10 Most Populous Cities in Japan with Traffic Data

Japan is known for its unique tradition, distinctive gardens, eye-catching cherry blossoms, sacred mountains, relaxing hot springs, religious chapels, and so on.

As it is a famous destination for travelers for attractive locations and festivals, people often get curious about how much crowd they may face while visiting this country.

It has ranked number 11 in the list of countries by population in 2019 and 2020.

And, for over a decade (2005 to 2018), it held the number 10 position in the world.

As of Sunday, November 21, 2021, Japan’s total populace is 125,939,799 based on Worldometer elaboration of the latest United Nations data.

So, you may already guess that this country is overly crowded, especially in big cities.

Are you worried? Well, you shouldn’t be!

Although it has a high population, the people of Japan are well-organized, clean, modest, and know-how to represent their country’s culture and attractions to outsiders.

Anyway, today I will let you know about the most populous cities in Japan with some valuable information regarding each place.

Hopefully, it will help you in various ways.

10 Most Populous Cities in Japan with Area & Density

Before describing each city individually, I want to give you a quick overview of their approximate populace and other important information.

Remember that these data may vary from time to time.

Now, have a quick look at the below table to have a precise idea.

City   Estimated Population Area Density / km2
Tokyo
13,960,000.
847 mi².
6,158.
Yokohama
3,725,000.
168.9 mi².
8,534.03.
Osaka
2,691,000.
86.1 mi².
12,214.
Nagoya
2,325,987.
126 mi².
6,745.
Sapporo
1,883,027.
433 mi².
1800.
Fukuoka
1,581,527.
132.6 mi².
4,515.
Kobe
1,538,840.
213.2 mi².
2,779.
Kyoto
1,450,000.
319.6 mi².
2,235.
Kawasaki
1,420,329.
55.73 mi².
10,000.
Saitama
1,324,854.
83.95 mi².
6,093.

You can see that all the 10 most populated cities in Japan have over 1 million people, and even the density per km is higher than some other metropolises in the world.

By the way, all of these ten places are popular tourist destinations and have modern facilities and communication systems.

As for now, I will describe each city one by one so that you can have a broad concept about them.

Let’s go for it.

1. Tokyo: The Capital of Japan

Tokyo is situated on the largest island of Japan, which is Honshu.

Many people don’t know that it was once a small fishing village named Edo.

Over the Meiji Restoration in 1868, the name was changed to Tokyo. And from this time, the city started to grow rapidly economically.

That’s why by 1900, its population passed 2 million, and in 1940 it became home to more than 7 million people.

Tokyo city

The only time it saw major residents decline was at the time of World War II.

When Japan surrendered in 1945, its total number of inhabitants was just 3.5 million.

The major reason behind this was the airstrike that took nearly 100,000 people’s lives in Tokyo on March 9, 1945.

And around a million were estimated to be left homeless and temporarily left the city.

However, after the end of the war, the city started to gain its residents again.

Now it’s the most populated city in Japan and one of the best living areas for foreigners.

Economy

Tokyo is Japan’s leading industrial center with a highly diverse manufacturing base.

It includes book printing and electronic equipment production.

It’s also a major financial center and home to several investment banks and insurance companies’ headquarters, serving as the focal point of Japan’s transportation and broadcasting industries.

Head offices of Honda Motor, Mitsubishi, Nippon Telegraph & Telephone, Sony, Hitachi, Tokyo Electric Power are situated in Tokyo.

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Public Transport & Traffic Data

Residents of Tokyo require an average of 41 minutes for one-way travel to their job from home.

The level of inefficient traffic in Tokyo is moderate. Generally, the people here overcome the distance of 14.51 km daily.

Tokyo metro

Metro is the most used transportation of this city because it’s quick and less expensive, yet buses and taxis are also highly used for transportation.

Point to be noted that, within the office hour, the metro gets overpacked with people.

2. Yokohama: The Most Populous Municipality of Japan

Yokohama is situated about 20 miles southwest of Tokyo.

