21 Best Places to Live in Japan

If you want to add excitement to your life, you might want to consider moving abroad. When searching for a new place to live, you’ll want to consider places that offer several things to do daily and qualify as the safest or most affordable to you. One option you should consider is Japan.

Japan has cities that many expats call home while working or studying abroad or living as permanent residents. With so many neighborhoods to choose from, you might find it challenging to find a place that’s right for you. 

We’ve compiled a list of what we consider the best places to live in Japan. By learning about each neighborhood’s livability, safety, and affordability, you can narrow down your options before moving to your ideal destination and save time asking yourself, “where do expats live in Japan?”

1. Kyoto

A photo of Kiyomizu-dera Temple in Kyoto, Japan. It shows a large traditional Japanese temple high on a hill lsurrounded by trees. The sun is setting and the sky is bright orange.

When asking yourself, “what is the safest city in Japan,” many people consider Kyoto, the former capital of Japan, before Tokyo, one of their top picks. 

Walkability:

Most Kyoto residents find the city easy to traverse due to its flat, gridded streets, making it ideal for walking or cycling. The city’s layout also makes it easy for you to travel by train, subway, or taxi. 

Crime Rates:

Kyoto has relatively low crime rates, making it one of the safest cities in Japan. Despite this low rate, you should take precautions wherever you go to avoid trouble. 

Number of Expats:

As a popular tourist destination and cultural center, Kyoto is home to over 60,000 expats. 

Key Takeaways:

  • Kyoto’s vital economic industries include information technology, electronics, and traditional handcraft goods. The city’s Gion district is home to several restaurants, markets, and geisha entertainment.
  • Kyoto is home to several cultural landmarks, including Buddhist temples and Shinto Shrines.
  • The average cost of living in Kyoto is ¥150,000, or approximately $1,369 per month. 
  • Although the city has a low crime rate, you should still take precautions when necessary; the area is also prone to occasional earthquakes and tsunamis.

2. Fukuoka

Another contender on our list for the best places to live in Japan is the city of Fukuoka. The city stands on the northern shore of the island of Kyushu. 

Walkability: 

Fukuoka has several shopping centers and restaurants you can access easily. There’s less crowding when walking the streets and riding city trains, making it ideal for someone’s permanent residence. 

Some notable areas of the city that include these facilities include:

  • Tenjin
  • Hakata Ekimae
  • Chuo-ku
  • Nakasu

Crime Rates:

Fukuoka is another one of Japan’s safest cities. It has a low crime rate, but you might want to stay vigilant to avoid petty crimes, such as vandalism or theft. 

Number of Expats:

Over 20,000 expats live in the capital city of Fukuoka. It’s one of Japan’s largest cities, ranking fifth in the nation’s population size. 

Key Takeaways:

  • Fukuoka is one of Japan’s most prominent startup cities, encouraging interested expats to participate in entrepreneurship. 
  • It’s more affordable and less crowded than other cities, despite its large population size.
  • The average cost of living in Fukuoka is ¥135,733, or approximately $1,236 per month.
  • It has a humid subtropical climate, with hot and humid summers and mild winters.

3. Yokohama

Yokohama is the second-largest city in Japan and served as one of the country’s major ports after ending the country’s isolation during the mid-19th century.

Walkability: 

Yokohama has several roads that give pedestrians an open path for traversing the city. The city’s structure is more compact and less widespread than Tokyo, allowing travelers to explore without getting overwhelmed by the city’s size.

Crime Rates: 

Yokohama has a low crime rate. Like other areas in Japan, you should expect the unexpected and watch your surroundings for anything suspicious. Some crimes that expats might encounter include pickpocketing and scams. 

Number of Expats: 

As one of Japan’s largest cities, it has a large population of over three million people. Over 90,000 expats are living in the city, specifically in the Yamate-cho and Minato Mirai districts.

Key Takeaways:

  • Yokohama is Japan’s second-largest city, population-wise. It’s an economically prosperous port city, thriving from its significance in the semiconductor, shipping, and biotechnology industries. 
  • Many expats enjoy Yokohama for its temperate climate, sports centers, museums, and eateries.
  • The average cost of living in Yokohama is ¥122,975.46, or approximately $1,123.31 per month.
  • Although Yokohama is one the most expensive cities for expats to live in, it’s less expensive than Tokyo. 

