Best Places To Live In Japan: Top 5 Communities Most Recommended By Travel Experts

Japan is a country with a long history dating back thousands of years and a rich culture that promotes warm hospitality. With vibrant, modern cities as well as towns seemingly untouched by time found in relatively mild climates, there are many options to suit every preference and taste when it comes to finding a place to live. So many options can make choosing the best places to live in Japan a difficult task even for those born in the country.

Known as the “Land of the Rising Sun,” Japan is known the world over for its unique traditions, which includes tea ceremonies with geishas, Sumo wrestling, and much more. The country, which is divided into 47 prefectures, also enjoys one of the lowest crime rates in the world, it offers great public transportation options, and there seem to be sacred temples and shrines around almost every corner. It’s also famous for its fantastic, generally healthy cuisine and inclusion of green spaces in bustling towns. 

However, one of the best aspects about living in Japan is the country’s beautiful natural scenery. While we may think of Japan as being comprised of a chain of four main islands – Honshu, Hokkaido, Kyushu, and Shikoku – sitting just off China’s coast in the Pacific Ocean, the country is actually made up of more than 6,800 islands, so there’s always something to do and see for those who love the outdoors. And even if you prefer city life, Mount Fuji is a must see, as are the country’s famous cherry blossoms in spring and its beautiful beaches.

A country with so many great and varied areas make it hard to say which make the perfect dwelling spots, especially when you need to take personal tastes into account. So, to come up with this short list of the best places to live in Japan, StudyFinds consulted 10 expert websites. Tell us your experience living in any of these cities in the comments below or let us know if your favorite isn’t on the list.

japan, japanese, map
Japan (Photo by geralt on Pixabay)

The List: Best Places to Live in Japan, According to Locals

1. Tokyo

This city tops Nomad List’s choices of the best places to live in Japan. Tokyo is the country’s sprawling capital city, and while it is no doubt expensive, its unique mix of cutting-edge technology and traditional Japanese culture is worth it. “It’s Japan’s capital and cultural, political, and financial center of the country,” notes International Citizens. “Business centers, high-rise buildings, and massive shopping areas entwine with peaceful residential streets, Japanese gardens, and an occasional sight of a Geisha in the park…There are also numerous international schools and residential properties built in western style for expat families in these safe and convenient areas.”

photo of people crossing road
Tokyo (Photo by Erik Eastman on Unsplash)

“Tokyo is one of the most populous cities in the world and a major international economic center. It’s also known for its attractions and cleanliness,” writes Money Inc. “Despite its dense population and expensive cost of living, many choose to live in Tokyo…Although mostly a modern city after being rebuilt after a devastating 1923 earthquake and World War II, Tokyo maintains some historic architecture. The city may be expensive and crowded, but it’s also very livable.”

“If budget is not an issue for you, Tokyo is a fantastic place to live,” says Why So Japan. “It is the central hub of most things in Japan and you can easily travel to other parts of the country and world.”

2. Osaka

Considered the foodie destination of choice in Japan, Osaka is the country’s third-largest city. It’s also known for its excellent entertainment, shopping, and nightlife. “Home to 2.6 million people, Osaka is the culinary capital of Japan,” says MoveHub. “Basically any dish you would find in other Japanese cities is elevated to a new level in Osaka. Okonomiyaki, a thick savory pancake, is particularly brilliant.”

Osaka in Japan
Osaka in Japan (Photo by Kit Ko on Unsplash)


“Some of the more popular neighborhoods for young people include Namba, a bustling commercial district in the heart of Osaka, known for its shopping, dining, and entertainment,” writes Tokyo Portfolio. “Umeda, a major commercial and transportation hub in Osaka, is also trendy due to its convenient location and proximity to major train and subway lines. The upscale atmosphere attracts young singles to Kitahama, a historic district in central Osaka that’s home to many banks, law firms, and other professional services. Another popular spot is Shinsaibashi’s shopping and entertainment district, which is home to many trendy shops, cafes, and bars.”

“Osaka is one of the most renowned cities after Tokyo,” states Dear Japanese. “Many expats consider living here because of its friendly and warm surroundings. … If you are a foodie from the heart, you will enjoy living here because Osaka is also popular for its fantastic food.”

