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Which cities in Japan are good & bad to live in?

41 Comments

Tokyo, among Japanese cities, is in a class by itself. That much everyone would grant. Home to 13.5 million, 11 percent of the population, it’s the economic and cultural lifeblood of the nation. Other cities are footnotes in comparison.

But life goes on there too, each city having its good points and bad points, residents going about their daily affairs with little thought of how they stand relative to the metropolis.

How do they stand relative to each other? Shukan Gendai (May 19) looks at the 20 most populous cities, and considers life in them from various points of view.

Wealth, for instance. The wealthiest city besides Tokyo? Yokohama – followed by Saitama, Kawasaki and Fukuoka.

Yokohama’s median annual income is 7.5 million yen; Saitama’s, 7.06 million. In last place among the 20 is Kumamoto (5.19 million).

“Elegant but not extravagant,” is how researcher Seitaro Kihara characterizes Yokohama. It’s immediately noticeable, and surely significant, that the three wealthiest cities are within commuting distance of the capital. But fourth-ranked Fukuoka (6.87 million yen) is a good ways off, in distant Kyushu. It’s one of the non-Tokyo commercial hubs, with Japanese and Asian firms amply represented. Fukuoka grows on you. It’s nicknamed, affectionately, “the black hole.” Japanese who get transferred here may balk at first, only to find after a time they don’t want to go home – or rather, that Fukuoka has become “home.”

Kobe, in terms of savings, ranks third, after Yokohama and Chiba. “You don’t need much money to live well here,” says researcher Shinichi Yano, explaining the high savings rate. Nagoya, sixth in terms of savings and eighth in terms of wealth, has a reputation for “stinginess” – but its evolution lately, says Yano, is “from stingy to smart.” Toyota, headquartered nearby, seems a likely bulwark against economic anxiety, which it seems at last to have become, now that it’s the world’s number one car seller.

Educationally, Sendai wins the laurel. Its elementary school kids do best on nationwide tests. Close behind are Saitama, Shizuoka and Kobe, Osaka in the cellar in 20th place. Sendai has a long tradition of academic excellence. You’d think there’d be a connection between that and the number of libraries a city has, but in that department Sendai ranks a sad 17th – behind Osaka in 12th place and far behind front-runner Hamamatsu. Yokohama, so well favored in other respects, has fewest. 

But its crime rate is lowest, followed by neighboring Kawasaki, with Osaka again in last place – as it is also in terms of longevity, male and female (78.8 and 86.2 years, respectively). Who lives longest? The women of Okayama (87.9) – but women everywhere live so much longer than men that the top-ranked city for male longevity, Kumamoto (81.9), lags nearly five years behind the bottom-ranked city for women (Osaka, 86.2). As for Osaka men, theirs is the only average life expectancy under 80.

Put it all together and which is the best Japanese city, other than Tokyo (if that qualification is called for), to live in? Saitama, says Shukan Gendai, followed by, to name only the top five, Hamamatsu, Yokohama, Kawasaki and Okayama. Osaka in 20th place is no surprise; Kyoto in 9th is. You’d think a city so globally known for its beauty would do better. Its popularity with tourists is no small part of the problem – crowds aside, it drives the cost of living up well beyond the comfort level.

© Japan Today

©2019 GPlusMedia Inc.

41 Comments
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The headline is misleading. The article is not about which city is good to live in; it is about money. Tokyo is an expensive city to live in, especially if you want to buy a house. A higher standard of living, a better lifestyle, can be had in other cities on a lower income. In fact a better lifestyle can be had living in the countryside on a much lower income. It is not surprising Tokyo people have a higher income than Yokohama, Saitama and Chiba people, many of whom work in Tokyo but cannot afford to buy or rent a suitable or satisfactory dwelling in Tokyo.

6 ( +6 / -0 )

Saitama No.1? Really?!? Apart from Chichibu, it's a drab sprawl. Osaka is indeed awful on a few levels.

7 ( +9 / -2 )

Nothing wrong with Osaka. It all depends on the area.

3 ( +5 / -2 )

You will have a good life in Fukuoka, Kobe or Yokohama, and all by the water. Tokyo is very stressful, especially the commute.

10 ( +10 / -0 )

Sendai is quite nice, and easy to get out of. It's also not as hot in the summer as the southern cities. They still call it the city of trees, even though the city has cut many of them down in recent years.

Saitama looks extremely dull, although I haven't spent much time there.

3 ( +3 / -0 )

Kobe is a lovely city.

