Where’s the Best Place to Live in Japan? City vs. Countryside

Where’s the Best Place to Live in Japan? City vs. Countryside

Ah life, life is just full of so many
difficult choices isn’t it? For example earlier this week I was walking through town in search of happiness, when I stumbled across a closed shop with a rather unusual and eye-catching name. It was the sort of shop sign that you have
to stop and look up at in disbelief, because it’s not every day that you see
a closed shop called “Sperm” And staring up at that shop sign, I thought to myself I wonder which people actively choose to purchase their clothes from from Sperm?
Perhaps it’s people captivated by the shops promising tagline. “I never thought freedom was cheap” But quite honestly I don’t think I’ll ever
find out what makes Sperm so appealing. But one of the biggest choices you have to make when moving to Japan is deciding where to live. In the countryside or in the city. Of course there’s no one answer to where the best place to live in Japan is, but I’ve been fortunate in the last five years to live in both the countryside and in the city. And today I thought I would talk about my
experiences and weigh up for the “crows” and cons… The “crows” and cons? The pros and cons of living in both rural Yamagata prefecture and in the city of Sendai. I’m going to look at six different aspects of everyday life, such as quality of life and work opportunities etc. And give each of them a point until we have a definitive winner. But before we even get to the “crows” and cons, why did I end up living in the two places that I did..? so when you’re applying for an English
teaching job in Japan, you can write down your two or three preferred locations where you want to potentially end up. Back when I filled out my application
form in the UK all those years ago, I didn’t know a whole lot about Japan but
what I did know was Kobe beef. And so when filling out my form my first
choice was to be placed in the city of Kobe. And for my second answer I wrote down Hyogo Prefecture the prefecture that Kobe is in, with the hope that even if I didn’t end up in the city of Kobe, at the very least I’d be about 30 minutes away from the city. 30 minutes away from the mountain of beef that I deserved. However presumably when my application
was reviewed a few months later by some people in a room, they looked at my
application and said he wants to live in Kobe does he? I know let’s send him to a
rice field about a thousand kilometers away from Kobe. And thus they ended up
placing me about as far away from Kobe City as possible. And I didn’t set foot in the city until about two years later. Fortunately though I did have the last laugh. As it turned out the rice field was located in a stunning corner of North Japan surrounded by volcano and the Sea of Japan and it was quite honestly the most beautiful place that I’d ever seen. And that’s how I ended up in Yamagata
prefecture. After three amazing years living in the countryside in Yamagata. My time is the English teacher came to an end. And as much as I loved it there I
wanted to try living in the city, somewhere where there was more
opportunities and in a place that was much better connected to civilization.
I’d also forgotten what it was like to
experience things like shops and
Starbucks so I was interested in experiencing those things again. But there
were three potential cities I had in mind Tokyo, Osaka and Sendai. I quickly decided that even though Osaka was my favorite city, it was too far away from North Japan where a lot my friends were
and where I wanted to make videos about going forward and I also ruled out Tokyo because as much as I love this city, the idea of living amongst a never-ending
sea of people and concrete, seemed a bit depressing to me. And for me Sendai was just right it had the countryside of Tohoku on its doorstep. And Tokyo and Osaka about 90 minutes away by bullet train and by airplane. And also there was a large train station in Sendai, surrounded by no less than four branches
of Starbucks, so I was completely spoiled for choice. And that’s how I ended up living in Sendai. One of the most overused marketing
phrases you hear in Japan is the phrase “The real Japan” It seems to be a phrase
used to describe the idealistic romanticized image that most people have of Japan. But it does get bloody annoying hearing it every day. All this food is the real Japan! This temple is the real Japan. This wood is the real Japan. However for three amazing years I did find myself immersed in the real Japan out in the countryside. Living in the countryside you pretty much feel like you’ve got the whole of Japan to yourself. For example in Tokyo, you go to
a temple and it’s difficult to feel something, in the presence of a thousand smartphone camera shutters going off. Out in the countryside you have stunning
temples on tap. Temples with the kind of atmosphere that allow you to feel something profound and moving that is difficult to do in the city. And whilstin the city you can find yourself amongst a hypnotic futuristic urban landscape, particularly at night for the scenery and for the atmosphere, for the real Japan. The point absolutely goes to the countryside. There’s a sense of adventure out there in the country that I’ve never really found in the city at
least not to that to the same extent. Where I used to live I rarely traveled around Japan because I would have to use half a month’s salary and three days holiday just to get out of the region. In Sendai you can wake up in the morning
and be in Tokyo or Taipei by lunchtime, thanks to the bullet train and the local
