City living vs country living in Japan: Which is better?


City, or country? Which affords the better life? Josei Seven (Dec 2) takes up the ancient question – without answering it, for there is no final answer, but there are stark differences between the two environments, each nurturing, or stifling, inborn qualities in us. Some thrive in the city and wither in the country. Others find the city overwhelming. If opportunities abound in the city, so does crime. If warm and close personal ties characterize the country, so does narrowness of outlook and a sense of constantly being under surveillance.

Undoubtedly, Josei Seven says, the city offers places to go, people to meet, education options, career choices, potential marriage partners and so on that rural folk miss out on. The urban-rural gap fuels a worrying education gap in children. City kids study harder, attend more after-school juku classes, take more extra-curricular lessons, go to better universities and so on than their country cousins. Sociologists measure this in terms of “socio-economic status” (SES). It percolates down the generations. Children of parents with low education tend themselves to be under-educated in terms of the qualifications today’s job market demands.

Online classes are said to be a great equalizer in that regard, but it’s not really so, the magazine hears from expert sources. The pressure in the country simply isn’t intense enough to drive kids to study online.

As with school, so also with social life. Urban kids “network” more than rural kids, producing what’s called a “network gap.” The internet and its networks are open to all, but it’s the urbanites who largely flock to them.

So every family with kids should move to the city, right? Lots of families think so, and many actually do – with mixed results. Take crime, for instance. Consider these extreme statistics: in Osaka, Japan’s most crime-ridden city, one person in 129 on average is a crime victim. In rural Iwate Prefecture, one person in  484 is.

Crime thrives on and hides in urban anonymity. Anonymity is a subject in itself. It has its advantages. The individual is left alone, free to live as he or she pleases, no one disapproving. On the other hand, living as a stranger among neighbors can be chilling. Friends are easy to meet but as easily lost. Rural ties tend to be deeper and firmer but also more clinging. It’s a toss-up. Mutual support is a characteristic small-town feature – and a characteristic big-city absence. There’s good and bad in each. Knowing no one in your neighborhood is isolating but liberating. Knowing everyone is comforting but confining, leading also to an instinctive suspicion of outsiders that may not be conducive to growth of character.

Meet Shichie Takeda. Born in rural Ehime Prefecture, she moved to Osaka at 20, and moved back at 23. She’s 65 now, still in Ehime, running a minshuku whose guests get a chance to experience farm work.

Three years in the city were enough. It wasn’t her kind of place. She “u-turned,” went back. Soon afterwards she met her husband-to-be, Tatsuya, another u-turnee.

 Education gap? “Country life is itself an education,” Tatsuya tells Josei Seven. The local schools are less elite but more accessible and less pressured – “you don’t have to spend your life fretting over your children’s academic standing.” Instead of entertainment – nature.

Which is better? Impossible to say. The real question is, Which is better for you? And only you can answer it.

© Japan Today

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zichiToday  12:01 pm JST


wrong, I have lived in Tokyo.

What is wrong? You don't live in Tokyo, right? And you haven't for what 10, 20, 30 years?

And many of the buildings and the facilities I am talking about didn't exist during your short stay in where, Akishima city? And you didn't work in such building.

I don't know what it is like where you live, in a city of 70,000 (or is it the country as you claim?). And you don't know what it is like to live and work in Tokyo in 2021.

Just a quick review of my main premise:

RegBilkToday  11:46 am JST

You don't live in Tokyo, so you don't know. 

-2 ( +1 / -3 )

zichiToday  11:31 am JST

Most of that is not true in reality. Dentists have appointments. They will try to see an emergency but you will have to wait until there is a slot.

It's all true because that is the reality. You don't live in or near Tokyo. Dental clinics will take a walk-in depending on the time of day. After 2 or 2;30pm, they have ample capacity for walk-ins.

You can not get an MRI without an appointment because the length of time it takes to make them, limits the number of patients in a single day. I have had many full-body MRI's the last two years.

I've gone from a walk in appointment, to an x-ray, to an MRI. All in the same facility. In Tokyo. Again, you don't live here so you don't know. I've had MRIs that take only 30 minutes. Go into a clinic in a big commercial building in Tokyo after 2:30pm whwen everyone is at work, and it is a virtual ghost town.

Most hospitals in the city are very busy and require appointments or a long wait. I have had numerous visits for my cancer to city hospitals over the past two years.

