View Full Version : What is the best city to live in Japan outside Tokyo ?

Oct 12, 2005, 00:42
I have been to Kyushu, Chugoku, Shikoku, Kansai, Nagoya, Kanto and Hokkaido. Among the cities I have visited, I'd say that the most liveable outside Tokyo are Sapporo and Fukuoka. The Japanese often say it, but I confirm it.

Both cities have more beautiful and less chaotic architecture than anywhere else (Tokyo included, or should I say especially compared to Tokyo). Both have a more relaxed pace than Tokyo (=less crowds), much cheaper accommodation prices (about 2 or 3x cheaper than central Tokyo), and have nothing to envy Tokyo for convenience (except maybe embassies and international flights). Fukuoka has one of the greatest shopping centre in Japan (Canal City), and Sapporo station alone, with its brand new Esta, Apia, Stellar Place, JR Tower and Daimaru have more shops and restaurants per square meter than anywhere in Tokyo.

Sapporo has the advantage of more comfortable weather from May to October, and Fukuoka the rest of the year. Both have more space than Tokyo. Sapporo's tree-lined avenues are a nice change from Tokyo almost greenless cityscape. I also noticed that Sapporo's suburbs had more beautiful houses, more harmoniously built (few apartment blocks and lots of similar 2-floor houses) than anywhere in Tokyo. The closest I have seen in Kanto are some residential suburbs in Chiba prefecture (around Kashiwa). Fukuoka's airport is only 1km from the main train station, which makes it convenient for those who fly a lot. A nice change from 1h30min of train to Narita Airport from Tokyo.

Osaka-Kobe is very much like Tokyo-Yokohama. Kyoto has nice temples, but is not very foreigner-friendly (or should I say "outsider friendly" as it works for Japanese too) and has some of the ugliest architecture in Japan in its centre (temples omitted).

Another city that would rank well (3rd, then) is Matsuyama is Shikoku. It's big enough (400,000 people) to have big department stores and plenty of restaurants, but it has the relaxed feeling of a provincial town.

Hiroshima is not bad, but feels too sad. Nagasaki is great for tourists, but equally depressing to live in. Hakodate is one of the ugliest city I have seen, apart from the few Meiji-era buildings that attract the tourists.

Nagoya is more relaxed than Tokyo and Osaka, but really quite ugly and not so convenient.

Shimonoseki is very nicely located and has a good atmosphere, but has too many factories just outside the city centre.

Okayama is not bad, but not really exceptional. The center is nice, but not the suburbs.

Any other opinion ?

Oct 12, 2005, 02:05
First, a caveat lector - in general I abhor large cities (nice places to visit but...), and it takes very little to keep me occupied (ie I don't need clubs, bars, movie theaters etc.). I don't care how close they are to airports, trains, civilization etc. Perhaps it is because only in the big cities have I ever been harassed for being a foreigner - in all my time in rural Japan (the majority of my Japan experience) I have not once been met with anything less than a warm smile and a greeting from even the most unknown strangers. For me, a city's residents make or break the deal, and personal connections are often the first thing to go in a huge city filled with apartment blocks (IMHO).

With that in mind.

I guess we are talking about large cities? I have pleanty of small towns on my list, but since not many people have been there or want to go see them, I'll stick to the larger places...

#1 Kochi City, Kochi-ken, Shikoku. The capital city of Kochi-ken at around 110,000 people and big by my standards. Not very developed (Kochi is the second poorest ken after Okinawa) and thus less polluted, no tourists so not very touristy, it has all the advantages of a big(ger) city without many of the big city problems. Kochi is near the ocean and has some of the best surfing, beaches, and rivers in Japan (in addition to outdoor stuff like hiking, camping, etc.). Plus, with a car you can leave behind the big city in a matter of minutes and be in the middle of nowhere - Kochi's total population is around 800,000 souls - if that thing strikes your fancy. Simply the most unpretentious big city in Japan I have ever been in.