airports. So access definitely goes to Sendai. One of the sad things about the countryside is foreigners go out there they teach English they live and work there for three or four years and integrate into the local communities and fall in love with it. And then after teaching there’s just no work opportunities and they kind of forced to leave, taking their skills and knowledge with them. And it’s bad for them and it’s bad for the local community as well. And whilst the influx of tourism has led to a lot of new rural jobs being created, unless you’re willing to teach English until the end of time, realistically you have to head to the city. So that one goes to the city. I mentioned the word “integration” a minute ago with regards to people integrating into the local community and it’s definitely a factor worth evaluating. One of my main concerns about moving out to the countryside originally was that I would feel lonely and isolated and I wouldn’t be doing anything. But actually after 18 months of living there I’d got involved with the local community in a big way. I was volunteering at two international centers, I was doing speech contests and spending a lot of time with the local people which is basically just Natsuki getting drunk at a bar. And I felt like I was really a part of something in Yamagata. And when I left the area I got a really nice big awesome spectacular send-off from a lot of friends. And a really nice cake as well. But in the time I’ve lived in Sendai the last 18 months now I still feel like I haven’t really integrated here, in a way that, I in the way that I had back there. And whilst I know plenty of people here, I still feel like I’m like I’m missing something. I found that in the countryside people often stare at you in a state of surprise that you’re there in the first place as a foreigner. Whereas in the city people stare at you with a sense suspicion. Now that might be because I pretty much exclusively wear black t-shirts and I never smile when I’m walking down the street. But I found just the locals seem to be friendlier out in the countryside. I mean I remember one time a nice old man came up to me on the street and just gave me a box of cherries. Which is a really nice gesture.
A bit bit weird in hindsight, but very generous of him and the cherries were bloody good as well. In the countryside I would speak to like strangers every day, Whereas here in 18 months I’ve lived here, I’ve probably spoken to three strangers just in the street or in coffee shops or whatever. So, so when it comes to integration, I really do feel like the countryside wins that round. The good thing about living in Yamagata was there was always something nearby to do when it came to the great outdoors. You
could go skiing in winter you go to the beach in summer. And there was always Onsen around as well. But actually for everyday leisure activities the city wins this round. Just on account of the sheer varieties and bars that you find in the city. For example I had a friend come visit a few months ago a youtuber who I won’t name, even though his name is Joey and he’s “The Animeman” We started the evening by going to a darts bar where Joey unfortunately one of darts, which I’m still bitter about. Then there was a BB gun shooting range bar as well. Then we went to a 1950s themed restaurant and ate there for three orfour hours. And then we went to a Israeli shisha bar as well for another two or three hours. So we had this kind of this really diverse evening at three or four completely different bars and restaurants. And you just can’t do that in the countryside. If you want a good night out the city wins this round, absolutely hands down. Finally quality of life overall. Life in the city is definitely more expensive, for what I pay for this relatively tiny apartment begrudgingly every month, I could probably get a house in Yamagata for the same price. But beyond that life in the countryside actually brought out the best of me. I used to run about three or four evenings a week in the countryside. Just because I wanted an excuse to get out and be amongst the incredible scenery. I used to run in the shadow of a 2,200 meter volcano. And that never got boring in all the three years that I did it. And because there were less bars and shops and restaurants. I found I spent less money and wasted less time just going out drinking and eating . Instead I’d go to the park and read a
book, or be inside studying, or go off cycling. It pains me to use the cliche, but I did find myself out there. Not in some twenty, shitty, superficial way like praying in a temple for three hours, and coming out a changed man. But gradually over the many months many years that I lived there. I got a sense of what was important in life. And how I wanted to live it as well. And so for all those reasons, the countryside Yamagata wins that round for quality of life. Seeing as it came to three all, which makes it pretty boring and inconclusive I’ll throw in my final opinion and say, In conclusion I definitely do miss living
in the countryside. I feel like I was a part of something there it was a general sense of adventure and a feeling of contentment though I had everyday, though I just feel like I’ve lost since moving to the city as much as I love it here in Sendai. I realize it does come down to personal preference and most people in their 20s, would probably want to live in a city where they could get drunk and go clubbing every night. But if I lived in the countryside again I don’t think there’s anything that I would really miss about living in the city apart from just accessibility. And yet despite all that I don’t regret moving to the city. I feel like it’s always important to move forward and change location every few years. And as much as I love living there I would have felt a bit Restless if I’d stayed on. Whilst I know I’ll look back fondly at both my life in the countryside and in the city, it’s in the countryside that will feel like the home that I left behind whereas the city just feels like somewhere that I lived for a while. But those are just my thoughts and opinions,
how about yours? If you’re somebody who lives in Japan or has lived in Japan please write your experiences below, share them with us. I always find it’s interesting to hear everyone’s opinions. People living in Japan always have such wildly different experiences. So yeah please go ahead and let us know
below. But for now though guys as always many thanks for watching. I’m off to go and discover some more awkwardly named clove shops, which I can slide into the narratives of future videos. Basically how I spent all my time just walking around the streets looking for weirdly named shops. Although this one, the one in this video is going to be bloody hard to top. Seriously sperm, WTF I recently had a small cameo on a TV show on NHK world called, “Saver Japan” and in the episode that I featured in we explored the cuisine in the rural town of Tsuruoka, and a nearby Haguro temple such as the
kind of vegan cuisine eaten by Buddhist monks. If you’re interested in watching it you can find a link to the episode on NHK world online, and I’ve put a link to it, in the description box below.