It was one of the places to open for trading with the west after 1859 and since then has been known as a cosmopolitan port city.

Yokohama was wracked by the Tokyo-Yokohama earthquake and consequent fire in September 1923 that killed nearly 20,000 people.

Although the city was rebuilt quickly, unfortunately, it saw colossal damage again by the Allied air raids during World War II.

Yokohama city

However, this time reconstruction was hampered by the U.S occupation of Japan (1945-52).

In 1950, the pace of rebuilding fastened, and the population started to increase quickly after 1960.

And, by the year 1980, the city surpassed Osaka to become the second-largest city in Japan by population.

Most of this city’s foreign population includes Koreans, Chinese, Filipinos, and Vietnamese.

Economy

Yokohama has the company headquarters of JVCKenwood, Nissan, Keikyu, Bank of Yokohama, Sotetsu, and Koei Tecmo.

Famous landmarks of this city include Nippon Maru Memorial Park, Yokohama Chinatown, Minato Mirai 21, Motomachi Shopping Street, Yamashita Park, Yokohama Marine Tower, and Osanbashi Pier.

Along with the shipping, biotechnology, and semiconductor industries, these industries play a significant role in the thriving economy of Yokohama.

Public Transport & Traffic Data

Inhabitants of Yokohama need on average 59 minutes for a one-way journey from home to their job location.

Even the traffic jams are relatively high here compared to some megacities in Japan.

Yokohama main station

Usually, the people here use a bus for transportation, also who travel to Tokyo for job purposes mostly commute in the metro for easy and quick movements.

As it is well-connected by highways and railways with Tokyo and other urban areas, many people choose to live here for cheap living expenses while working in Tokyo.

3. Osaka: Has Open-Minded Locals

Osaka is one of the most densely populated cities in Japan, with over 12,000 people living per square kilometer.

It is home to nearly 19.1 million people in the urban area, and over 2.6 million residents live in the city center.

Osaka city view

The Great Kanto earthquake caused a mass emigration to Osaka between the years 1920 and 1930. At that time, it outnumbered even Tokyo in terms of residents.

Around 1 million registered expats live in Osaka, and the largest groups are Korean and Chinese with 71,015 and 11,848 people respectively.

Economy

Osaka is considered one of Japan’s economic hubs.

Although this city is often viewed as having a less strong economy than Tokyo, it actually has a bigger providence and is home to major multinational corporations such as Panasonic, Osaka Securities Exchange, and Sharp.

Osaka prefecture holds a total manufacturing value of around 38 trillion yen.

While having approximately 440,000 places of business in the prefecture, the city area has 200,000.

Moreover, there are 433 stock exchange companies’ headquarters situated within Osaka province.

Public Transport & Traffic Data

Around 27 minutes (on average) are needed for one-way travel from home to the job location, and the traffic here is moderate.

Osaka train station

The people of Osaka use private cars, bikes, trams, and of course the metro for quick communication.

4. Nagoya: The Center of Automotive Industry in Japan

From 1950 to 1996, the population of Nagoya increased by around 1% each year.

However, from 1997 to 2000, it saw a 0.06% decrease in citizens.

After that, the growth rate is consistent (0.15% to 0.56%), resulting in today’s community.

Economy

The main industry of Nagoya is the automotive business.

Toyota’s head office is in the nearby city of Toyota, and PPG also has an existence in Nagoya.

After the shogunate ended, this city continued to be a significant commercial center.

Shopping streets in Nagoya

The development of Nagoya’s port and the abundant hydroelectric power from the rivers of Honshu cause the growth of the heavy industry here.

And, now the production of bicycles, sewing machines, chemicals, special steels, oil, petrochemicals, and shipbuilding industries is the reason for its ongoing economic rise.

Public Transport & Traffic Data

On average, nearly 32 minutes is required to reach a job destination from home for a one-way move.

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And, the traffic problem is moderate, not causing much time delay for communication.

The rail network is fairly dense, with 3 million passengers commuting daily, yet much lower than Tokyo and Osaka.