4 ( +5 / -1 )

Tokyo was my first city. Liked it but space was small, and expensive, transport system crowded. Painter and not much to paint. Moved to Nagano Alps to wife's birth village great place but too much snow and cold winters so we moved in to Nagano City, better and just after the Winter Olympics so much of it was new. Great Higashiyama museum.

Then 16 years ago we moved to Kobe City and have been here ever since. Probably almost lived longer here than all the other cities across the world I have lived in. We are both happy to end our days here but now we need to find a new house so its in the balance. What I like about Kobe are the people, the closeness of the mountain and sea, and the cheaper reliable public transport.

10 ( +10 / -0 )

Saitama is actually a great place to live in. For the people who like Urban lifestyles Omiya and Urawa are hot spots. For those who want more quiet country style living, Iwatsuki is amazing and yet 15 minutes from Omiya. I do like Saitama city ALOT.

-1 ( +2 / -3 )

Moved to Nagano Alps to wife's birth village great place but too much snow and cold winters so we moved in to Nagano City,

Zichi, is your wife from Togakushi, by any chance?

1 ( +1 / -0 )

Fukuoka and Kobe remind me a lot of each other, in terms of size and proximity to mountains and the sea. As well as good places to eat. The nightlife in Fukuoka is better, as Kobe has to compete with 2 other nearby cities in Kansai. But sometimes it feels a bit remote from Tokyo, for better or worse.

2 ( +2 / -0 )

I tend to agree about the headline being misleading - the article tells us nothing about which cities are actually good or bad to live in. I have lived in Fukuoka, Kobe and Nagoya mentioned in the article and they all have their points of attraction.

Fukuoka has all the ameneties of a big modern city but with pretty mountains and beaches all nearby. Its the city I most enjoyed.

Kobe has mountains nearby but the beaches are pretty awful. It does have the locational advantage of being close, even commuting distance, to Osaka, Nara, Kyoto and Himeji so the options for day trips are almost endless.

Nagoya gets a bad rap as an ugly industrial city but its actually not that bad. Well, parts of it are (as are parts of every city here), but the downtown area around Sakae is great and its also got the Japan Alps nearby (on clear days you can see the snow capped mountains that surround the city, not from street level but from upper floors of buildings with the right view) and it has a lot of great day trips.

All three are way more affordable than Tokyo too.

2 ( +2 / -0 )

Yep, article failed it what is was supposedly measuring, oh well....

1 ( +1 / -0 )

A city is a city, not really for living in.

I enjoyed London as a student, but then I was young and shallow...

Two years in Toyama was also enjoyable - sea and mountains within easy access, lovely people .... but the long snowy winters are a trial.

Small country towns are the best. Clean air, open spaces, slower pace of life, yet with all the necessary amenities missing in the deep inaka.

Keep yer cities, they're not for me.

3 ( +5 / -2 )

Small country towns are the best. Clean air, open spaces, slower pace of life, yet with all the necessary amenities missing in the deep inaka.

Oh absolutely. I'll second that

0 ( +2 / -2 )

A city is a city, not really for living in.

The country is nice to look at, but I wouldn't want to live there. City life for me.

1 ( +2 / -1 )

Aly Rustom

Zichi, is your wife from Togakushi, by any chance?

No she comes from a very small village near Hakuba. The other side away from Togakushi.

1 ( +1 / -0 )

Saitama getting a hard time here. When we decided to move out of a pricey but nice-ish area of Tokyo into the suburbs to save cash, some of my snobby coworkers told me and my partner to stay out of ‘Dasaitama’ or ‘Chibaragi’. Kanagawa seems more acceptable.

Saitama seems okay. The towns in the prefectures surrounding Tokyo look pretty much identical to me.

Any city has to be better than the countryside. Curtain-twitching, small-community, rubbernecking “we are friendlier than the city folk” types aren’t for me.

A couple of days in these places is a limit.

3 ( +4 / -1 )

No she comes from a very small village near Hakuba. The other side away from Togakushi.

Thanks for your answer. I do love Nagano ken.

0 ( +0 / -0 )

@Jimizo: "Any city has to be better than the countryside. Curtain-twitching, small-community, rubbernecking “we are friendlier than the city folk” types aren’t for me."

What's not to love about being stared at, watched, surveilled, and having your trash examined? Nothing to hide right?

4 ( +5 / -1 )

Curtain-twitching, small-community, rubbernecking “we are friendlier than the city folk” .....

....being stared at, watched, surveilled, and having your trash examined

I must be really inattentive and/or thick-skinned. If any of that goes on here, I don't notice it.

