What are the Best Cities to Live in Japan?

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Thinking of adding new adventures to your life? Maybe you’ve thought of moving abroad and trying out new things and cultures to add to your bucket list.

Japan might be a country of consideration. When one first lands and visits the country, it often leaves the lingering thought of, “What would life be in Japan like?” The land of the rising sun poses a various number of job opportunities for foreigners along with a taste of new challenges accompanied by the beautiful scenic sights of cherry blossoms and snow monkeys in hot baths.

Point taken, Japan does seem appealing to many, such as myself. When I first visited Japan five years ago, I never saw myself residing in Japan the year later, up till now.

When I first moved to Japan, I ruled out Tokyo as I was afraid of the crowds. It was hard to find out which city to move to and start a new life and job in. In this article, we will go through the top cities to live in Japan. Let’s go!

1. Tokyo

Tokyo ranks as one of the top cities to live in Japan for foreigners.

Despite its reputation for the crowd (as I mentioned earlier) and expensive cost of living, it is undeniable that this city is a perfect mix of convenience, a fusion of culture, and high tech, with a larger job pool available for foreigners.

You can pretty much find everything from clinics to hiking trails in the urban landscape. It has the right mix of tradition and pop culture. The city is well linked to public transportation access and high-rise buildings, making it an attractive and popular option for foreigners to live in.

From my experience living in Japan, Tokyo once scared me but turned out to be a pleasant surprise. I love the convenience and job opportunities that were presented in this city. It is also good to note, that there are a lot more English-speaking facilities available in Tokyo rather than in the rural parts of Japan. It was very easy to make an appointment and travel to a clinic for emergencies. For a newbie in Japan, Tokyo is a good option to start at. It has a high foreign population, making it an easier location to settle incoming abroad.

2. Osaka

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Right after Tokyo, comes Osaka, a city that is also incredibly popular for foreigners and locals to live in.

Located in the western region of Japan, Osaka is a less crowded version of Tokyo. Osaka boasts of its food, sake, and mountain terrain. Osaka does not fall short of what major cities have to offer and is one of the major economic hubs in Japan.

There is a vibrant nightlife and lots of amenities such as dining available in Osaka. However, the weather can get a little more humid than in other cities than Tokyo. There are also fewer English-speaking amenities available compared to Tokyo, which can be a great place to learn and grow your Japanese language ability.

Many of my friends who have lived in Tokyo, often tell me that they hope to relocate to Osaka in the future. Coming from Osaka to Tokyo, I can understand why.

3. Kyoto

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A city I have always wanted to live in, but never did manage to.

Kyoto is located a little north of Osaka and is easily accessible from Osaka. Known for its traditional history and beautiful gardens. From the streets of Gion to the golden temple, this city is a popular travel destination for tourists around the world. The peaceful yet incredibly scenic area, which used to be the capital of Japan, attracts many foreigners to reside in.

The cost of living is higher than in most cities, but this city has well-connected transportation such as punctual trains and buses around. This city is popular for those seeking to be close but not too close to the city. Kyoto promotes serenity and is a great place to get away from the bustling city.

Kyoto has always been my missed opportunity. I wonder if I will be able to fulfill this desire to live in Kyoto, or is it a buried hatchet under the rug for me?

4. Nagoya

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A city I was pleasantly surprised to be ranked as one of the top cities to live in Japan.

Nagoya is located in between Osaka and Tokyo and is rather an underrated city. It has the same facilities that the big cities offer. Nagoya boasts of its safe and beautiful terrain which is a great option for foreigners with families. A cheaper option to live in Japan, I’d say.

You’d be surprised to learn that there are quite a number of foreigners living in Nagoya (I was!) Even though its ex-pat population is lower than those in the big cities, it still has a mid-size ex-pat community. It is located geographically close to the coast, making it a scenic yet suburban community.

5. Nara

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Deers.

It is one of the popular travel sites that many go to when traveling around the west coast of Japan. I mean, you gotta visit Nara when you are in Osaka.

Nara is just a little south of Osaka. However, it does not have a dense ex-pat community, unlike Osaka or Kyoto. Job opportunities are also rather limited in this city for foreigners. However, Nara provides all the amenities such as a wide variety of dining options and shopping facilities.

Nara is a good choice for many who are interested in nature and history. There are a lot of nature trails in Nara and many opt to travel from Nara to Osaka for work. It is a great city to learn about the architecture and history of Japan.

6. Yokohama

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Yokohama is known for its architecture and well, Chinatown.

Located south of Tokyo, Yokohama is a popular city for many to live in. Yokohama is a great home for many ex-pats, hosting more than 90,000 ex-pats. It’s only 30 minutes away from Tokyo and has many amenities such as shopping, dining, and scenic picnic spots. It’s an affordable alternative to Tokyo.

7. Fukuoka

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Furthering down south to the Kyushu region of Japan is Fukuoka.

The Kyushu region of Japan is warmer than the north area. Fukuoka is famous for its affordable cost of living, convenience, and amazing food selections from ramen to nabe. This beautiful city is surrounded by mountains and is closer to countries such as Korea and Taiwan, being in the southern region of Japan.

Fukuoka has a rather small pool of ex-pats and is a good place for many who want to experience life outside of the big cities in Japan.

8. Sapporo

From the southern regions, let’s travel all the way to Hokkaido in the northern region of Japan.

Hokkaido is famous for its snow, skiing, beer, and food. If you are not afraid of the cold and snow, Sapporo is a good option for settling in Japan. A fan of skiing and miso ramen? You’ve found the right spot.

Sapporo is not only famous for ramen and skiing, it is also a scenic place all year round with cherry blossoms in spring, lavenders in summer, autumn foliage in autumn, and well, skiing season in winter. Sapporo also has a rather big population of ex-pats to live in with more than 15,000 foreigners in this city.

It is one of the top cities to live in and a great alternative to those wanting life out of the cities.

9. Fujisawa

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Lastly, the top-rated city to live in: Fujisawa.

What a twist of events! Honestly, this name is not a common name for many (even for me!). Fujisawa is located in Kanagawa prefecture, close to the beaches, and has a great view of mount Fuji from this area. Boasting for its accessibility, history, and relaxed ambiance, this city is great for nature lovers. It is only an hour away from the city center of Tokyo and is a great place to have a well-balanced lifestyle at.

Summary

This is a short summary of some of the top cities that many foreigners choose to live in. There are still a lot of cities that were not covered in this article that may be suitable for the lifestyle choice and budget you may have. For example, Okinawa may be ideal for a much beach-style lifestyle or Kobe for a fusion of fresh landscape and western-style architecture.

When choosing where to live in Japan, there are a lot of contributing factors in making a decision. It is dependent on individual preference. For an ex-pat like me who frequently moves to work, I tend to take into consideration my choice of city based on the accessibility to work. For young families, the choice of access to top-rated schools might influence their choice of location.

Once you’ve made the move, you’ll be able to find the right city for you here in Japan. Do you want to read more about my experience in Learning Japanese as well as Japanese Culture? Please find them here.

See you next time!

About Yen 16 Articles
Hi, I'm Yen from Malaysia. I can converse in more than 5 languages and am an avid lover of manga, drawing and food. I love working with kids and enjoy sharing stories about Japan as a writer. I'm at my happiest when I get to explore Japan!