For above-ground and below-ground rail lines, the Tokaido Shinkansen provides service for intercity transportation.

There are 59 passenger rail lines and two tourist-oriented cable car lines, the Gozaisho Ropeway and Kinkazen Ropeway in Nagoya.

5. Sapporo: Widely Known for Snow Festivals

Sapporo is the biggest city in Hokkaido, which is in the northernmost main island of Japan.

It is well-known among tourists for being a fantastic winter destination in this country.

One famous celebration that takes place here is the Sapporo Snow Festival.

And, around two million tourists come here to enjoy this feast annually.

Anyway, even though it’s one of the largest cities in Japan by population, the density per square km is low because of its broad area.

City scape Sapporo

One of the main reasons behind its population growth is foreign nationals working at various resorts in Sapporo.

As it’s one of the central tourist spots in Japan, new employment attracts workers with a focus on foreign stuff.

That’s why the city area has many foreign residents along with locals.

Economy

Sapporo’s prominent industries are IT, retail, and tourism, as it is a great place to enjoy winter sports and summer activities for a cool climate.

It is also the production center of Hokkaido. Various goods like food-related products, steel, beverages, pulp, paper, machinery, and fabricated metal products are manufactured here.

The Sapporo Breweries, set up in 1876, is a huge company and employer in this city.

Public Transport & Traffic Data

The city sees traffic congestion during heavy snowfall in winter.

Also, during this period many visitors come to this place for holiday resulting in some inconvenience regarding transportation.

Sapporo city street

It’s highly recommended not to use rental cars often for communication which may create traffic jams.

The Sapporo Municipal Subway is the most available form of transportation for sightseeing.

As major stations are connected to buses, streetcars, and JR lines, many citizens use the subway for commuting to school and work.

6. Fukuoka: The Startup City of Japan

Fukuoka is the capital of Kyushu and the second-largest port city after Yokohama.

It is the most populous city on this island, followed by Kitakyushu.

In July 2011, Fukuoka passed the population of Kyoto, and as of 2015, it surpassed Kobe.

The 2020 preliminary data of the national census showed that this city had experienced a five-year mass growth of 4.9%, the fastest among the ordinance-designated cities in Japan.

Fukuoka city

One of the primary causes of this change is the heavy industrial rise in Fukuoka.

Economy

Fukuoka’s economy is mainly focused on the service sector. It is also the most prominent startup city in Japan.

The city provides services for a startup visa, free business consultation, and tax reduction.

Fukuoka has the maximum business-opening rate in Japan.

The home office of Kyushu Electric Power and Iwataya is located here.

Apart from that, many small firms play a supportive role in the IT, logistics, and high-tech manufacturing sectors.

Public Transport & Traffic Data

A one-way ride from home to the office is around 26 minutes (on average).

So, you can guess that traffic congestion doesn’t often occur here.

Besides the metro, people use trams, bikes, and private cars for easy commuting.

7. Kobe: The Capital of Hyogo Prefecture

The tools found in western Kobe indicate that this area was populated at least from the Jomon Period.

As of 2007, it is home to 658,876 households, and there are around 90.2 males to every 100 females.

About 13% of the total people are between the ages of 0 to 14, 67% are 15 to 64, and 20% are over 65.

In Kobe, about 44,000 enrolled foreign nationals live, most of them are Chinese, Korean, Vietnamese, and American.

Economy

Kobe is both a manufacturing and port center in the Hanshin Industrial Region.

The four large sectors regarding the value of goods produced are food products, small appliances, transportation equipment, and communication tools that makeup over 50% of the city’s produced stuff.

Kobe city

The main office of Kobe steel, ASICS, Daiei, and Kawasaki Heavy Industries is situated in this city.

Apart from that, over 100 international corporations are placed here. Some of them are from China (24), the U.S (18), and Switzerland (9).

To name a few famous ones, Nestle, Procter & Gamble, and Tempur-Pedic.

Public Transport & Traffic Data

Almost the same amount of time is required to travel inside Kobe as Fukuoka.

