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Updated:November 1, 2018


Governor's Column (November 2018)

Happiness Ranking

Almost every year since 2012, the Japan Research Institute (JRI) has published the Japan Prefectural Happiness Ranking Report, and the 2018 version was released this year in June. This report assigns relative rankings to each prefecture according to 5 base indicators, such as population growth rate and voter turnout rate, in addition to 65 other indicators from fields such as health, culture, and occupation, all of which are measured to produce a comprehensive evaluation of happiness and well-being. While some may question the validity of specifically examining individual indicators, overall, the ranking can be seen as a comprehensive and accurate representation of the current state of affairs.

This year, Fukui Prefecture ranked 1st for the third year in a row, followed by Tokyo in 2nd place for the fourth year in a row. Other prefectures that regularly rank in the top 5 include Nagano Prefecture, Ishikawa Prefecture, and Toyama Prefecture, which this year, were ranked 3rd, 4th, and 5th, respectively.

Saitama Prefecture has been steadily climbing the ranks: starting at 21st place in 2012, then moving to 16th in 2014, 17th in 2016, and this year rising to the 15th happiest prefecture in Japan. Looking at other prefectures that border Tokyo, during the same time period Chiba Prefecture ranked 11th, 8th, 16th, and 25th, and Kanagawa Prefecture ranked 7th, 10th, 11th, and 16th.

The indicator fields in which Saitama Prefecture ranked the highest (5th place or above) were: number of people receiving treatment for lifestyle-related illnesses, average number of steps walked, expenditure on education and entertainment, affordability of language courses, net number of companies relocating their headquarters to Saitama, internet user penetration rate, teacher-librarian certification rate, low child truancy rate, number of after-school care facilities established, average interest income rate of Shinkin banks, youth physical fitness level, working household disposable income level, and level of consumer spending by foreigners visiting Japan.

On the other hand, indicators in which Saitama Prefecture ranked the lowest (43rd place or below) were: number of foreign guests at hotels etc., number of internship opportunities, number of regional community groups, student-teacher ratio, worker-volunteer ratio, number of crimes reported to police, number of obstetricians and obstetrician-gynecologists, and amount of leisure time.

From these results, we can observe both the strengths of Saitama Prefecture and areas that have room for improvement. While Saitama exhibits strength in fields such as sports, culture, economics and education, there is an apparent need for a stronger focus on regional communities.

Whether or not we feel happy depends largely on our personal values, so analyzing levels of happiness using only objective indicators presents a difficult task. However, it may be possible to use these indicators towards the creation of an environment with the optimal conditions and elements for us to be happy. Thus, I believe we should take these indicators as a form of encouragement for us to further develop our strengths and overcome our barriers to happiness, one step at a time.

Kiyoshi Ueda
Kiyoshi Ueda