100 thoughts on “Where’s the Best Place to Live in Japan? City vs. Countryside

  1. This video transends japan and is just a cool look at coming of age and where you live effecting everything in this video! as as guy who has lived many places.. this is spot on

  2. I don’t know if I want to move japan or not I don’t just want to stay in the u.s and you only live once and I don’t want to waste it so what should do
    Sorry I got to your channel so late

  3. Hi, Chris – I really enjoy watching your videos. I lived in Japan (Tokyo) from 8/1981 til December of 1983. I made many close friends there and I have been back 5 or 6 times since. I miss it terribly, and I have a lovely recurring dream where I'm sitting on a train in Japan – I have no idea where it's headed, but I don't care – I'm just happy to be there. When I first arrived in Japan everything was in kanji or hiragana – there was very little katakana and certainly no English. What a stark contrast to today! I struggled with the lack of "personal space" and with the way business is conducted (ie – decisions are group events). However, I found deep joy in the cultural reverence for nature and art, and how incredibly kind everyone was. My willingness to learn as much as I could and my desire to speak Japanese was rewarded daily by kind strangers. The city offered me something I could never find in the US – the freedom to go out at night alone, and bar hop. I had some favorite bars (an Aussie dart pub, a bar that featured bluegrass live music, a disco – hey- it was the 80s – and a bar with a band that sounded just like the Beatles) where I had bottle keeps and it was like Cheers – where everyone knew my name. I didn't have to wait around for my bff to be ready to go somewhere else – I could just go when I felt like it. That freedom was priceless. I started out teaching like most gaijin, but by the time I left I had a prestigious job as a producer at a film company. It was hard to come home, but I did miss my family and ultimately I fell in love and married. We took a trip to Japan shortly after getting married because I felt that he needed to know why I love the place so much (and why I insisted on no shoes in the house, lol). I feel incredibly lucky to have been able to travel as much as I did, and to make such lasting, wonderful friendships. I miss it all the time, and I would not trade my experience for anything.

  4. Having grown up in a rural town in upstate New York, then leaving after college to work in Southern California; I understand the rural vs city trade offs described here. It’s not just a Japan thing. I’m traveling there for my 3 rd time in a few days. In some ways, I want to leave the USA behind. But truly, home is where you’re loved ones are. It can be anywhere (safe).

  5. Yamagata has one of the best beef is call Yonezawa, way better than Kobe beef. Have you tried? I love Sendai though because of hot spring and surrounded by a lot of green.

