Unless you just haven’t been paying attention recently, you’ll know that Mrs. Animal and yr. obdt. have been enjoying a semi-working vacation in Tokyo these last few days.
If you’ve been reading these virtual pages for a while, you’ll also know that we spent 2017 in the ever-more-loony San Francisco Bay area.
So, with that being the case, I can’t help but to draw some comparisons between the two cities.
I’m generally not a fan of big cities. I grew up in rural and small town environments, and the hustle and bustle of big metropolitan areas has never appealed to me. But even so, I love Japan, and I love Tokyo. I like being out in the countryside and in the small towns in Japan more than being in Tokyo, of course, but on this particular trip we stayed in the Tokyo metro area the entire time, and had a ball. But I can’t abide most major American cities (although I’m rather fond of Boston), I really can’t abide the nutbar Bay Area, and in that year in the area I came to downright loathe San Francisco.
So what’s the difference in these two cities? Why is San Francisco now a literal shithole, littered with human feces, used needles, and derelicts sleeping in doorways? Why is Tokyo a clean, prosperous city that young people from all over Japan want to come live and work in?
A big part of it is housing. The suburb we are staying in, Kinshicho, like many of Tokyo’s neighborhoods has a pretty fair number of high-rise apartment buildings. In our travels around Tokyo and indeed other places in Japan, we’ve seen a lot of these and more going up. In other words, Japan deals with a population density and housing cost issue that America cities can’t imagine by vertical filing.
Why can’t American cities do this? Why can’t the Bay Area, a place notorious for horrifying housing prices, build some similar high-rise developments to provide affordable housing? “Affordable Housing” is a shibboleth of the political Left, which has a hammerlock on this city; why then do they insist on restrictive land-use and building codes that make this almost impossible?
“But Animal,” some of these same left-leaning folks might say, “we shouldn’t force people to live in massive high-rises!” Well, sure, I quite agree. But why not open up the possibilities for developers to build some of these efficient, small-apartment high-rises and see if people might choose to live in them?
You know – like a free country might?
Tokyo isn’t a perfect place. The cost of housing is still high; you’re starting to see little acts of hooliganism like graffiti, which you never saw a few years ago. But Tokyo also houses several orders of magnitude more human beings than live in the Bay Area, and manages to find ways that young folks starting out can afford to live. And Tokyo is a clean city. You rarely see discarded trash in the streets, much less spent needles and human shit.
We could learn a thing or two from Japan.