What I do notice, apart from the clean air that doesn't set my asthma off, is enough space to breathe, to be able to afford a house with a garden and a space to grow veggies, pleasant, green places to walk the dogs. Topped with neighbours who mind their own business yet are ready to lend a helping hand when needed, and who share gifts apparently without a second thought.

4 ( +7 / -3 )

What's not to love about being stared at, watched, surveilled, and having your trash examined?

To be fair, I’ve been blacklisted by the gomi Gestapo even in civilised places.

3 ( +3 / -0 )

Fukuoka in my opinion is the best place to live. Big city without all the overcrowding and crazy foreigners. Nice beaches without the threat of tsunamis. Beautiful weather and women.

5 ( +5 / -0 )

I would be amazed if median income in Yokohama is 7.5 million yen. That's far too high. I would be surprised if the average of seishain in Yokohama, i.e., the elite, is even that high.

Here are some numbers for Kumamoto Prefecture, not the city. They say the average, which will be bumped higher than the median by big earners, is 4 million a year. The median for the prefecture will be lower.

https://www.nenshuu.net/prefecture/pre/prefecture_pages.php?todoufuken=%E7%86%8A%E6%9C%AC%E7%9C%8C

The right column has different towns, cities, and Tokyo wards. Only three wards have an average (not median) over 7 million. That is in the entire country.

https://www.nenshuu.net/prefecture/shotoku/shotoku_city.php?code=131121

Among Japanese cities, I like Kanazawa. I am middle-aged though.

-1 ( +0 / -1 )

Kobe, Yokohama, Nagasaki and Hakata-Tenjin are my favorite cities. Saitama has some good places to live (Kumagaya, et. al.) if you can work near home and not have to commute into central Tokyo. Having some good friends live within 20min. helps to make wherever you live a better place.

2 ( +2 / -0 )

Yokohama’s median annual income is 7.5 million yen; Saitama’s, 7.06 million. In last place among the 20 is Kumamoto (5.19 million).

I make 3 million more than the top income average here and I don't feel wealthy. I am 30 minutes from the beach and Yokohama so I am happy with it.

-1 ( +1 / -2 )

I never hear of the citySasebo.why ?

-1 ( +0 / -1 )

I never hear of the citySasebo.why ?

Why would you?

2 ( +2 / -0 )

Tokyo is my favorite city in Japan, and while I could probably live anywhere in the country and be happy, Tokyo is where I want to be. I love living in Tokyo, there's always something to do, something new to eat, something new to see. After Tokyo though, I'd pick Yokohama. It's an awesome city, and if you don't want to deal with the insanity of Tokyo Yokohama is a little more relaxed, yet still close enough to go to Tokyo whenever you want.

I would be amazed if median income in Yokohama is 7.5 million yen. That's far too high. I would be surprised if the average of seishain in Yokohama, i.e., the elite, is even that high.

It's the median salary, not the average salary. Averages are found by adding everyone's salary together, and dividing it by the number of salaries added. The median is the point at which 50% of the salaries are higher, 50% are lower. With an average, one massive salary or tiny salary can skew the value, whereas with a median, these extremes won't skew the value. For example, with a median, if the person at the top suddenly makes 100 billion yen more in a year than in the previous year, the average salary will increase, making it look like the people have more money even though their actual incomes have not changed. With a median, if the person at the top makes 100 billion yen more in a year, the median will not shift, as they will still just be one person over the median number.

So both points could be right - the median salary in Yokohama could be 7.5 million yen (I say 'could' since I haven't verified it), and the average seishain salary may not be that high.

And as a side note, I'd hardly call 'seishain' elite. The average seishain's salary is going to be middle class, definitely not elite.

0 ( +2 / -2 )

7 million yen sounds about right. Seishain is not elite, just means stable job if company is stable. Seishain at top companies will have already made over 7 million yen on their first or 2nd year after graduation. After a few years, it will grow to ~10-15M.

7M+ income is very common, especially in Tokyo and surrounding areas.

1 ( +1 / -0 )

i live in this “the black hole".

1 ( +1 / -0 )

All Japanese cities are the same, urban, poorly-zoned, ugly, concrete sprawl. How people choose to live in Tokyo baffles me. The countryside is so much better. Cheaper, cleaner air, slower pace of life, friendlier people....

-2 ( +1 / -3 )

I found Kagoshima to be remarkably friendly, wonderful people.

1 ( +2 / -1 )

@ZICHI

I have a place in Hakuba (Goryu ). Love the area, the people and the activities. The area is really going ahead.