It is the opposite. The hospitals in the country have a waiting room of 70-90 year olds with nothing else to do. And there are many clinics in Tokyo that can take a patient quickly. I don't know what you consider a city, but you don't travel to Tokyo.

Not all locations in Tokyo have major hospitals on their doorsteps. Always some travelling involved.

Not all locations in the country can give someone an appointment in two hours. But clinics and hospitals are within 5 minutes or less of almost every major train station in Tokyo.

My hospital waits here are much shorter than at city hospitals because there are less patients.

And finally, wrong. You don't live in Tokyo, so you don't know. And Tokyo has clinics all over the place where you can walk-in, or get a same day appointment.

-3 ( +1 / -4 )

zichiDec. 4  09:07 pm JST

wife phoned the dentist at 9. Got an appointment for 11. She was back home by 12, broken tooth fixed. ¥500.

In Tokyo, you can often walk into a dentist office unannounced, and be seen right away. Or go to a medical clinic, sign in, and be seen by a dr., get an x-ray, and an mri, and be out of there in about 2 hours. Wouldn't have to worry about a neighbor driving you, hailing a cab, or walking 20 minutes. Usually your workplace will be in a location that has these dental and medical facilities (and every store you can think of, and conbini, and a supermarket) in the same building. Or right next door.

-1 ( +2 / -3 )

The countryside life sounds ideal for you folks @zichi 8:09pm. After the first ‘hit&run’ accident here, cracked a tooth during the concussion. The work & crown was done by a countryside dentist, much quicker than competing for appointments in the city. Hope the wife has her’s finished before the holidays and please, continue with maybe a softer-crust bread recipe.

0 ( +1 / -1 )

Of course city living is in most cases or for most people better, because you have everything at place, especially in emergencies or cases of getting ill, as well as all kinds of shopping, transportation, infrastructure, administrative offices , medical treatment and much more. You can buy an egg or a cucumber also in the city, but you won’t find a CD shop or a clothes department store in a small village, for example. Of course for the few of the bio or eco fraction with real money at hand the countryside or a fisherman’s port village is much better as it is nicer, healthier , silent etc and in urgent cases you can similarly quickly get all treatment, help , shopping wishes and services when hopping to the city with your private jet, helicopter or motor yacht. But I guess, most of us here cannot afford a safe lifestyle in a village. Just only imagine you get severely sick and the only bus on that day has just departed, if you even have a bus stop at that place. You’re just simply dead before you even have spelled your once favored ‘country living’.

-4 ( +0 / -4 )

City v Country v Suburbs

Suburbia or smaller cities seem to offer a good combination, especially if you are in striking distance of a major city. More space, affordable, with most of the key amenities and within walking distance of a combini. But a mountain top village may look nice, but I would hate it in practice.

A city of 100,000 half an hour from a larger place like Sendai would do me fine.

0 ( +2 / -2 )

Seems like Japan would have experienced a similar ‘great migration to the countryside’ ie those that have chosen to escape California after the 2020-2021 debacles.


The answer is to have two houses, one in the city and one in the country. That way you can enjoy the best of both worlds.

I know of some retired couples who did I-turns and sold their city condos and moved to the countryside where living is slower. Of course, if this were a large event, it would raise the age of people in the countryside even further. The largest difficulty with this seems to be the paucity of medical care in rural areas. If I could talk my wife into Japanese country living, we would move back to Japan, probably rural Oita or Kumamoto, and keep our house in the States for occasional visits. She prefers Japanese city conveniences and even more living close to grandchildren in America. Family comes first when you are retired.

0 ( +1 / -1 )

Of course, rural!

Just get good internet and you are set!

0 ( +3 / -3 )

Guess it depends on what you do for a living. A home in the city and a second home in the countryside or mountain would be ideal. Japan does not have much the glamor or charm of European or North American but its neighborhood does have some character that one would learn to like it overtime. It would be difficult to like it to if you are just here for a few days.

-1 ( +2 / -3 )

Rural areas are full of low self confidence people who cling together in "the group". Being a member of the group costs 6man per person per year and that money goes directly to the old men to buy copious amounts of alcohol which they drink at their club house where women are not invited.

If you opt out of the group you will be excluded and ignored.

You will never make a genuine friend with people who were born in the town, they are under too much pressure from the others to risk being excluded themselves for being friendly to you, your friends will be limited to those who moved into town as you did. That us no loss however as the people who moved in are generally open minded unlike the locals.

-5 ( +1 / -6 )

More empty houses than occupied ones in rural areas, that tells you everything you need to know.