  6. Have a similar experience about missing the countryside-ish…
    Applied to go to school in Osaka for a year… Got sent to Hakodate Hokkaido instead. Super bummed out initially to be sent to a small port town. Fell in love with the small town after a few months(friendlylocals and fresh seafood helped..). Ended up on the local newspaper and got interviewed by nhk for being like.. one of only few people there teaching English and people would give me discounts or extra servings of stuff/service randomly. When I left, I felt like I was losing a part of me and it was heart breaking.

  7. Me personally would choose city for professional age and move to countryside after retirement. The sooner the better.

  8. I kind of want to move to rural Japan someday. The problem is, I'm currently half-way through an Australian computer science degree and WHO THE FUCK WOULD WANT A FOREIGNLY TRAINED COMPUTER SCIENTIST IN THE MIDDLE OF FUCKING NOWHERE.

    Considering Japan has a labour shortage, my plan is to search for a job that'll take me even under the condition that I can work from home for at least 6 days of the week, and live in the most rural region I can find that's still within 5 hours travel distance of literally anywhere.

    Admittedly that plan probably isn't going to work for a variety of reasons, but it's the best I can come up with.

  9. Cities offer specialized shopping and variety in social life.
    If you are able to make a reasonable income in the countryside, move there.
    You won't miss the city, but you will miss the country.

  10. 俺もロンドンにいた事あるけど 痛とか 変、 味とかわけのわからない店が結構あったよ。

  11. I recommend you Tsukuba in Ibaraki prefecture. Most latest new constructed modern city. Also sience city. There are lot of reserch center, University, And experience office. Population is 250,000. Only45minutes from Tokyo. Add to say, Many numbers foreign people live there. I can see them whole of this city. Very beautifil, natures, comfortable. You can go Tsukuba exispress.

  12. "Quite honestly, I don't think I'll ever find out what makes Sperm so appealing."
    A sentence he probably never thought he would ever need to say.

  13. more concrete equals less happiness. the number of people increases but the average quality of said inhabitants decreases. in a way if you are anti social the city is a great place to be lol the people don't want to talk to you.

  14. Thanks to your video I didn't have to do resort to anything twatty to find myself (lol) and understand more about where I live, which is in a small city like Sendai I guess surrounded by an abundance of countryside. People in the countryside really do want to get to know you whereas in the city you're just another Joe. Been here 3 years now.

  15. Fukushima の Tamura-shi is what they call it now. When I lived there (2001-2003…f*ck me I’m old) it was called Tokiwa-machi.

    My experience of inaka sounds very similar to yours. I still miss it almost two decades later.

  16. Chris, living in the countryside is refreshing, open and spacious, air quality is better, fresh farm foods, smaller community, sense of belonging without feeling lost in the milieu of people rushing to nowhere. I can hear myself think in the countryside. How about you?

  17. Sounds like you would be more happy if you moved back.

    But everybody choses his own life. I would have stayed on the countryside.
    Nature, calm, not many people and the ones you meet are nice. More afordable.

  18. It's basically the same over in the states:
    In more rural locations you have the stigma of "You know everyone" because the amount of people are so small that you just get out and talk and suddenly you know everyone. It's a lot more calm and peaceful and people are just friendlier. It comes from that small community, because if someone would do something bad, everyone in town would know by the end of the day.

  19. "where are you right now?!"
    "i'm at Sperm!"
    What do you mean you're AT Sperm?!"
    "i'm at the sperm store!"
    "why are you buying clothes at the sperm store!?!"
    "Fuck You!!"

  20. Lived in Misawa for 2 1-2 years. There are some gems of an area if you like exploring nature out there, especially during winter.

  21. I'm just an Italian guy, about 18, and my dream, since I was a kid, is to come to Japan, I don't have so much money so probably I will working in Italy for a few years and then bye. I don't know if it is good or not but I won't do the university because I have another dreamjob, the tattoo artist. I love manga and anime since I was a kid and I pretty good at drawing (at least others say that to me, but I think I can always get better). So I'm trying to think about new ideas and stuff for the job I want to do, and I don't know if the tatto artist in Japan as a foreign guy will be so easy to get, but I will try and maybe if it doesn't go well I will find something else to do. Probably I'll live in the city initially, but then I wanna try something like you did in the countryside because that is the place where I want to be and live

  22. i get the feeling man. for me, the best deal is to have a house at driving distance (max 30 mins) from downtown. you usally get both world at your disposal

  23. I want to go there, to live in a village next to a lake, where in winter snow will definitely fall, next to a fortest, with mountains behind me. I think I wouldn’t care about what I do for a living, I think I’d just live

  24. I'm in sasebo Nagasaki till Saturday.. the view I wake up to every morning is amazingly beautiful. Unfortunately was only here to visit my brother. I wish I could stay here.

