Japan Guide: Best Places To Live In Japan As A Foreigner

Japan is among the nations which have the highest ratio of foreign population. The Land of the Rising Sun has 47 provinces, each of which will have dozens of different towns and cities. Is anyone curious to find out which cities that ex-pats choose to live in Japan? Below are the best places to live in Japan as a foreigner! These cities give an impression of not only the massive size but also the attractiveness of nature, people, culture and economy. Now, let’s follow Question Japan to explore those famous, unique, attractive and livable cities in Japan!

1. Best Places To Live In Japan As A Foreigner

1.1. Tokyo

Needless to say, the first position in the list of best places to live in Japan for foreigners is Tokyo. According to the statistics of the Ministry of Justice, in 2016, Tokyo saw a net 8.2% increase in the population of foreigners; and foreigners account for approximately 21% Tokyo population. What a number! Located on Honshu island, the capital city of Japan is a city mix of tradition, culture and high technology. Tokyo has an incredible variety of museums, galleries, shrines, and temples. In the city of Tokyo, there is a wide spectrum of places to visit, from the very distinguished Imperial Palace, home of the Emperor and past shogunates.

best places to live in Japan as a foreigner

The capital city of Japan is a city mix of tradition, culture and high technology

Besides the historic and architectural buildings, this is also a modern city with a variety of tall buildings, namely the legendary Tokyo Tower, and Tokyo Sky Tree, the new landmark of Tokyo, adequate transportation systems and modern public services. This is the reason why Tokyo is always the first choice of foreigners when considering the best places to live in Japan.

1.2. Osaka

Located in the Kinki region on Honshu island, Osaka city is the 3rd largest city in Japan with 9.1% of foreigners people. Osaka is not only the commercial center of Japan but also the industrial center, the main port, and the heart of the Kansai metropolitan area. Despite being located far from the bustling urban areas, this city attracts millions of tourists to Japan every year because of its unique beauty and the combination of tradition and modernity. Due to its proximity to the south of Honshu Island, the weather in Osaka is much warmer than in Tokyo, making it a great relaxing experience for those who want to travel here. Osaka is also popular for its food scene. It is not uncommon to meet a local who does not love to eat. This is a nominee for the best place to live in Japan for foreigners.

best places to live in Japan as a foreigner

Osaka – combination of tradition and modernity

1.3. Fukuoka

Fukuoka is the biggest city in the Kyushu region and the sixth biggest city in Japan. It is also the educational center of Kyushu, where many famous universities are located. This province is a livable place for international students, as it can meet almost every demand of international students from the bustling atmosphere to quiet areas for study, relatively cheap living costs, job opportunities along with many amusement parks and traditional festivals. Everything listed above is enough to satisfy even the most demanding people. Moreover, Fukuoka has 2 airports and convenient bus and shinkansen services, so it is highly accessible to the surrounding regions.

best places to live in japan

Port and tower at Fukuoka, Japan.

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1.4. Kyoto

Kyoto is the former capital city – the center of economy, culture, politics of Japan for more than 1000 years, and also the home to many traditional festivals and customs which are still remaining until now. This is why people always say that “If you want to explore Japanese tradition, you must visit Kyoto.” You can hardly find any signs of skyscrapers but only modern buildings in traditional architecture. Temples and pagodas are popular destinations of this province. When describing Kyoto, people always choose the word “wonderful”. If the modern lifestyle always keeps people snowed under, living in Kyoto is totally a different experience. You can enjoy the peace and tranquility – the typical lifestyle of Japanese in the old days.

best place to live in japan for foreigners

Kyoto – former capital of Japan

1.5. Sapporo

This city cannot be ruled out of the list of best places to live in Japan. Sapporo, the fourth most populous city in Japan, is located on the country’s northernmost main island of Hokkaido. Sapporo does not have many traditional buildings like Kyoto as well as modern buildings like Tokyo, so Sapporo is considered a city with a young history.