4. Osaka

A photo of the cityscape of Osaka taken at night. It shows dozens of large sky scrapers

Osaka, is an excellent option for expats seeking residence in a large urban environment, suitable for an active lifestyle.

Walkability: 

Osaka qualifies as one of the most walkable cities in Japan. Performing daily errands, including going to the grocery store, bank, or shopping center, is easy for most residents. Several train lines exist throughout the city to help you reach your destination faster and easily accessible on foot. 

Crime Rates: 

Although there are safe areas throughout Osaka, and the city has a generally low crime rate, crimes might occur more frequently than in other low-risk cities. Areas you should avoid in Osaka include Shinsekai, Tobita, and Airin/Kamagasaki.

Number of Expats: 

Osaka has over 230,000 expats living in its neighborhoods and districts, including Umeda, Namba, and Nishi-ku. 

Key Takeaways:

  • Osaka is one of the most expensive areas in Japan, but has high economic prosperity in several industries, including electronics, distribution, and communications. 
  • The average cost of living for a single person residing in Osaka equates to ¥116,608, or approximately $1,062 per month.
  • Most people enjoy Osaka for its extensive waterways, efficient public transportation, bustling nightlife, and cuisine. 

5. Nagoya 

Nagoya is Japan’s fourth-largest city, and qualifies as one of the best places to live. 

Walkability: 

Nagoya has a large port and bridge that’s easily accessible for people who want to walk or bike around the city. Some areas you can access include the Nagoya Aquarium, Fuji Antarctic Museum, and the Sea Train Land Amusement Park. 

Crime Rates: 

Nagoya has low crime rates. Some neighborhoods, such as the Sakae or Naka-ku entertainment districts, might be more prone to crime risks than other areas. 

Number of Expats: 

Nagoya has over 140,000 expats residing throughout its communities. 

Key Takeaways:

  • Nagoya is an economic center for its automobile industry. It’s also the headquarters for Furno’s marine electronics and medical equipment. 
  • Its cost of living is approximately ¥127,952 or $1,165 per month.
  • Its streets are accessible by foot or car, but doesn’t have convenient trains and subways. 

6. Kobe

Many people consider the port city of Kobe to be one of Japan’s best places for expats to live. 

Walkability: 

You can visit several restaurants, shops, and clubs within the city’s main hubs. You can walk the streets without worrying about traffic jams or crowded trains. Most of the streets are narrow and accommodate people who don’t drive. 

Crime rates: 

Like other regions in Japan, Kobe has a relatively low crime rate. However, it’s not uncommon for people to get involved with drug selling or use. 

Number of Expats: 

Kobe has approximately 42,000 expats from over 120 foreign countries. 

Key Takeaways:

  • Kobe has a scenic atmosphere due to its location near Osaka Bay and the Rokko mountain range. 
  • It has a humid subtropical climate with hot summers and cool or cold winters. 
  • The cost of living in this city is about $1,674, or ¥183,262.82 per month.

7. Kagoshima

Kagoshima is one of Japan’s largest cities, making it an ideal destination for people interested in living there. 

Walkability: 

Kagoshima has several parks that are accessible by walking through its busy streets. 

Crime rates: 

Kagoshima doesn’t experience much crime or violence.

Number of Expats: 

About 10,000 expats are living in Kagoshima’s communities.

Key Takeaways:

  • Kagoshima’s most iconic natural landmark is the Sakurajima volcano.
  • People enjoy Kagoshima for its subtropical climates, botanical gardens, and 
  • The average monthly cost of living in Kagoshima is around ¥119,712.16 or $1,091.
  • Several medical and educational facilities cater to international residents.

8. Kawasaki

Kawasaki might be ideal for people interested in living in the Greater Tokyo Area. 

Walkability: 

Kawasaki’s pedestrian paths are wide enough to support dozens of people. You can find scattered pedestrian bridges in several places in Kawasaki or Kanagawa.

Crime Rates: 

Kawasaki has low crime rates, but some notable minor crimes include vehicle theft, property theft, or vandalism.

Number of Expats: 

Over 5,000 expats live in Kawasaki.