3. Kyoto

If you’re looking for a location that exhibits more of “old” Japan, Kyoto is the spot for you. Kyoto has its own dialect, traditional tea houses (with geishas!), ancient religious sites, and lots of beautifully kept natural spaces. “If you wish to connect with Japan’s history and culture, moving to Kyoto is the best option,” writes Motto Japan. “Kyoto has the highest concentration of cultural treasure in Japan, making it synonymous with traditional Japan. … If you can’t wait for a traditional and serene Japanese life, settle down in Kyoto!”

two women in purple and pink kimono standing on street
Kyoto (Photo by Sorasak on Unsplash)

“While considering where is the safest place to live in Japan, most visitors regard Kyoto, Japan’s capital city preceding Tokyo, to be one of their best options,” writes Movingist. “The city’s level, tiled roads make it perfect for pedestrians and biking, according to most Kyoto locals. Traveling by train, ferry, or cab is also simple because of the city’s architecture.”

“The city of Kyoto is famous for its classical Buddhist temples, gardens, imperial palaces, Shinto shrines, and traditional wooden houses,” says International Citizens. “Tourists come here from all over the world to experience the Japanese calmness and food, such as Yudofu (boiled tofu), Hame (eel dish), and Tsukemono, which can be found in the city’s most famous market – Nishiki. … Kyoto is a great city for those who enjoy the perks of living close to the Japanese temples and gardens while being just a little while away from the typical Japanese big city life.”

4. Sapporo

Sapporo is the country’s northernmost city, and the largest on the island of Hokkaido, and it’s one of the most affordable places to live in Japan. It’s a bustling place with many shops, parks, museums, and more.

Sapporo, Japan
Sapporo, Japan (Photo by Sen Lee on Unsplash)

“Sapporo offers a dizzying array of activities for outdoors and sports enthusiasts, great bars, and an annual snow festival that attracts two million visitors,” writes MoveHub. “The mountainous backdrop of Sapporo is a sight to behold too, offering residents a breathtaking place to go hiking on the weekends. It’s also remarkably cheap when compared to bigger cities such as Tokyo.”

“One of Japan’s largest cities, Sapporo is best known for its beer factory,” says Money Inc. “Its economy also includes industry, manufacturing, technology, retail and tourism. … Sapporo hosts several winter events including the Sapporo Snow Festival which attracts millions of visitors each year.”

“Sapporo is … a popular destination for winter sports enthusiasts. It is also home to a thriving creative scene, with many independent shops, cafes, and galleries,” writes Tokyo Portfolio. “Most young people gravitate to Susukino and Nakajima Park, a large park just south of Susukino. Other popular neighborhoods include centrally located Odori and Chuo Ward, which have many shops, restaurants, and cultural attractions.”

5. Yokohama

Located just south of Tokyo, Japan’s second largest city is a bit more affordable and a little more tame than the capital city. The crime rate is fairly low, too, and there’s a large expat community. “Yokohama is a prosperous trade and port city,” states International Citizens. “Yokohama is famous for the ‘Chinatown’ – an area with over 500 shops, restaurants, and other Chinese businesses – making it the largest Chinatown in the world. It is also famous for its museums, including Cup Noodles Museum, Sankei-en Garden, and a futuristic waterfront Minatomirai.”

a view of a city at night from the top of a building
Yokohama (Photo by Alex Mesmer on Unsplash)

“After Japan’s seclusion was lifted in the mid-nineteenth century, Yokohama became another of the nation’s main harbors,” writes Movingist. “So many streets in Yokohama provide pedestrians with an entrance point to navigate the neighborhood. The neighborhood’s shape is smaller and more condensed than Tokyo’s, enabling visitors to tour without being intimidated by the city’s vastness.”

“Since it is a port city, the night view of the illuminated buildings near the shore is fantastic scenery as well as the daytime port view,” states Japan Web Magazine. “Some of the famous tourist spots include the Redbrick warehouse, the Yokohama landmark tower, and Yokohama Chinatown.”

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Note: This article was not paid for nor sponsored. StudyFinds is not connected to nor partnered with any of the brands mentioned and receives no compensation for its recommendations.