Japan is an island nation in East Asia with a population of more than 126,150,000 people. Consequently, the island country is one of the most densely populated nations in the world. Japan’s capital and largest city are Tokyo, and the country generally enjoys a thriving economy and a high quality of life. The country’s economy is the third-largest in the world by nominal GDP. Japan is well-known across the globe for its cuisine, traditional culture, literature and art. Additionally, the country is made up of 6,852 islands, and 73% of the terrain is forested, mountainous and free of agricultural, industrial and residential activities.
Is Japan a good place to live? Yes, Japan is a good place to live, because of its excellent public transportation system, courteous residents and a state of cleanliness. In addition, the country has superb souvenir shopping, amazing greenery, vibrant nightlife, and magical night views. On the downside, fruits and vegetables are generally expensive, and some rules or laws may seem odd to foreigners.
Have you gotten a job offer to work in Japan or just want to move there for leisure purposes? No matter the case, it’s likely that you have questions about the Asian country. What are the best/worst neighborhoods in Japan? What are the crime levels? Who are the biggest employers? What is the average salary? What are the best places to retire? In this post, I aim to give clear answers to such questions and more.
IS JAPAN A GOOD PLACE TO LIVE?
Expats around the world look forward to living in Japan, because of its beauty and vibrant culture. The choice of where to live in Japan mainly depends on individual lifestyle needs, available local amenities, and the presence of entertainment opportunities. But, in general, Tokyo, Osaka, Yokohama, Kyoto, Fukuoka, Sapporo and Fujisawa are considered some of the best Japanese cities to live in.
Tokyo is one of the best cities to live in, because of its numerous high-paying job opportunities and massive exploration opportunities. Most expatriates who have no problem with city living may discover that the Meguro, Minato and Shibuya wards of Tokyo are extremely inviting. However, Tokyo may not be suitable for everyone, because of the high housing costs and super-busy streets.
If Tokyo doesn’t work out, Osaka is an excellent alternative. It is the second-largest city in Japan with a friendly and relaxing ambience. Osaka also offers the best cuisine and is famed as “Japan’s kitchen”. In addition, it has cheaper housing options than Tokyo. However, Osaka does not have adequate street signs, which makes getting around difficult for newcomers.
Expats seeking a laidback feel will definitely love Nagoya. Life is slower here compared to Tokyo and Osaka, and many foreigners are engaged in vehicle manufacturing businesses.
For those who do not like city living, Japan also offers excellent small-town options. For instance, the small town of Hokkaido is not over-populated and offers one of the most affordable accommodations in the nation. However, smaller towns present a communication problem, because not many of the locals understand English.
Japan is considered a safe country with generally low crime rates. Nevertheless, the country does have several bad neighbourhoods, which are categorized into red-light districts and slums. Some of the areas that have a bad reputation in Japan include Kabukicho, Kamagasaki, Roppongi, Shinsekai, Susukino, Nakasu, and Ueno.
So, what about the education system? Japan’s basic school system consists of six years of elementary school, three years of middle school, three years of high school and four years of university. Going through elementary and middle school is mandatory, and students typically take examinations in order to proceed to high school and university.
Moreover, Japan offers a vibrant social life for residents and expats alike. There are plenty of leisure opportunities for expats, like learning about flower arrangements, making local dishes, and structuring gardens. In addition, Japanese has plenty of Karaoke establishments where attendees get to eat and have fun singing their favourite jams. Another popular pastime is reading Manga magazines or visiting a Manga café to relax and drink while reading. Mountain climbing, visiting the countryside, and going to shopping malls are other excellent leisure opportunities for expats.
IS JAPAN A GOOD PLACE TO WORK?
Japan’s economy is market-oriented and well-developed. The island nation is one of the G7 (Group Seven) countries, and it has a GDP of approximately 5 trillion. Japan’s largest industries include agriculture, manufacturing, fishing, tourism, mining, petroleum exploration, and services.
Agriculture plays a substantial role in the country’s economy and contributes about 1.4% of the countrywide GDP and around 12% of the nation’s land is suitable for farming. The manufacturing sector is highly diversified with many advanced and successful fields, like consumer electronics, automobile manufacturing, optical media, optical fibres and facsimile. Some of the country’s motor vehicle companies are Toyota, Nissan, Mazda, Isuzu, Subaru, Honda, Mitsubishi and Suzuki. In addition, Japan is home to several motorcycle firms, such as Kawasaki and Yamaha.
