Yeehaw we have made it! The year is nearly over, and throughout the year we have seen cities worldwide battling it out to gain the crown of the City Rumble Champion. And what a coveted crown it is indeed! I will personally be offering my hearty congratulations to the winning city and pledging to return there one day again in the future. And… well not much else really. I mean, what could I offer these cities? So let’s look at how we made it to the Grand Final!
Tokyo has made its way here by defeating Addis Ababa, St Petersburg and New York. London on the other hand has swept aside Jerusalem, Melbourne and Seville (amongst others). Both are, without a doubt, extremely worth finalists.
They are also, critically I would say, two cities that I have spent a bit of time in and returned to more than once in my life time. Both also are culturally iconic. London evokes images of the Queen, beefeaters, theatre, the tube, Big Ben and so much more than people immediately identify with the United Kingdom. Tokyo is Japan in a HUGE city too, containing ancient temples and parks, skyscrapers, museums, and so many different districts and parts that all add up to produce one of the world’s most unforgettable cities. It is fair to say, in my mind, that if you went to the UK you MUST visit London, and if you are to go to Japan, Tokyo is also a ‘must-visit’. The same cannot be said for some capitals. Canberra for instance! (although it’s not a bad place to visit), or Brasilia, Ankara. And you know what, if I could pick one city to avoid in India, it’s Delhi!
So then folks, I am left with the task which as I type this words feels rather daunting to me. The task to split these two cities and decide just which one I think is the best city to travel to IN THE WORLD (not including, though, I should say, any cities I have not ever visited which is plenty) And so I need some sort of method to my madness. So let’s look for plus points and minus points over all, and see which one can stand alone as the champion. Of the World.
For example, let’s start with Transportation. London is well connected. It has the Tube, the iconic metro system that gets you around interconnecting with buses and the cities main train hubs such as King’s Cross, St Pancreas, and the others. The buses are double-decker. The cabs are swish and professional, and certainly of a high standard. The Tube itself is not, well fast or clean and as I always mention, it does not cope well with heat. Which when you are in the United Kingdom is really anything over 22 degrees. Despite that I give London one plus point for transport.
Tokyo though easily matches the Tube with its metro system. It’s fast and efficient and reliable as any mass transit system in the world. And it’s clean. It’s something the whole city should be proud of. I didn’t use local buses in Tokyo, but they are there and I’m sure they are well run. The cabs are actually very similar to the cabs of London, with very professional drivers in uniforms, well kept cabs that make you feel like you’re having a chauffeur experience. Double plus points here for Tokyo, giving Tokyo a one point lead after the first category!
A Friendly City?
Let’s look at the people of both cities for a bit. When you come to a big city you can expect that people might just be a little frosty, it seems to be a ‘big city’ thing. But you know what, I would have to say that Tokyo and London both, to some extent, buck that trend. Look, I’m not saying they are cities which have people inviting you into their homes in countries such as Iran for example, or perhaps surprisingly I found Belgrade to be a very welcoming city. But I do think that if you need a hand or have a question, people in both cities will be more than happy to help you out.
Now, sure there will be exceptions, but all in all I have had positive experiences with locals/stranger in Tokyo and London. Sure, it’s easy to lose yourself in the crowds too, I won’t deny that, but also I don’t think either city is one where a person in need would be left alone. Perhaps in Tokyo people are very shy and even scared to talk to a foreigner, but it’s not that they don’t care. I would give them both a plus point on this category, so still we see Tokyo up by a point.
Accommodation? Can You Afford It?
In the semis I chatted a lot about the accommodations available. I was critical of London especially because I feel that they lack decent budget options and rooms in general are over priced, not particularly clean so that for a decent room you really need to pay top dollar for it. I have to say that I’ve stayed in a number of hostels in London and they have all been pretty filthy. So it’s minus a point for London.
Tokyo’s options aren’t brilliant. Single rooms can go for a pretty penny and can be very pokey. It’s such that the capsule inns can often cost more than $50USD and all you get is a capsule. I have stayed at a couple of higher end places as well, and whilst they were very nice again the room sizes are not what you might expect in other countries. In both cities it is worth spending the extra to be comfortable. But I would say the hostels in Japan are always of a high standard and so if you can go a dorm, it would be a lot better in Tokyo than London. I am going neutral on Tokyo’s score here, not taking away a point nor giving one. With London losing a point, we are now looking at a 2 point lead for the Japanese capital.
It’s All About the Sights!
Let’s consider the sights in the two cities. Look, I could spend another dozen paragraphs on this considering Tokyo and London are chock full of things to see and do. From museums, to historic buildings and more. London has Buckingham Palace, Big Ben, Hyde Park, Tower of London, Tower Bridge, Westminster Abbey, Trafalgar Square, it has the British Museum and the National Portrait Gallery (the first of which is totally free), and really this is just brushing over the surface. A double point for London.
But Tokyo too has museums – including the Miraikan which is a futuristic science museum with actual robots, it has TWO towers – the Tokyo Tower and the Tokyo Skytree for incredible city views, and of course it has two Disneylands, although they are not really in the city. Temples, parks and more await the visitor to Tokyo. That’s a plus point, and well, Tokyo is back to a one point lead as we head into the final categories.
And the Money!
Cost? Well, neither city is a bargain destination. And frankly, London is bloody expensive. To enter the Tower of London or Westminster Abbey we are talking over 20 pounds, nearly $40AUD. Tokyo is not cheap either but things are generally not that expensive.
Let’s consider food – both cities can have a plus point for Michelin star restaurants and a variety of cuisines. Top end restaurants in both cities are very expensive, however I feel that in Tokyo if you need to piece together a cheap meal, with all the convenience stores around it can be done more cheaply and easily. And sushi is widely available and unless it’s a high end place, you shouldn’t be paying an arm and a leg for it.
So for me costs – I would keep Tokyo neutral and a minus point for London, restoring Tokyo to a 2 point lead.
Finally. Both cities are iconic, and have great status in the world. Both invoke as I said earlier images about what the city is about. Both appear in films and folklore. Both are MUST SEE places. For me, London wins on that score. A double plus for London, which ties the scores. And for Tokyo…
Well Tokyo gets a single point too, because surely it must. Is there a city people are keen to visit in Asia MORE than Tokyo? I doubt it! And that means the winner, by a single point, is….
If I just had to pick a winner off the top of my head, I probably would have gone London. But considering a bunch of different factors, putting the two cities side by side, I couldn’t help but come to the conclusion here that the winner is, just, Tokyo!
Thank you to all who stuck through ALL these ‘City Rumbles’. I don’t know if I will ever do another one. Not for a fair while at least, I suspect 2022 will be ‘Rumble Free’. It’s unlikely I will visiting any new international cities in 2022. Fingers crossed though for a more open world.
Take care. What do YOU think is the ultimate city to visit as a traveller? Please comment! Thanks as always, May the Journey Never End!