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Like the other cities, using the metro is the best option for transmission, while the other ones are private cars, bikes, and trams.

8. Kyoto: Cultural Capital of Japan

In the past, Kyoto had the biggest community in Japan. Later, it was surpassed by Tokyo and Osaka about the end of the 16th century.

Kyoto exchanged places with Kobe and Nagoya during the pre-war years, ranking as the 4th and 5th position.

Kyoto crowded street

And in 1947, it was able to gain 3rd place in Japan but came back to 5th place again by 1960.

As of 1990, it had fallen to 7th, and recently it’s toggling between 8th and 9th spot.

Economy

The key enterprise of Kyoto is IT and electronics and it is home to the central office of Nintendo, SCREEN Holdings, Intelligent Systems, and Nissin Electric.

Since tourists are immensely fond of the beauty of Kyoto, tourism contributes a significant amount of money to its providence.

In 2014, the city government declared that a record number of visitors had toured Kyoto, and it was preferred as one of the best cities by U.S travel magazines.

Public Transport & Traffic Data

This city’s bus network is extensive, while private carriers are also operated in the city.

As Kyoto’s public and tour buses have English announcements and electronic signs with stops written in the Latin alphabet, travelers widely use them.

Anyway, during the cherry blossom season, the scenic spots get crowded, and mild traffic congestion may occur at those times.

9. Kawasaki: One of The Greatest Industrial Area in Japan

The rapid civilization of this area began in the Meiji and Taisho eras, which continues to this day.

On July 1, 1924, Kawasaki city was formed with 48,394 inhabitants by merging with the village of Miyuki and the town of Daishi.

During World War II, this area was bombed three times between April 1945 and July 1945.

The most severe attack was in the region where Napalm bombs were blasted on April 15, 1945.

Sadly, these raids destroyed about 35% of the suburb and stated 1,520 dead and 8,759 injured.

After the end of the warfare, the city populace began to grow promptly, and today it has become one of the most densely crowded regions in Japan.

Economy

The historical transition of Japan’s modern and traditional industrial remains advanced in Kawasaki because of its well connection with the seafront, landfill areas, and shipbuilding factories.

Numerous developing corporations like JFE Group, Nippon Oil Corporation, and high technology such as Fujitsu, Toshiba, and Dell are situated here that contribute to the city’s providence.

Kawasaki factories

Public Transport & Traffic Data

Unfortunately, the residents of this region spend a lot of time in traffic jams.

They need almost 58 minutes (on average) to reach their work destination, which is really high compared to the other Japanese cities.

Anyway, the transportation facility includes cars, metros, buses, and bikes.

10. Saitama: Closer to The Tokyo

Saitama is the capital and the most crowded part of Saitama Prefecture.

As it is closer to central Tokyo (20 minutes train ride), many inhabitants of this city commute to Tokyo from here daily.

Since living costs in Tokyo are expensive, plenty of people choose to live here while working in the capital.

That’s one of the reasons for its growth of inhabitants.

Economy

This city is one of Japan’s commercial centers, with the Honda Legend at Sayama Plant, optical, food, pharmaceutical products, etc.

Besides, numerous private companies lead the city to economic prosperity.

Public Transport & Traffic Data

Approximately 40 minutes are required for travelers to permute job destinations, and the traffic condition isn’t bad either.

Omiya Station, a part of the Shinkansen high-speed train network, serves as the railway hub in the prefecture.

city bus

Apart from that, buses, taxis, cars, and bikes are also used widely by people.

Conclusion

Although you came here to know about the most populated cities in Japan, I hope the extra information was helpful for you.

Note that some data may vary from time to time for many reasons.

And, lastly, have a good day.

Frequently Asked Question:

Honshu is the largest and most populated island in Japan, while it’s the seventh biggest isle globally.

It has an area of 87,992 square miles. As of 2017, the population of this island is 104 million.

It’s also Japan’s main archipelago and home to major cities like Tokyo, Kyoto, Nara, Kamakura, etc.