When Yuriko Koike was elected governor of Tokyo, in 2016, her victory marked the dawn of a new age in Japan. The country’s first female defense minister had become the capital’s first female governor, and in a landslide, no less. But breaking through Tokyo’s “steel ceiling” wasn’t just a triumph for Koike or the women of a nation notorious for its gender gap—it was a win for the city’s reputation, too.
“The city aligned with a governor who is viewed as fresh, enthusiastic and a driver of reform,” says Stephen Hahn-Griffiths, chief reputation officer of the Reputation Institute, a reputation measurement and management services firm. Since 2011, the institute has published the City RepTrak, an annual study of the world’s most reputable cities, or those where people most want to live, visit and conduct business. This year’s ranking revealed an average 1.1-point decline in the reputation of City RepTrak metropolises, a sign, perhaps, of dwindling trust in elected officials.
“The perception of an effective government is what drives reputation today,” says Hahn-Griffiths. “When a city’s leaders are viewed as corrupt, lacking integrity, not caring about safety, the city will be punished in the court of public opinion.”
To determine the City RepTrak, the institute surveyed more than 12,000 individuals in Canada, France, Germany, Italy, Japan, Russia, the United Kingdom and the United States during the period from March to April 2018. The 56 cities considered were those with the greatest gross domestic product and population, as well as familiarity with at least 30% of the G8 general population.
While one may be inclined to think that the reputation of a city might mirror that of the country in which it resides, the institute’s study shows there’s little correlation between the two. Just look at Stockholm which, despite being the capital of the world’s most reputable country, ranks No. 5 on this year’s City RepTrak. “Increasing globalization makes the country in which a city operates less critical,” says Hahn-Griffiths. “Cities have standalone brands.” Their unique identities are determined, primarily, by the effectiveness of their leaders. Second to leadership is, for the first time, safety. “The tourism boards, the chambers of commerce, they can no longer just show beautiful pictures—they must show safety, a well-managed environment that allows people to thrive and prosper without fear,” says Hahn-Griffiths. “It may be paradise, but if there’s any suspicion of crime, of terrorism, then chances are it won’t rank highly.”
So it’s no wonder that Tokyo climbed 11 spots to secure the No. 1 spot with a score of 81.8. Under the leadership of Koike, who campaigned on a platform of disruption and transparency, the city’s government has taken strides toward improving the quality of life for Tokyo’s citizens. Through the ¥1.4 trillion “New Tokyo. New Tomorrow. The Action Plan For 2020” initiative, the Koike administration hopes to push the needle forward in three areas, the first being safety. Investments in earthquake-resistant structures, regional regulating reservoirs and infrastructure maintenance aim to protect the city from the devastation of natural disasters, while the implementation of regular emergency drills and more advanced communications systems strengthen the capital’s counterterrorism efforts. And with new anti-smoking legislation slated to go into effect just before Tokyo plays host to the 2020 Olympic Games, even the air will be safer. “Tokyo has the most respected leader, the most effective government and it ranks highly on safe environment,” says Hahn-Griffiths. “It really checks off all the boxes.”
Koike has prioritized preparations for the Olympics, viewing the event as an opportunity to reintroduce the world to a new, more sustainable Tokyo, one with well-preserved parks and a hydrogen-powered Olympic village. Reducing the city’s environmental footprint has been another priority of the Koike administration, and the governor has already made some headway: Just months into her tenure, Koike halted the relocation of Tokyo’s renowned Tsukiji fish market after soil at the new site was found to be laden with toxic chemicals, and earlier this year she led discussions on reducing emissions and waste at the Tokyo Forum for Clean City and Clear Sky.
Next on the governor’s agenda for Tokyo is diversity. By expanding daycare options, helping companies establish more telecommuting arrangements and hosting career development seminars and networking events for female professionals and entrepreneurs, Koike looks to better support the aspirations of her city’s working women. She also wants to empower more individuals living with disabilities to enter the workforce, promoting special-needs education and employment assistance. The latter of those initiatives is being extended to Tokyo’s senior citizens. In a country where nearly 30% of the population is over 65, it might not be unreasonable to think that such an initiative intends to not just improve citizens’ quality of life, but to spur economic growth, as well. “The way cities are viewed, their reputation is the driving force for the world economy,” says Hahn-Griffiths. “Tokyo has just really reimagined itself. The economic prosperity of Japan has gone back into growth mode.”
Tokyo may have an effective leader in Koike, but no one governor or mayor can determine the reputation of a city. At the end of the day, that power belongs to the people. “Reputation is especially powerful, because it defines a city’s potential to attract people,” says Hahn-Griffiths. “If there’s not a positive advocate for the city who lives in the city, why would others want to come visit or reside in the city?”
Image: Tokyo City (Pixabay)
This article is culled from daily press coverage from around the world. It is posted on the Urban Gateway by way of keeping all users informed about matters of interest. The opinion expressed in this article is that of the author and in no way reflects the opinion of UN-Habitat.