#2 Kobe. Not as dull as Osaka, not a gut-wrenching as Tokyo. From the time I have spent there, I simply find it very a livable, scenic and welcoming large city.

After that, aside from the smaller communities I love, big cities - and I have been to quite a few in my day - are more or less the same to me (ie I'll live in them if the job pays enough).

Oct 12, 2005, 15:03
Well, having ever only been to Fukuoka, I would recommend it!
I felt so comfortable there, slotted in nicely an didnt want to leave.
Will let you know if I change my mind after my Christmas/New Years stint.

Oct 12, 2005, 19:07
Well I've only been to Sapporo, but I fell in love with the city as soon as I got there ! It has everything one needs, not as crowded as Tokyo or any other big city imho :) It has parks, clubs,izakaya's,movie theaters,shops, and 7/11's and other similar shops.Everything is very accessable too.

and Sapporo station alone, with its brand new Esta, Apia, Stellar Place, JR Tower and Daimaru have more shops and restaurants per square meter than anywhere in Tokyo.Indeed, you can spend quite some time shopping there, also Yodobashi kamera lies next to the station, another convenient thing ! You don't have to drive miles and miles to find something.

Then you have |p̐XiGeijutsunomori) Sapporo's art park,Odori Park,nakajima park,Sapporo is close to Otaru(M), etc.

In 2007 i'm going back to Japan to Tokyo,Osaka,Kyoto,etc. because I'd like to experience what the really big city is about, but I don't know if I'll like it as much as Sapporo.

Uncle Frank
Oct 12, 2005, 19:10
Fukuoka. It's the only city I spent a lot of time in. Nagasaki was also nice.



Mikawa Ossan
Oct 12, 2005, 21:01
Home is where the heart is, as the saying goes. I have traveled to many parts of Japan, excluding Tohoku and Hokkaido, and I have seen many cities. I have only spent a significant amount of time in few places, however. Visiting and living are two entirely different things.

I liked Mino City in Osaka Pref. quite well. I also truly liked living in Nagoya. But in my limited experience, I think the best city to live in is the one in which I currently reside, Kariya City.

It's a suburb of Nagoya with about 140,000 people. It's the home of DENSO, a major company in the Toyota group. There's no airport or embassy or anything like that in the city limits, but since it's on the JR Tokaido line, and there's also a Shinkansen station in the next city over, it's very convenient to travel to Centopia Int`l Airport or Nagoya or Tokyo, etc, etc. Being the home of DENSO means that there's a strong tax base, so there are plenty of parks and other recreational centers. There are several fun festivals throughout the year, and since it's located in the Mikawa area, there are plenty of other cities nearby to visit with their own festivals and attractions.

People in general do not make make a fuss of the fact that I'm a foreigner, and I've found my foreigner-ess to be much of a non-issue here. I have nothing put praise for my adopted home. :-)

Oct 12, 2005, 21:18
Not so far from Tokyo (around 2 to 2.30 hour to the west) is a big city called Ootsuki, lying between the mountains. When you come from above (what should always be the case as you have to cross those mountains to reach it), you have a wonderful view of what is a Japan large city without its skyscrapers. The city inside is quite lovely, with lot of peaches plantations, and budou (sorry, forgot the English word) fields. You also have a lot of shops there, even if far less than in major cities. Anyway, it's a good average between the overcrowded big cities and the country side. If you have a day or two of free time and are in Tokyo (or even from Fuji-san it takes less time if I well remember), I would suggest you to have a jump there, just to see how Japan can be ;-)

Dutch Baka
Oct 13, 2005, 01:04
I havnt been to many japanese city's, excually just Kobe, osaka, and Kyoto.. but i think Kobe is a great city to live in!!! not to big, not to small 1.5million citizens. just 30min from Osaka, and 1 hour from Kyoto *train ne*. the people are friendly, not that rushie. the city is modern, and there arent to many bloody tourists, as in e.g. Kyoto.

there is a pretty large english communitie, and also yes yes yes a dautch one!!!

