There’s a widespread belief in Japan that if you want to achieve educational or economic success, you come to Tokyo. As a matter of fact, it’s such a common move that Japanese even has a verb for it, "jokyo," or to “move on up to the capital.”
But for some people, always-lively Tokyo is just too bustling. It’s not just the elderly who feel the appeal of a rustic lifestyle, either. Even some residents in their 20s find themselves wanting to move away from the constant hum of the big city, and a recent survey reveals the top 10 rural regions of Japan that Tokyoites would like to move to.
In Tokyo’s Chiyoda Ward, you’ll find the Furusato Kaiki Support Center, an NPO that acts as a liaison between residents looking to leave the capital and some 800 regional organizations that would be happy to welcome them. 2014 marked the third straight year of increases in the number of people the center offered seminars and consultation to, as staff spoke with more than 12,000 individuals about the possibility of moving to one of Japan’s less crowded towns.
While many Japanese who grew up in the countryside find themselves wanting to move back to their hometowns in old age, 2014 was also the fourth year in a row the center saw an increase in the number of 20-somethings it dealt with, as they accounted for 10.8% of consultations. Altogether, prospective movers in their 20s, 30s, and 40s comprised 54.7% of those the Furusato Kaiki Support Center provided guidance to.
So just where are they thinking of going? Let’s take a look at the top 10.
10. Kagawa Prefecture
Japan’s smallest prefecture by landmass, Kagawa has the culture of Konpira-san shrine, Japan’s most delicious udon, and the convenience of quiet yet cosmopolitan (by Shikoku standards) Takamatsu City.
9. Toyama Prefecture
Toyama’s location along the Sea of Japan makes it quieter than prefectures on the southern coast of Japan’s main island of Honshu. And while it may not have the bright lights of Tokyo, it does have the awe-inspiring Kurobe Dam and snowy Tateyama Kurobe Alpine Route, as well as excellent buri (yellowtail) sashimi in the winter,
8. Shimane Prefecture
Maybe it’s time for Shimane to lose the chip on its shoulder about being “Japan’s least popular prefecture,” especially when it has one of the country’s most sacred shrines in Izumo Taisha.
7. Shizuoka Prefecture
We’re guessing Shizuoka got a bit of a boost due to it being a popular weekend travel destination for Tokyo residents. After hopping on the shinkansen for the hot springs of Atami or taking the regular trains down to historic, coastal Shimoda, some people probably start to question whether they really want to make the trip back up to the capital.
6. Kumamoto Prefecture
With its reputation as having one of Japan’s best castles and some of its most beautiful women, it seems more than a few Tokyo salarymen are ready to hand in their resignations and start over in this prefecture on the west coast of the southern island of Kyushu.
5. Niigata Prefecture
Living in Niigata gives you access to not only Japan’s most beloved strain of rice, but also some of its most renowned sake, plus the scenic landscapes of the Myoko Kogen highlands and Sadogashima Island.
4. Fukushima Prefecture
The Furusato Kaiki Support Center says Fukushima’s strong showing isn’t just a result of families displaced by the 2011 earthquake looking to move back, but also Tokyoites considering moving for the first time to the prefecture that’s also home to the Aizu Matsudaira Gardens.
3. Okayama Prefecture
Along with the picturesque canals of the town of Kurashiki and Korakuen Garden, residents of Okayama can enjoy delicious peaches (not to mention the cultural cachet of living in the literary home of the Peach Boy.
2. Nagano Prefecture
Nagano may have reaped some of the same sort of benefits as Shizuoka did. Tokyoites often travel to the prefecture in winter to ski the Japan Alps, and also in autumn to see the fall colors of the foliage in the Kamikochi nature preserve. Being known for delicious soba and sake probably didn’t hurt Nagano, either.
1. Yamanashi Prefecture
Finally, taking the top spot was Yamanashi, which no doubt owes some of its victory to the numerous seminars the Furusato Kaiki Support Center held for the prefecture over the last year, along with regional employment counselors proactively helping those interested in moving to Yamanashi find work.
There’s also the fact that even with its quiet atmosphere, Yamanashi is less than two and a half hours from Tokyo by train. Plus, there’s something to be said for being one of the two prefectures that Mt. Fuji’s base straddles. After all, even if you don’t live in the nation’s capital anymore, it’s nice to have such an impressive visual reminder that you still live in Japan.
Source: Furosato Kaiki Support Center
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