  25. at 9:44 it looks like u are drinking coffee from starbucks, BUT you are in the countryside (cant spell, im from sweden ok. doing my best haha). anyway, u told us about the non existing starbuks out there. and im just here so mindfuck atm hahah.
    love your videos btw! (and my comment is not suppose to be mean or anything, just a funny thing i noticed)

  26. 600.000-1.000.000 Inhabitants
    Many green areas
    Mixed demographic
    Subway, good connections
    In Germany but with lots of Italians
    Open minded open hearted germans.
    A great diversity of people and of restaurants.
    Normal rents
    Good working perspective
    Southern Germany because of the proximity to Italy and warmer temperature.

  27. I live in a small town about 1 hour away from a big city and 3 hours away from the capitol. I don't party, drink, bar hop, go to clubs, or any of that stuff but I do love going to concerts or the movie theater. For the later I only really miss out on specialty movies, pretty much every blockbuster I can see locally. For the former however, I have to travel at least an hour to see anybody who is anybody. We're just too small for anything besides local groups. That is pretty much the only thing I envy about big cities. I love my small town because everybody knows each other and everybody is nicer. It's not super crowded and we don't have any real crime problems here. This has lead me to believe that I would like to live in the countryside. Your video has helped me reinforce this decision.

  28. Did you ever think you are a sociable person.so the city would be the way to go,or would that be the opposite cause you get to know people in the country and kinda in a sense are part of somthing

  29. Sound like i can live in japan could work in a supermarket or as a employee in a store because it is timeless job you can do defiantly worþ it, personaly been a teacher is not a job for me. It sound nice to move to japan

  30. I'm hoping to Move to Japan eventually just to get away from my country for a while as Ireland has changed a lot for the worse and I've always wanted to visit Japan.

  31. Great Vid!! I've been here in Tokushima for the past 26 years.
    It's different!
    Not too much SPERM as the population is well over 65 on average.
    Hardly any busses and a train once an hour.
    Very rural and very beautiful if you're here to retire.
    People are a bit strange and never change.
    It's cheap and the food is great.
    But the nigh life is everyone in bed by 10:00 pm.
    Anyone else have a similar situation?
    Love to hear it.

  32. Going on 13.5 years living in Japan (4 in the US military, 3 teaching English, and 6.5 working for the US Govt Federal Employee) and pretty much all of it was living in small towns in both Yamaguchi and Hiroshima Prefectures. The closest I got to living in a "big city" was when I lived in a suburb of Hiroshima City. Even there I hated it and moved after a short stint back to the country. I make an effort to avoid heavily populated places (being from Texas born in a town with more cows than people) as I get irritated just having to wait in lines because everyone seems to have the same idea to go do something as I do at the same precise time. Not much in the city that I miss either. Everybody has their ideal lifestyle.

  33. Countryside all the way for me. I was living in Kōnosu, in Saitama prefecture 23 years ago around a similar age that you are now. My situation was different as I was starting a family. So my priority's were quite different considering what the area would like for a forth coming child. I found it very hospitable and friendly and only very rarely experienced any negativity at all.

    BTW, I was teaching embalming, so my company handled practically all of my necessities. Our landlord was a great guy who frequently gave us fresh vegetables from his garden. Though, officially he didn't even rent to foreigners. My wife is Korean, so I always thought perhaps he thought her a western raised Japanese who didn't speak the language. For whatever, reason he was just super nice to us while being fairly stern with my Canadian co-workers.

    My Japanese was pathetic for at least the first half of my 1.5 years there. I always felt like the locals always made the extra effort to accommodate us. I even had a band of cool friends to play live music with from around the area. We toured around the regional coffee shop scene and performed. It was an incredibly fun time and apart from occasionally missing home, I really enjoyed living there.