Key Takeaways:

  • Kawasaki has several factories for heavy industry and high technology that builds its economy.
  • The cost of living is approximately ¥207,399.21 or $1,891 per month.
  • It’s the eight-most populated city in the country.

9. Naha

Naha is an ideal city to live in if you enjoy summer-like atmospheres. 

Walkability: 

Naha’s streets are very walkable. You can easily access several food markets, museums, and beaches on foot. You also have the option of renting a car when public transportation becomes limited.

Crime Rates:

Although Naha has a low crime rate, there are a few cases of crime in specific areas, including Naha City, Okinawa City, and Chatan-cho. Theft, vandalism, and organized juvenile crime occur occasionally. 

Number of Expats: 

As the largest part of the Okinawa prefecture, Naha has over 14,000 expats residing within the region. 

Key Takeaways:

  • Naha’s extensive transportation options make it easy for residents to traverse the urban area.
  • The average cost of living in Naha equates to ¥171,281 or about $1,563 per month. 
  • The Kokusai Dori shopping street has several shops that sell various types of goods. 
  • It’s the political, economic, and education center of the Okinawa Prefecture.
  • Its climate has hot summers and mild winters. 

10. Tokyo

Japan’s capital city might be an ideal option for you if you want to experience new things daily. It’s one of Japan’s most expensive cities, but also one of its most prominent destinations for expats. 

Walkability: 

Commuting in Tokyo is an enjoyable experience for many visitors and residents. The city has several winding streets that house several facilities. With several facilities in proximity to each other, you don’t have to waste time reaching your desired destinations.   

Crime Rates: 

Despite its large size, Tokyo is one of Japan’s safest cities due to its low crime rates. Some areas are more prone to crime, such as Kabukicho and Roppongi. 

Number of Expats: 

Over 550,000 expats reside in Central Tokyo. Although several expats can live in any area of Tokyo, many of them live in neighborhoods near the Minato-ku and Shibuya-kyu wards. 

Key Takeaways:

  • Tokyo is one of the most popular and expensive expat destinations in Japan. 
  • The average cost of living in Tokyo each month equates to about ¥120,760.85 or $1,100. 
  • It has a stable public transportation system that accommodates busy and relaxed lifestyles.

11. Sapporo

A photo of a Famous Shopping Arcade in Sapporo, Japan. It shows a large mall entrance with a high ceiling

Another affordable location that you might want to consider when living in Japan is Sapporo.

Walkability: 

Sapporo has streets laid out in a grid formation, making it easy for people to travel around the city and access its attractions. Many of them are within walking distance. The streets also have well-defined crosswalks for enhanced safety between drivers and pedestrians. 

Crime Rates: 

Sapporo has a very low crime rate, making it one of Japan’s safest cities. 

Number of Expats: 

Sapporo has an expat population of about 15,000 people. 

Key Takeaways:

  • Sapporo’s gridded streets are easily accessible and identifiable. 
  • The cost of living is around $1,644 or ¥180,067 per month. 
  • The most significant industries in its economy are information technology, retail, and tourism.
  • Sapporo has a humid continental climate with warm and humid summers and cold and snowy winters; the summers are generally less hot than other areas of Japan. 

12. Sendai

Sendai might be an ideal place to live if you want to enjoy tourist attractions or participate in local festivals. 

Walkability: 

Sendai has several highways connecting to other surrounding areas. 

Crime Rates: 

Sendai is a relatively safe city with low crime rates; it would be best to stay alert for scams or pickpockets.  

Number of Expats: 

Almost 14,000 expats live within Sendai’s communities. 

Key Takeaways:

  • Sendai’s economy relies on the service and retail industries.
  • Housing costs are less in Sendai than in other expensive cities; living costs are approximately ¥181,378 or $1,655 per month. 
  • Sendai has a humid subtropical climate that brings warm, wet summers and cool, dry winters.

13. Nara

Nara is a northern city bordering the Kyoto prefecture with mountains in the south and northeast and lowlands in the northwest. 

Walkability: 

Most of Nara’s landmarks and attractions are within walking distance of each other. You can find some of these significant landmarks, including Shinto shrines, and temples, such as the Todai-ji Temple, home of the revered Daibutsu, at Nara-koen Park.  

Many Nara residents might see sika deer wandering the city streets or parks. Nara’s streets aren’t cramped and encourage visitors to explore several venues daily freely.

