I usually try to explain how big Greater Tokyo area is to people who has never been here, but is not easy. It’s so huge that is difficult to imagine. You can travel by train from Kanagawa to Chiba crossing Tokyo’s downtown seeing only buildings/houses during more than two hours, kind of claustrophobic sometimes.
But the best way to compare sizes is to use Google maps. Next you can see a map matching more or less Tokyo’s area (Tokyo/Yokohama/Chiba/Saitama), Madrid’s area (From Alcobendas to Getafe), and Barcelona’s area. The two biggest cities in Spain compared with the biggest in Japan.
Pretty impressive right? 5 million people are living in Madrid’s area, 2 million in Barcelona’s area and around 35 million in Tokyo’s area. When I go outside of Tokyo everything seems little and easy to me, for example I remember thinking that Hong Kong is a little city when I went there for holidays. Another example: Manhattan has the same size as Tokyo’s Setagaya-ku district.
Japanese cities are generally very wide because people likes to live in houses, not buildings. In Spain and other European countries everyone lives in buildings, so cities seem little. In the US there is a mix between the house and the building model, but they have lots of space. In Kanto’s area (The area where Tokyo is) there is no space left, you can see houses and buildings from the sea until the mountains, every single space is used. I’ve even seen 10 square meter rice fields at Tokyo’s north area, they use every single square meter for whatever they can.
Fortunately here in Japan, we have the best railway system in the world.