Over 50% of the overall fish production in the country comes from offshore fishing by medium-sized boats. Deep fishing by large vessels accounts for the other portion of the overall Japanese fishing activities. Some of the seafood species that are captured include clams, crabs, mackerel, salmon sauries, sardines, trout, tuna, and Pollock. Freshwater fishing includes species, such as trout and salmon.
Japan’s tourism industry has been experiencing growth over the years. Many people come to the area to enjoy the numerous ski resorts, luxury hotels and cultural centres.
The service industry is another critical part of Japan’s economy, and makes up about 75% of the total output. Banking, insurance, telecommunication, retail, real estate, and transport are some of the primary fields in the service industry. The major companies in the sector are Mitsubishi Estate, Mizuho, Softbank Japan Airlines, Nomura and Mitsui Sumitomo.
Japan generally enjoys low levels of unemployment. At the end of 2019, the rate of unemployment in the country stood at 2.2%. However, after the outbreak of the Corona Virus (COVID-19), the rate rose to 2.4% in January, 2020.
When it comes to the earning potential, the average salary in Japan is $115,882.97 (12,400,000 JPY) per year, or $9,719.22 (1,040,000 JPY) per month.
IS JAPAN A GOOD PLACE TO BUY A HOUSE?
Buying a house is an excellent choice for expats who want to stay in Japan for an extended amount of time. Traditional Japanese wooden houses can last for a couple hundred years, and concrete buildings can last for 50-60 years.
However, nowadays, it is possible to find concrete products that can last for 100 years. The lifespan of a home generally depends on how well the owners maintain it. A lot of people are choosing to renovate homes constructed in the 1970s and 80s because it is more inexpensive than constructing a new house.
The cost of buying an apartment in the city centre is $9,069.20 per square meter or $2,686.68 per square meter outside the centre.
In terms of renting, in the city center, a 1-bedroom apartment costs $854.66 per month, and a 3-bedroom costs $1,959.78 monthly. The monthly rental prices are cheaper outside the city center at $558.39 for a 1-bed apartment and $1,083.07 for a 3-bed apartment.
IS JAPAN A GOOD PLACE TO RETIRE?
Japan is a popular place to retire, because of its scenic beauty, artistic cuisine, rich culture, natural hot springs and numerous World Heritage Sites.
However, retiring in this country comes with some challenges. For starters, Japan does not have a formal retirement visa plan. Therefore, expatriates need to apply for a work/spouse visa, or go through the long process of acquiring a permanent resident visa.
Getting a permanent resident visa can take 3-10 years, based on one’s circumstances, and demands intimate understanding of Japanese language and customs. An additional challenge is the country’s high cost of living, especially in Tokyo. Housing can be both pricey and somewhat small to numerous foreigners.
In spite of such challenges, a lot of expatriate retirees are still attracted to the beautiful and culturally rich country. And, Fukuoka, Kyoto, Sapparo, and Tokyo are considered some of the best retirement spots in Japan.
IS JAPAN A GOOD PLACE TO VISIT?
With its ancient culture, exquisite nature and spectacular modernity, Japan attracts millions of travelers from other countries.
One of the biggest tourist attractions are the Japanese pod hotels, which offer spa treatments, posh toiletries and top-notch amenities.
In addition, the Cherry blossom season in the country attracts many visitors who come to view the prettiest petals.
Another popular attraction is the Disneyland theme park in Urayasu, Chiba (east of Tokyo). The establishment was opened in 1983 as the first Disney theme park located outside of the United States. Studio Ghibli is a favorite spot for discerning animation fans, who want to enjoy Japanese cinema and art, and stock on souvenirs.
Furthermore, tourists get a chance to appreciate stunning forests for health purposes. Spending some time viewing natural scenery is known to boost immunity, decrease stress hormones, improve mental health, and bolster brain wellness.
Japan is also a good place to visit, because of its dazzling temples, animal-themed cafes, contemporary art haul, specialist vegetarian restaurants and skiing.
About the author: Marta Kovachek is the author of this article. She graduated from the University of Chicago with a master’s degree in Economics. Marta enjoys writing about the current economic situation and loves helping our readers to find their next "destination". From places to live to complex social and economic topics, we always enjoy Marta's work. Please contact us in case of any questions.