Crime Rates: 

Nara has a low crime rate; it would be wise to stay alert as you travel around the city and keep your belongings secure when storing them at your home or carrying them. 

Number of Expats: 

Over 11,000 expats are living in Nara, Japan.

Key Takeaways:

  • Nara has a robust tourism-based economy.
  • The cost of living is around $1,249 per month, or ¥136,672.45.
  • Its historical temples and shrines are iconic symbols that showcase Japan’s earliest civilizations.

14. Nagasaki

Nagasaki is another destination we recommend for long-term residence. 

Walkability: 

Although you can walk around town, you can also ride trams to most of the city’s most popular areas. 

Crime Rates: 

Nagasaki has a low crime index, but we recommend staying vigilant whenever you walk the streets.

Number of Expats: 

Over 11,000 expats are living in Nagasaki’s districts.

Key Takeaways:

  • Nagasaki’s cost of living is approximately $1,573 per month or ¥172,196. 
  • The main commercial and residential areas have an excellent view of a large bay.

15. Utsunomiya 

Another destination that’s a tourism hotspot is Utsunomiya City. Many people find it a suitable location for working comfortably while raising a family. 

Walkability: 

Most of Utsunomiya’s historical sites are within a 20-minute walking radius from the city’s train station and connected sidewalks, qualifying it as one of Japan’s most walkable cities. 

Crime rates: 

When living in Utsunomiya, you’re less likely to experience vandalism, vehicle theft, or discrimination. 

Number of Expats: 

Approximately 36,000 expats are living in Utsunomiya’s neighborhoods.

Key Takeaways:

  • It’s rich with historical culture.
  • The monthly cost of living equals ¥141,385.90 or $1289.
  • It has excellent nightlife bars and clubs.

16. Saitama

Another option that we consider an excellent urban environment to live in is the capital city of the Saitama Prefecture. 

Walkability: 

Most of Saitama’s streets are walkable for its citizens. The city sits on several lowlands and plateaus at less than 20 meters above sea level. One landmark that defines the western portion of the city is the Arakawa River. 

Crime rates: 

Traveling around Saitama during the day is safe due to the city’s low crime rates. However, it would be wise to limit your time outside at night to avoid muggings, theft, or vandalism. 

Number of Expats: 

Saitama has over 150,000 expats in its community.

Key Takeaways:

  • Saitama’s economy thrives on commercial business; several of its wards also participate in product manufacturing, including automotive, food, and optical products.
  • It’s about 15 to 30 kilometers from Tokyo, making it an ideal destination for urban commuters.
  • The average cost of living in Saitama is ¥207,436.62, or about $1,896 per month. These costs might go up based on how much rent you pay or how many utilities you buy. 
  • The Saitama New Urban Center serves as the city’s general business district. 

17. Omotesando

This exquisite neighborhood located in Tokyo might be one image that pops into your head when somebody asks you, “where do the wealthy live in Japan?” Many consider it one of the most significant luxury shopping destinations in the country. 

Walkability: 

Omotesando’s streets link Harajuku and Aoyama for vehicle and pedestrian travel. While its main streets showcase the luxury fashion boutiques and retailers, its side streets have several small eateries and shops.

Crime Rates: 

Like other areas of Tokyo, Omotesando has low crime rates that you’re less likely to encounter. Traveling in groups and keeping your valuables secure can make your trips more manageable and safe. 

Number of Expats: 

Over 1,000 expats are living in Omotesando.

Key Takeaways:

  • Omotesando is one of Tokyo’s luxurious and expensive neighborhoods, solidifying its economic success through the fashion industry. 
  • The cost of living is between ¥140,000 and ¥194,000 per month. 
  • The zelkova-covered streets give the streets a natural aesthetic. 

18. Nishinomiya

One of the best places to live in Japan that isn’t as heavily populated as other cities is Nishinomiya, located in the Hyogo Prefecture. 

Walkability: 

Nishinomiya has several shopping malls you can access without driving. The streets are narrow, but you can access them through other modes of public transportation. Its train lines run parallel towards each other, heading east and west.

The Mukogawa Cycling Road is another defined path that you can ride without running into cars. 