1 ( +1 / -0 )

I once made the mistake of living in Nagoya...shudder, never again. Tokyo is the best place for foreigners who want long-term sanity, job opportunities and plenty to do. Other Japanese cities all have that "rinky-dink" feel about them, and the countryside is just a complete non-starter if you are a foreigner and value your sanity.

-2 ( +1 / -3 )

Tokyo was full of stressed people

Fukuoka was over rated

Nagasaki was under rated

Osaka undecided

Nagoya the people were down to earth and friendly

-1 ( +1 / -2 )

Keep yer cities, they're not for me. theyre great when you young and single, but when a wife and kids come along, Im sorry but they become stressful. ive stated this before will do again.

I moved to a semi rural area a couple years ago, still only about 50minutes from the center of the city, 40 minutes if I had too commute by motorbike. the biggest advantages is I now live in a home that is 3 times bigger than your average J home, 440m/2 have parking spaces for 5 cars, and my backyard is big enough to install a swimming pool (above ground type nothing too expensive and can easily/cheaply dismantle if my family no longer wants to use it later) already have a BBQ area setup with 4 burner LPG BBQ, none of that frantically fanning coals rubbish. Were 5 minutes drive from 3 supermarkets, 20minutes from a large shopping center. Can drive everywhere as traffic is almost non existent compared to Tokyo/Osaka finding a car park is never problem and its always free. Im also 5 minutes drive from the local ward office/ tax office and my accountant. My personal view is Japans best kept secrets are its rural areas not the cities. Ironically the convenience is much better than when I was living in the city and lifestyle is by far better than city living especially if you have children.

1 ( +2 / -1 )

I make 3 million more than the top income average here and I don't feel wealthy.

I paid more than your average annual Japanese salary just in tax last year (over 4 million yen), even with an excellent accountant and I certainly dont feel wealthy, but believe me living in a semi rural area my money goes much further than if I was living in the city. Homes are cheap, really cheap, I live in a huge home by J standards 440m/2 concrete/steel construction 3floors and my mortgage is less than what your average 3LDK mansion rent would be in Tokyo. Sometimes convenience just becomes too stressful and expensive, even if my job was in the city id happily bike commute the 40minutes each way daily just to have the improved lifestyle I now enjoy.

0 ( +1 / -1 )

Fukuoka all the way, hate Tokyo, hate big giant overbearing cities, the smog, pollution, the crowds, Fukuoka is not too big, not too small, just right, easy to navigate, great food, close to Okinawa, close to Busan, you can't beat this city.

2 ( +3 / -1 )

Osaka is a great mix, and it even if you don't like the city itself, it offers great access to a lot of other cool places.

-1 ( +0 / -1 )

wtfjapan you don't mention where you are living but my situation is somewhat similar. If I need to get into the city, it's 30 mins to the Shinkansen by car or bus from here and dead easy, and there are supermarkets, several good hospitals and all kinds of stores within easy striking distance. The air is so clear that the sky is full of visible stars at night. The airport is 15 minutes away behind the hill. Five minutes walk to the local city office branch, and 10 minutes to the Post Office. For the equivalent rent of a very small room in Tokyo I get a big seven-room traditional house with very large garden, a long drive, and space for anywhere up to six or seven cars or more. It is in a low earthquake area where typhoons rarely hit, and the granite hill it sits on is unlikely to be inundated in the next big tsunami.

It sounds like paradise, but we do get centipedes and snakes and I do sometimes feel like Urashima Taro or Sleeping Beauty.

0 ( +1 / -1 )

I agree with gaijintraveller. This article is more about average income than anything else.

I have lived in Osaka, Aichi, Mie and Tokyo before moving out here to Okinawa. And some tourism around other places.

And I gotta tell you, Osaka, Aichi and Mie were really depressing everywhere I went.

Even in Tokyo, if you take the morning crowded trains, all you see is a sea of depressed faces. But the nightlife is great, no arguments.

However, here in Okinawa is another picture. People seem much happier, friendlier and open minded. Even though the wages here can be considerably lower in comparison.

And sure, people may complain about the presence of the American military here, but I think that’s more of a dispute with the mainland government than anything else and why do Okinawans have to accommodate the large majority of their personal stationed in Japan.

Anyways, Okinawa offers a lot of options for entertainment and relaxation, the landscape is amazing, I don’t feel any less safe than in mainland, cost of living is quite low (specially comparing to Tokyo), has plenty of jobs and the people are awesome.

Love you Okinawa ;)

-1 ( +0 / -1 )

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