population of more than 10 million people. However, both Tokyo and Japan have more than 10 million people. According to the recent estimates, there are more than 12.79 million people in Tokyo with about 8.63 million people living in Tokyo 23 wards (Worrall et al., 2010). Majority of the population is working age (15-64 years) who comprise a total of 8.546 million people, about 69.3% of the entire megacity population. On the other hand, Mumbai has a higher population than Tokyo. According to 2010 estimates, Mumbai has more than 13.8 million, more than that of Tokyo, while the Mumbai metropolitan area has more than 21.3 million people (Sharada, 2010). Unlike Tokyo, majority of the population in Mumbai lives in deplorable slums despite that city having a higher GDP.

Economic structure

Both Tokyo and Mumbai are important economic hubs of their countries. They also hold important segment of Asian economic activities. Mumbai is the largest financial and commercial capital of India generating more than 6% of the country’s GDP (Sharada, 2010). It is an industrial center that contributes about 10% of the factory employment, 25% of industrial output, and about 33% of income tax. In addition, more than 20% of India’s foreign trade takes place in Mumbai (Sharada, 2010). The city has a per capital income of $2,840, which is three time the national average. The city is also home to five of the of the Fortune 500 companies (29). On the other hand, Tokyo has a higher GDP compared to Mumbai. It is among the three command centers of the world economy. Unlike Mumbai that is home to five of Fortune 500, Tokyo is home to 51 of the Fortune 500 companies, two times the number of cities in Paris which comes second (Worrall et al., 2010). Tokyo is home to large investment banks and insurance companies. Tokyo is also home to Japan’s largest stock exchange and second largest in the world.

Sociopolitical culture

Both Tokyo and Mumbai are important administrative cities. Tokyo is an administrative center for other prefectures. It is the center of about 23 wards, districts, towns, villages, quasi-national parks, and a national park. Tokyo is also administrative centers for 26 cities, 5 towns, and 8 villages. The government for the metropolitan government is publicly elected (Worrall et al., 2010). Unlike Tokyo, Mumbai is a political hotbed for India. It is the birthplace of Indian National Congress (Congress Party). The City has hosted National Congress for 6 times in the last 50 years and it has also been a strong base for Indian Independence Movements in the 20th century (Sharada, 2010).

Environment stress issue

Like other cities in the world, Asian megacities are facing major environmental challenges. They have major environment problems including air population, water pollution, and many others. Asian cities have been described as some of the most polluted cities in the world. In Tokyo, the government statistics shows that the temperature has increased by more than 3°C over the past one century due to increase emission of green house gases (Richie & Simmons, 2010). It has been used as examples of cities that exemplify the relationship between urban growth and effect on the environment. However, the government has responded by introducing emission cap system that will see reduction of green house gases by about 25% by 2020 from the levels recorded in 2000 (Worrall et al., 2010).Like Tokyo, Mumbai is also facing major environmental challenges. It is estimated that about 42% of the city residents live in slums and with the population growing at 4% annually, the stress on the environment continues (Sharada, 2010). The key environmental issues facing the city include water and air pollution, poverty, water management, and others. Water scarcity and solid waste management are to key issues facing the megacity.


Unlike the western megacities, Asian cities are known for retaining their rich cultures. They represent blend of different cultures that are important from rural areas to the cities. Mumbai culture can be described as a blend between different cultures mainly made up of traditional festivals, foods, music and theatres (Mehta, 2004). It has diverse cosmopolitan lifestyles offering different kinds of foods, entertainment, night life, and festivals. It is home of Indian cinema and bollywood is also based in the city. The city’s architecture is a blend of Gothic Revivals, Indo-Sarcenic, and other contemporary styles. On the other hand, Tokyo also presents a rich culture history of Japan. It represents a blend of traditional and contemporary cultures. It has many museums including Tokyo National Museum, the larges in the nation, which shows Japanese arts. It also has many theaters and performing arts. Major festivals that occur in the city include Sanno, Snja, Kanda Festivals, and others. The cuisines of Tokyo are also acclaimed worldwide (Richie & Simmons, 2010).


Religion is an important aspect of social life of the people. It is often included in the study of population because it has bearing on social and economic life of the people. Both Tokyo and Mumbai are multi-religious with different religions practiced within these cities. Mumbai has different religions with Hindus making 67.39%, Muslims making up 18.56%, Buddhists comparing 5.22%, Jains 3.99%, Christians 4.2%, Sikhs 0.58%, whiles Parsis and Jews makes up the rest. In the same way, Tokyo has different religions (Mehta, 2004). Shinto and Buddhism are two main dominant religions that have co-existed together for many years. These two religions have important elements that make up the life of Japanese people. Buddhism is also practiced in Tokyo. Christianity, Confucianism and others religions makes up less than 1% of Japanese population (Richie & Simmons, 2010).


In the last two decades, there has been rapid growth of mega cities in Asia. Tokyo and Mumbai are among the largest megacities in Asian with population exceeding 10 million people. Both cities are important administrative and commercial centers for their own country. Tokyo is among the three cities listed as command centers for the world economy. They are important political cities that define national politics in their respective country. However, there are also major differences between the two cities considering that Mumbai is largely inhabited by poor population compared to Tokyo. Both Tokyo and Mumbai are largest megacities in Asia that represent social, political, and economic powerhouse in the region.

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This article was published on 2012/03/27