Crime Rates: 

Nishinomiya has low crime rates, but it might be wise to take precautions when walking the streets due to its placement between two major cities.

Number of Expats: 

Since the city lies between Kobe and Osaka, several expats from both areas might reside in Nishinomiya. Thousands of expats enjoy the city’s sights each day. 

Key Takeaways:

  • Nishinomiya is a busy city that has several shopping centers for you to explore.
  • The cost of living is approximately $572 or ¥62,840.21 per month.
  • You can easily plan a day out in Osaka or Kobe due to their proximity to Nishinomiya. 

19. Hiroshima

A photo of the Great floating gate (O-Torii) in Miyajima, Hiroshima. It shows a partially submerged traditional Japanese gate

While some people associate the name Hiroshima with destruction, many people consider it a go-to destination for visiting or residing.

Walkability: 

Hiroshima has several connecting streets and bridges; the Aioi Bridge stretches over the Ota River and reaches Nakajima-cho. This bridge also serves as an entrance to the Hiroshima Peace Memorial Park. Its downtown areas have spacious roads complementing its modern buildings.

Crime Rates: 

Although Hiroshima is relatively safe, it would be best to take precautions while walking around the city during the day or night. 

Number of Expats: 

Population-wise, Hiroshima isn’t as crowded as other cities. Thousands of expats reside in Hiroshima’s neighborhoods, such as Motomachi and Kakomachi. 

Key Takeaways:

  • Over one million people reside in Hiroshima’s neighborhoods.
  • The city’s average cost of living is about ¥160,000 or about $1,461 per month. 
  • Expats living in Hiroshima enjoy its museums, sports stadiums, and annual festivals. 

20. Mitaka City

This option is ideal for people who want to live close to Tokyo, but prefer a more suburban environment before their daily commutes. 

Walkability: 

Mitaka City has several paths and roads that make it walkable for all residents. The most prominent places you can access with a vehicle include parks, schools, and food markets. The Tamagawa Aqueduct flows past Mitaka Station. 

Crime Rates: 

Like other areas of the Tokyo Metropolis, Mitaka City has a low crime rate; it’s best to watch your surroundings for anything suspicious and stay away from minor conflicts.

Number of Expats: 

Mitaka’s overall population is around 190,000 people. Like most of Tokyo, it’s home to several thousands of international expats. 

Key Takeaways:

  • Mitaka City is an ideal suburban commuter town for people who travel to other cities for work.
  • The average cost of living in Mitaka City is around $1,243 or ¥136,526.77 per month.
  • Its climate ranges from warm in the summer and cool in the winter.

21. Aomori

Although some people might find Aomori’s winters disruptive to daily activities, others might enjoy its environment as a change of pace.

Walkability: 

Aomori’s downtown area has several venues you can access on foot. The Aomori Bay Bridge is the city’s longest bridge, spanning 1219 meters and connects to several major roads, including Yanagi-machi Avenue.

Crime rates: 

Although some criminal activity might occur occasionally, Aomori’s crime rates generally remain low. 

Number of Expats: 

Over 6,000 expats are living in Aomori.

Key Takeaways:

  • It has a strong economy built on services, manufacturing, agriculture, and commercial fishing.
  • The cost of living is approximately $139,402.19 or $1269 per month.
  • The food prices are lower than Osaka, Tokyo, and Kyoto.
  • Its climate gives residents short, warm summers and long, snowy winters.

What are the Bad Areas of Japan?

Although there are several hospitable, safe places throughout Japan, there are some cities you should avoid living in, such as:

  • Kumamoto
  • Kamagasaki, Osaka
  • Kabukicho, Tokyo
  • Roppongi, Tokyo
  • Shinsekai, Osaka
  • Nakasu, Fukuoka

Conclusion

When narrowing down the best places to live in Japan, it would be wise to consider the region’s overall safety, along with your budget. Despite the differences in population size and city size, many of these locations are affordable and safe for anybody seeking adventure beyond the United States.

The streets in Japanese cities are typically pedestrian-family and allow easy navigation between several different attractions or blocks without driving through traffic. 

When asking, “what is the nice neighborhood in Japan?” most people suggest locations that welcome expats, don’t have rampant conflict, and provide affordable prices for travel and food.   

Do you know about any cities in Japan we missed that you consider the best? Let us know in the comments below.