Compare San Diego and Tokyo Thesis

Pages: 5 (2040 words)  ·  Style: MLA  ·  Bibliography Sources: 4  ·  Level: College Senior  ·  Topic: Transportation

¶ … urban sociology at academies such as the University of Chicago has focused largely upon such theoretical factors as the development of urban areas, the functioning of human community within cities, the flow of capital in urban economies, and the like. In a recent reader on urban sociology edited by Lin and Mele (2005), for example, the essays are grouped to highlight such themes as city structures and identity concerns of people living in the city. While these themes are the proper domain of urban sociology, and they are necessary to theoretically capture the modern essence of life in cities, they do not capture what most people who are considering where to live want to know. When Forbes publishes its intermittent rankings of the most livable cities in the U.S., for example, they deal exclusively with what are called quality of life issues (Greenburg, 2009). These include such factors as cost of living, quality of education and cultural venues, natural environmental factors such as clean air, and similar concerns. While these factors may be, of course, driven by the traditional concerns of urban sociology, they are in some ways more immediate and less theoretical. The underlying theories of teeming populations and identity issues closely related to equality realities are important to weigh, because as Kotkin (2009) argues, "It seems to me what makes for great cities in history are not measurements of safety, sanitation or homogeneity but economic growth, cultural diversity and social dynamism." But in many ways the practical concerns and quality of life issues of city life play a more important role in decisions about where to live than do theoretical concerns.

This paper will consider practical and quality of life for two major urban centers that the author is considering for a permanent home, San Diego, California and Tokyo, Japan. The concerns chosen as key decision factors include cost of living expenses such as housing, food, and utilities, quality of and access to public service concerns such as transportation and healthcare, and environmental factors such as climate, recreation, and safety. Factors related to each of these three major areas of concerns will be summarized according to available research data, and comparisons will be designed to allow the researcher to make a decision about which city would be preferable.

Methods of Comparison

Because of the difficulty of comparing the two cities side-by-side, complicated by such factors as currency fluctuations and availability of rankings for both cities within the same survey data sets, this study presents only a qualitative, relative comparison. The researcher utilized the best available data and made, when no other was available, comparisons with a general model of what a city ought to provide. Such are the difficulties that exist when making comparisons of even major cities in different regions of the world. Kotkin points out this difficulty when he expresses a preference for cities that are less orderly and less homogeneous than those found near the top of rankings in some of the standard quality of livability ranking lists. If such concerns as culture and economy are difficult to standardize, however, they can be described and compared in a qualitative fashion. That is what has been done here with a few notable exceptions. Where economic figures are available that can be standardized, I have done so. In other considerations, such as cultural and infrastructure concerns, I have summarized information from a wide reading of different sources readily available online and elsewhere.

Cost of Living

Tokyo has consistently ranked near the top of the most expensive cities in the world in which to live. However, San Diego also ranks relatively high on many lists. Coleman (2009) ranks cities around the world based on such factors as housing, food, transportation, and the like, as a service for expatriates considering international cities for relocation purposes. He ranks Tokyo as the most expensive city in the world, and San Diego is ranked at #68. This is perhaps the best available comparison of the overall cost of living comparison between the two cities. From this ranking comparison, it can be surmised that both cities are costly places in which to live.

The median home price in San Diego is just under $430,000. While there are neighborhoods and communities in the city that have smaller costs, the housing costs are high everywhere relative to many other cities in the U.S. In fact, the total cost of living in the city is more than 45% higher than in the U.S. generally (Sperling's Best Places, 2009). In a 2005 comparison of San Diego's financial statistics to other big and small cities, Money found that San Diego had a much higher cost of housing than most other cities, a relatively lower average salary (just above $50,000 annually), with high taxes. This suggests that the reasons that many people live in San Diego revolve around factors other than costs of living. San Diego seems to have a higher cost of living than its income statistics can support.

The average house in Tokyo costs $500,000. Most single people rent rather than own, with the standard arrangement consisting of a small room for about $500 per month that would require using public bath and toilet facilities at additional costs of perhaps $100 per month. However, for a Western-style expat apartment, the costs would be closer to $11,000 per month. Obviously this suggests that the costs for expats attempting to live a Western lifestyle are very high. The housing and transportation costs are among the highest expenses. Food and beverage costs are relatively low with, for example, a soda typically costing about $1.50. Utilities costs are also generally low, with a monthly gas bill being under $100 (PriceCheckTokyo, 2009). Therefore, if a person is willing to live in a manner similar to the Japanese native, and forego the comfort demands of western-style housing, the costs can be relatively affordable.

All of this, of course, is determined by where one lives and what other factors are present. Cheaper housing can be found in both Tokyo and San Diego, if one is willing to live in an area that is further from entertainment, less safe, and the like.

Services

Because of the high costs of housing, most Japanese commute long distances to work in the city centers. The city has one of the higher commute times of all major cities. Trains are the most common means, and they are clean and modern. However, they can also be crowded, as evidenced by the well-known images of train workers packing people into trains in order to shut the doors. Airports and other facilities are also clean and modern. Because Tokyo's urban landscape has been destroyed twice in modern times -- once by earthquake and more recently by heavy bombing in World War II, the city's architecture and infrastructure are mostly modern, efficient, and convenient. The city has a strong emergency response system if natural or man-made disaster strikes. A basic safety net exists to maintain social security and public welfare, and access is generally afforded through public assistance or employer-provided benefits. The Japanese universal healthcare system provides affordable, accessible coverage to all residents of the city.

San Diego has an auto-based transportation system that is not so heavily dependent on rails. A well developed highway system maintains traffic flows relatively well, however. Commute times are among the best for large U.S. cities. Lite rail trolley service provides service to major city centers, and a bus service also provides mass transit. The city's airport is serviceable, but it is not one of the nation's premier airports, and efforts to improve or relocate have been hampered by political haggling in the city. While healthcare provided is adequate, it suffers from some of the same problems that other U.S. systems do, meaning that care is very good for those who can afford it, but coverage is not universal. Otherwise, the city does provide affordable accessible welfare programs that offer a safety net.

While both cities offer similar social services, Tokyo's services and infrastructure may be stronger due to their greater reliance on mass transit and their broader healthcare coverage. The shorter commute times in San Diego, however, mean less time is spent getting to and from work and other areas of interest than would likely be the case in Tokyo. Since time usage can come at a premium in the city, this factor is important to consider.

Environment

San Diego has one of the great natural environments of any American city. The climate is warm and sunny for much of the year. Because of the city's being situated near the ocean with its attendant breezes, the air pollution is not as bad as it might otherwise be (since San Diego has a car-based transportation system). The city has several professional sports teams and a number of vibrant city entertainment options, including many that support an almost year-round outdoor lifestyle. There is a strong Hispanic influence in San Diego, with pageants and food that reflect… [END OF PREVIEW]

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