The loss of nature in Tokyo

The other day I was talking to a friend about how Tokyo is really hot at night. We have hot days in my hometown, of course (though not as hot as humid as here). But even when the temperature reaches 30 or 35 degrees there, it will drop back down to 16 to 18 after dusk. Over 20 degrees at night would be considered extremely hot. We don’t even have air conditioners, usually. In Tokyo, however, nighttime temperatures can stay as high as 30 degrees.

My friend and I speculated that this is because the Tokyo metropolitan area consists thousands of square kilometers of mostly concrete and asphalt, with very little nature to speak of. These materials absorb heat during the day and release it at night.

My friend then told me that the city used to be much greener. I couldn’t really imagine it, so I Googled it. I found an image of Shinagawa, an area I’m very familiar with, around 30 years ago, and it really opened my eyes.

The photo in question can be found here:

When I looked at it, I couldn’t recognize the area at all! Not only are there parks in this picture, but each building and house is surrounded by a line of trees. The area consists of at least about a third greenery. If it were taken today, the picture would show a sea of gray.

As Tokyo and Japan developed, the economy and apartment construction took precedence over preserving nature, with only the main parks in the city remaining intact. Just recently, the green area around the building in front of me has been replaced by asphalt. It wasn’t much, but at least I could see some grass, bushes and flowers near my house. No more. My local station is the same, with the area in front of the gates being paved.

Not only does this lead to a much hotter city, but it lowers the air quality, lets pollen spread more easily, and is, well, sad to see. I understand that people need a place to live, and that Tokyo is the biggest metropolitan area in the world, but we have paid the cost of its development with the loss of nature. As the city’s population starts to decrease again, I hope that local governments start prioritizing the reintroduction of nature again, and not simply sell the land to the highest bidder. Here’s to a green Tokyo.


Hi, I’m Sergio.
I’m from Spain, lived in the UK for seven years and came to Japan in 2012.
I majored in journalism in London and have been teaching English in Tokyo.
I like traveling, cycling, photography, movies, and spending time with friends.
I wrote articles about life in Japan as a foreigner and anything that I might find interesting.
My email is ” “, by all means contact me about anything!


Related links:
Consultation/information services for foreign residents:全国エリア別・生活情報/相談窓口リンク集



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