    Thanks for making these videos. I am really enjoying watching them and reminiscing about my own time in Japan.

  34. Sorry to rub it in, but I just started my position as an ALT two months ago in Kobe and I love it here 😀 Kobe is the perfect city. It's on the sea and has the mountains right behind it, so even though I live in the city, nature is very easily accessible. It also gets fewer tourists than Osaka and Kyoto so it feels a bit more "real Japan." I definitely spend more money going out than I would in the inaka but that's what I want to spend some money on anyways.

  35. I think these points are true for the US as well. I grew up in a rural area and there were some pros but I'd never go back. Just not enough opportunities or things to do.

  36. I have not live in a City for 40 years, Ito would be the biggest town in those 40 years. I had sort stints in Izu, Hokkaido, Iwate. Nagano and Gifu. Itoigawa on the Japan sea would be My first choice if I had to settle down in one place in Japan. The reason why, is Itoigawa has a mine and I can always get work in a mine anywhere in the would. So work is the first, second is leisure, You have a great ski resort only 15 min from town, the Northern Alp are 60 km south, also you have the Japan sea and great trout fishing in Gifu.

  37. Hey man, I love your videos. Its funny and fun to watch. My goal is to have my physics deegre in Japan I still have approximately 2 years before I go there(I hope so). Could you give me some recommendation on good physics univ? Hope to se you there man, wish me luck.

  38. I'm like 2 years late to this but when I lived in Okinawa I found that I was able to get the best of both worlds. The island is only something like 60 miles end-to-end so you could live in a house a stone's throw from the beach and jungle, drive for half an hour and be in the heart of Naha (which isn't as bustling as any of the cities in mainland, but has enough Starbucks to quench anyone's thirst). I think if I were to move back (and I fully intend to someday) that I would prefer something more in the middle than the extremes of either.

  39. I first lived in the mountains working as a mushroom farmer in Tottori and is was tooo much country and remote, then hitchhiked around Shikoku and up to Nagano where i lived both in city and village and found some great communities and nature. Now living in Okayama which is the best combination of nature/rural and city. City is big enough to have enough shops and bars and coffee etc plus on Shinkansen so less than hour to get to Kyoto, Hiroshima, Himeji. Plus easy to get to Kansai airport to go anywhere (also local airport has some direct international service). Loads of museums – both Japanese art and culture and incredible European collection in Kurashiki at Ohara which would have a huge line and security if was in Paris or NYC. The city is city enough that no one is surprised by my foreignor-ness but i am still unique and whatnot. Inland sea with endless islands close by, mountains, hot springs, my buddy's goat farm and all the rest handy. Cheap and cheerful. Thanks for your fun video.

  40. I want to comment but I can’t stop laughing…lol…loved the face you made while staring at the store logo/name sign…lol…

  41. Japan is the place I want to live when I get older. The culture is so alien from my own. I feel like if I can live there and truly understand the culture and people I feel like that will give me a better understanding of myself. Plus Japan is look so cool. I really love their food as well.

  42. There is a clothes shop here in Australia (in a heavily Chinese populated area) called "Morning Glory". Now everyone likes a little morning glory (wink wink) but you just don't name your shop that. I wonder if they sell "Sperm" clothing?

  43. I lived on Yokota Air Force Base but went to a private Japanese school. Everyday of my life since leaving Japan is sorely missed. I did however follow my dream of becoming a Marine Biologist and Oceanographer at HSU in California. But still someday I will return bringing my twin girls with me who are actually named after two of my dearest friends Ai and Aoi.

  44. I lived in the outskirts of Tokyo for two years and having a chance conversation with a stranger was extremely rare. Granted I was shy and didn’t proactively start conversations myself but when I ventured out to the countryside for a day trip or two it was a different world and I think I could have made real friends in the country rather than Tokyo.

  45. Starbucks??????? Are you addicted of that trash coffe? Coffe is start at Segafredo and finish at Dersut. Starbucks is the McDonalds of coffe shops.

  46. In Mita-Ekoda they have a tan salon called “Black People” and then further down the road they have a motorcycle shop called “Bum”.

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