SO yeah.. KOBE it is... next year i live between kobe and osaka, maybe around Nishinomiya *WOEHOEEE , I WILL GET A TIGERS SEASON TICKET.. *

www.kobecityinfo.com for more info, and pictures

Oct 13, 2005, 06:43
Nara would be my choice. Slow pace, less stuck up than Kyoto, lots of beautiful sites, convenient to Osaka - its got it all.

Himeji is a nice city to live in, I was there for four years. Very good size (pop. 500,000), big enough to have all the amenities but small enough to avoid all the problems that go along with living in a metropolis. Convenient trains to larger city. Beautiful castle and Engyoji temple.

Oct 13, 2005, 09:07
I forgot to mention some cities. Chiba or Funabashi in the eastern suburbs of Tokyo, have nothing that would make you want to live there more than in Tokyo itslef except cheaper accommodation prices and a shortest distance from Narita.

Kurashiki has one of the most beautiful district in all Japan, but it's only good as a tourist. The rest of the city is very ugly and altough the population is about 400,000, there aren't many shops or even combini.

Takamatsu has a relaxed pace, but my impression was that there were even more old people than in Tokyo's shitamachi, so I wouldn't choose it. It has enough combini and restaurants, but lacks department stores or electronic shops.

As for smaller cities, for me one of the main attraction of Japan is its convenience and numerous restaurants, so I wouldn't live in a small town.

Architecturally (a very important factor for me), the only modern buildings pleasing to the eyes are some of the towers in Tokyo (my favourite being Roppongi Hills). Among older buildings, as I said I like the Edo-period canal district of Kurashiki, or Gion in Kyoto + the temples and shrines. To live somewhere, I need a reasonable architectural harmony and beauty in my neighbourhood. Maybe that is because I grew up with the belief that no brick house could ever equal a (grey) stone house, and concrete was still lower in standing than brick. I couldn't even imagine living in a wooden house, or worse a half-wood half-concrete house, as it was prohibited until recently (and still very tightly regulated) in my country, because it is not considered a proper form of dwelling for human beings (at best a garden shed or horse stable can be in wood).

For me architecture is as important as food or the weather in one country. For me the archetype of the big city is Paris or London. So, you understand my plight in Japan (let's say the food makes up for it).

Mikawa Ossan
Oct 13, 2005, 09:21
Personally I can't even imagine living in the Kanto area. Although I've decided to settle down in the Chubu area, my first impressions were mostly formed in the Kansai/Kinki area. After that, Tokyo in specific and Kanto in general has always been "a nice place to visit, but I wouldn't want to live there".

I have nothing against Kanto, really, but the people really do seem different to me than people in Kansai. Chubu is nice because it has the best of both worlds.

I like Kyushu, too, very much. I could easily imagine myself living in Fukuoka or Kurume or anywhere else in that area. But unfortunately, for personal reasons Nagasaki is completely off limits. I agree that it's a nice place, though. I don't find it or Hiroshima depressing at all outside of the bomb memorials.

Oct 13, 2005, 09:33
I don't find it or Hiroshima depressing at all outside of the bomb memorials.

The city is nice, but it would be depressing to live there, as you'd be reminded of the A-bomb on a daily basis. Well, I guess it depends on one's personality too.

Oct 13, 2005, 10:22
Sapporo, hands down. I wouldn't want to live anywhere else.

If I bought a second home, I'd probably choose somewhere near Yonago City in Tottori prefecture. Possibly the most underrated part of Japan.

Oct 14, 2005, 01:31
The city is nice, but it would be depressing to live there, as you'd be reminded of the A-bomb on a daily basis. Well, I guess it depends on one's personality too.

I imagine you would get used to it after a few days and it would be just this thing you didn't notice on a day to day basis. I've never lived there but I've visited a couple times and it seemed like a great place to live, very lively city centre with the added bonus of a lot of green trees. That would be #3 on my list of cities to live in.