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


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.