Living in Sapporo is ideal for those who are not from tropical areas. As this region is in the high longitude, snow is common sense. According to statistics, it is snowy in almost one-third of the year. As a result, in Sapporo, you can enjoy some of the best snow and ski resorts in the all-of-the world and have a chance to take part in the Sapporo old-established winter festival. However, the average temperature in summer is just around 25°C, so it is quite comfortable. In this weather, the city is also widely visited, especially during April to May for the cherry blossom viewing (hanami).

Sapporo – the snow land

This city is home to the well-known Ramen and more-than-120-year-old beer manufacture. Sapporo is a fairly clean and clean city with small tree-lined streets, making it an ideal place for people to travel, to rest and stay away from the suffocating atmosphere of the city. And if you love the subtlety, the feeling of enjoying the comfort of freshness, the city of Sapporo is a great choice for you!

1.6. Yokohama

Yokohama is the second biggest and also second-most populous city of Japan. It is also the largest seaport in Japan and one of the commercial centers of Tokyo. This city is the pioneer in using gas lanterns, selling ice creams, using a vacuum cleaner, opening the first tennis club in Japan; and it was the first place where the daily newspaper was printed. If you are claustrophobic and still enjoy the bustling lifestyle, Yokohama is not a bad suggestion. This city is much like Tokyo. There exist lots of skyscrapers, modern public services, and facilities. However, accommodation is cheaper; houses and pavements are larger, which can ease the suffocating atmosphere. Another good thing about Yokohama is its easy access to the capital city of Tokyo. It is also close to many other modern cities and the sea.

Yokohama’s Minato Mirai waterfront district

2. Criteria for considering the best places to live in Japan as a foreigner

2.1. Language ability

The language ability is among the most important criteria to consider the best places to live in Japan. In small towns or provinces, as agriculture is dominant and the number of foreigners is not very high, the residents don’t have a high demand for foreign languages. Unlike rural areas, cities are the convergence points of ex-pats. Many offices in cities like Tokyo and Yokohama also have English translation. Hence, if your Japanese is still poor, it is advised to choose to live in rural areas.

2.2. Accessibility

Like many big cities in the world, cities in Japan have convenient and reliable transportation systems. Big cities like Tokyo, Osaka or Yokohama have an extensive bus network in addition to its dozen subway lines and train systems that link to the surrounding areas. Thus, big cities are highly accessible.

However, in rural areas, public transportation systems are not very available, so if you choose to live in these areas, owning a personal vehicle is necessary.

2.3. Job opportunities

As mentioned earlier, agriculture is dominant in rural areas, there are fewer job opportunities and chances of promotion for ex-pats. Many foreigners who have worked in rural areas several years are now moving to cities which can offer them a variety of job opportunities, career stability and more chances of promotion.

2.4. Accommodation

The thought of accommodation in Japan calls to mind two things: expensive and space. “Expensive” because Japan as a whole is an expensive country, with Tokyo being one of the most expensive cities in the world. The rent in Tokyo is high or even much higher than that in rural areas, but houses are not very large. As a matter of fact, the more populous and modern the city is, the higher the rent and the more narrow the houses.

2.5. Personality

The decision to choose where to live also depends on your personality. If you enjoy peace and tranquility, Kyoto or other rural provinces are the best choices for you. However, if you love the dynamism, hustle, and bustle, the countryside is not your cup of tea.

2.6. Integration

Living in a small town is also suitable for establishing social connections. Many ex-pats living in rural areas cherish the idea that they are part of a community. This type of relationship may be too hard to find in the city where people are too busy.


Expats worldwide love living in Japan. The country is beautiful, with a vibrant and rich culture. After reading our suggestions as well as criteria for considering the best places to live in Japan as a foreigner, have you decided on your choice of residence yet? If you have any other suggestions, feel free to leave a comment below and then we will discuss further.

About Yuu Sato

Yuu Hiasa has been working in hospitality industry since 2003. In the past, he used to work as a tour guide and now he is running his business of supplying comfortable accommodations in Japan. Thanks to this experience and his passion for writing blog, the articles by him provides awesome tips and things to do when you are traveling in the country of cherry blossoms.