-1 ( +2 / -3 )

I have no complaints I can have and enjoy both the Burbs and the City. If you can afford why not, both has its plus and minus.

0 ( +2 / -2 )

Lived in the second largest city, LA it was great back in the day, studied and started my career there, then it got too crazy and too whacked out, the politics were just out of control and we finally decided to move to Texas and life couldn't be better, fresh air we bought a ranch and the wildlife is amazing, I can raise my livestock, go hunting, fishing and I am not constrained by the rules social so-called norms that you have to abide by when you live in the city.

In Japan, lived for 6 months in Tokyo and I absolutely hated it, moved later to Hiroshima and that was a very nice city, thought about living there, the city is not so bad there actually, then one day, I had to go on a business trip to Fukuoka, that's where I met my wife and the rest was history, bought a house in the boondocks, and away from everyone and it was the best decision I made, and the best part is that I don't have to be around nosey people and can be loud as I want, can't hunt here, but I can have some chickens and grow a lot of veggies.

-1 ( +6 / -7 )

Don't think I could survive in a totally rural area, and I know I do not want to live in Tokyo or any big city; a small town in the sticks suits me just fine. Plenty of open space, fields and paddies to walk the dogs in, nice clean air to breathe, friendly neighbours.

It's nice to drop in to Tokyo now and again, to see the in-laws and raid the import shops for cheese and crumpets, but otherwise the 'attractions' of the big city leave me cold.

Each to his/her own, I suppose.

Invalid CSRF

1 ( +3 / -2 )

Country for me for sure, I am about 1hrs drive from middle of Tokyo, but I have a log house thats easy to heat & keep warm with a wood stove & also use kerosene as well, very nice.

My yard I made my own forest, couple small ponds, I am typing this on my deck, working a bit, also not working a bit, have seen at least 6bird species most of which were nibbling on the kaki high up & in summer love the company of 5frog species singing away at different times, visits by tanuki etc even 4-5 snake species including mamushi that visit my largest ponds at night, we all get along great!

The fresh food & fruit I grow or can easily buy is a huge plus.

I LOVE my Tokyo visits & before covid often spend a night to enjoy there but day in day out its the sticks for me, so much more relaxing & I can walk all over the place & then there is fishing, dont get me started on that

Key is for YOU to find a great spot for YOU & enjoy as much as you can, really key to a good, long life here!

8 ( +9 / -1 )

I was born in the countryside, but now live in Tokyo. I love it. City life has its problems, and I can't argue with the criticisms listed above. But what I like about Tokyo life is its nearness to nature, which I desperately need. There are plenty of mountains in the vicinity, even for a day hike, and I like disappearing into them on weekends. The ocean is here and there are some lovely waterfront areas around very nearby Kanagawa Pref., Chiba Pref., and even some parts of Tokyo (like Odaiba). Getting into nature takes a bit of planning and isn't an everyday kind of thing for Tokyo people, but it's close enough to give me a nice sense of balance with my city life full of convenience, activities, and the social scene.

3 ( +4 / -1 )

We live next to Shinmaiko beach. Near the World Plum Park. Being able to reach Himeji in less than 30 minutes is a plus.

Ah, I remember visiting that World Plum Park with friends once, the views from up there were spectacular. I envy you living in that area.

We have done that too. In Nagano, the wife's birthplace. Lived there for 10 years in a tiny village next to Hakuba. 1,000 meters above sea level. Grew all our food. The nearest big store was 50 km. Snow became too much for my back so we moved. But a beautiful place for my paintings.

That sounds really great. I could see myself having a nice time in a place like that for a little while, but i think after a while I would need to get back to the city life with all the connections it entails. Thats just me though!

0 ( +1 / -1 )

City v Country v Suburbs.

In the UK I'm only happy in the suburbs, disliking the city and the country. The suburbs are a good compromise. In Japan I would probably aim for suburbia too, although I'm happy to stay and be in Japanese cities, in a way that I am not in the UK.

There are some good movies evoking the spirit of the [Japanese] place. One of my favourites is 'Tennen Kokekkô' - 'A Gentle Breeze in the Village' (2007).

Thanks to Studio Ghibli, I appear to have developed an unexpectedly wide-ranging fondness for the Japanese built environment, including all the concrete and the visual clutter of signage and advertising. A couple of circuits on the Yukarigaoka Line endeared the new town to me in a way that I don't think Milton Keynes ever could. But I would need a decent garden.

2 ( +2 / -0 )

I like living in the city for the fun and convenience, I doubt I will ever really want to live anywhere too rural. The thing about city living is finding a corner of it that suits you, fortunately I have done that and love it.

1 ( +2 / -1 )

Seasonal living with more than more residence if possible.

3 ( +4 / -1 )

The answer is to have two houses, one in the city and one in the country. That way you can enjoy the best of both worlds.

5 ( +7 / -2 )

Simply not true where we live in Tatsuno City, Hyogo. The age is 0-90. Many very young children and many very young couples. The children play on the streets or in the parks. Fresh air and freshwater. Many grow their own vegetables.

Oh yes, Tatsuno is quite nice. I lived in neighboring Himeji for 4 years and have visited Tatsuno a few times, the area around the old castle is really great.

Tatsuno isn't quite the type of place i was thinking about though. While its definitely not a major city, its got a population of about 70,000 and is connected to the Kansai transport network and to a certain extent (you would know better than me) seems to have a lot of people who commute to work in Himeji who live there like in other nearby cities like Aboshi, Ako, etc.

I was more thinking about the "real" countryside, where you've got little farming villages in the mountainside with maybe a few hundred residents spread out in a valley and no train links, etc. I live in the Tokai area now and I sometimes take day trips up to Gifu prefecture where there are a lot of places like that which are spectacularly beautiful, but I worry about what actually living in them would be like.

6 ( +6 / -0 )

City life can be so constraining: crowds, traffic, train schedules, scarcity of resources after ‘a run on everyday necessities’ before & during natural disasters, SOE’s, etc.

The suburbs give those the can drive the opportunity to ‘stretch out’.

The countryside can be isolating from some modern conveniences but the benefits of ‘friendly faces & warm hearts’ are there.

Seems like Japan would have experienced a similar ‘great migration to the countryside’ ie those that have chosen to escape California after the 2020-2021 debacles.

1 ( +1 / -0 )

I've spent nearly 2 decades in Japan, all of them living in cities. I'm a bit torn on which is better.

On the one hand, I love green trees and nature and really hate the generic, ugly concrete and plastic drabness that all Japanese cityscapes have. Japanese cities are just plain depressing to look at.

Some places in the countryside on the other hand look absolutely wonderful. Trees and forests everywhere, and houses with big yards available for quite reasonable prices. Whenever I visit a nice place like that in the countryside I always think "God, I wish I could live here."

But there are things that make me think I would go nuts if I ever moved to the countryside. The demographics really concern me - looking at the actual people who live in those pretty farming villages the average age seems to be about 70 or so in lot of them. Young people are almost non-existent. These are mostly older, insular communities of residents who have spent their entire lives in that place.

And they all seem like very welcoming, friendly people, but I just couldn't imagine spending my life trying to find my place in a community like that. I need the social things that cities have to offer - communities of foreigners and Japanese who are accustomed to foreigners among whom I can socialize as myself in comfort.

I'm impressed by foreigners who have managed to settle into rural communities here and I don't doubt that they have been able to create happy lives for themselves there, but its just not for me.

3 ( +3 / -0 )

It would be nice to read an article about the countryside featuring U turn people who are not completely dependent on city people coming to their cafe, bakery, minshuku, campground etc. There is nothing wrong with tourism of course, it's real money that supports real people, but such activities are niche and not remotely scalable. You cannot revitalise the countryside with two dozen kominka cafes in each village.

We've lived in the countryside for over twenty years now. I love it, but feel a bit guilty about all the energy we use. Everyone drives everywhere, and many live in big leaky houses heated with tons of firewood and kiloliters of kerosene.

4 ( +4 / -0 )

I've lived in Iwate for more than 30 years. I love it here, but I would also like the experience of living in Tokyo or somewhere close to it for a couple of years. Not now during the pandemic, but sometime.

3 ( +3 / -0 )

Definitiv City!

I love to live in Tokyo and will never leave!

2 ( +6 / -4 )

Japanese towns and cities are horrible. They are all the same sprawl of low-rise, poorly-zoned (if at all!), concrete. You might have a “park” (with sand/grit instead of grass!) if you’re lucky. I miss tree-filled cities of Europe and North America. By trees, I mean proper trees, not the poor things pruned to within an inch of their lives which you see lining Japanese streets.

4 ( +9 / -5 )

country living will always, always be better than the polluted concrete jungle.

hear hear!

2 ( +8 / -6 )

country living will always, always be better than the polluted concrete jungle.

12 ( +18 / -6 )

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