Looking to move to Japan? The results are in for the best cities to live in, according to Japanese media company Nikkei Business Publications.
The research and consulting department at Japanese media company Nikkei Business Publications on August 22nd released “City Brand Ranking ––Livable Cities 2023,” a list of the top 200 locations to live in Japan in 2023.
The cream of the crop
Musashino City (武蔵野市) in West Tokyo ranked in at the number one most livable city, overtaking last year’s top pick Chiyoda Ward (千代田区) which fell to second place this year.
Musashino City is a top favorite according to other survey results too. Toyo Keizai carries out a similar survey every year, which in 2022 named Musashino City the number one place to live. This year, it moved down a rank by a 0.2 margin loss to Nonoichi City in Ishikawa Prefecture.
Nikkei Business Publications surveyed twenty thousand people active in the labor market between May 18th and June 7th this year. The survey targeted subscribers to Nikkei Business Digital Version.
Each survey participant gave an account of how livable their current city is and how other cities they had recently resided in compared. The study measured the livability of a city based on eight criteria: safety, comfort, convenience, infrastructure, medical care, childrearing, local government, and vibrancy.
The survey ranked these as the top seven places to live in if you are a business person.
1st Musashino City (武蔵野市)
2nd Chiyoda Ward (千代田区)
3rd Chūō Ward (中央区)
4th Minato Ward (港区)
5th Bunkyō Ward (文京区)
6th Nagakute City (長久手市)
7th Nishinomiya City (西宮市)
The same survey by Nikkei Business Publications also breaks down the top livable cities by Japan’s six regional areas.
Here’s an overview of what makes these places the best place in each region.
Natori City, Hokkaido/Tohoku area
Natori City has a population of 79,657 people, of which 490 are reportedly foreigners.
The Japanese call Natori City “the doorway to Tohoku,” or tohoku-no-genkanguchi (東北の玄関口) because it grants easy access to the region with its Sendai Airport, JR Tohoku Main Line, and National highway–––all major travel routes.
Natori City sits next to the bustling Sendai City, making it the sweet spot for affordable living. It’s not so dead in the middle of Sendai City that rent and living costs are as high. And it’s not too far out that commuting every day into the city for work is impossible. From Natori Station to Sendai Station, it takes only 13 minutes.
These sweet spots are called bed towns (ベットタウン) in Japanese, alluding to the function of towns like Natori–––to just sleep, affordably. And then spend waking hours at work in the city.
Natori City is also one of the 1,741 cities, towns, and villages that the Japanese government will pay up to one million yen to move there as part of its project for regional revitalization.
Musashino City, Kanto area
Musashino City has a population of 144,641 people, of which 3,526 are foreigners. Netizens seem to share a consensus that what makes living easy in this city is Kichijōji Station.
Four major train lines––JR Chūō Line, Sōbu Line, Tokyo Subway Tozai Line, and the Keio Inogashira Line––run through this one station. It takes only 16 minutes by train to Shinjuku and Shibuya without any transfers.
The city’s excellent transportation extends to its bus system. The Mū Bus (ムーバス), named after “Mu” from Musashino City, charges only one hundred yen to go anywhere across the vast bus route of the city.
Nagakute City, Chūbu area
Nagakute City has a population of 60,993 people, of which 1,081 are foreigners. What makes this a popular choice for many homemakers is in line with the trend that good transportation defines the level of livability in Japan.
A fun fact about Nagakute City’s transportation is that it has Japan’s only train that uses magnetic levitation technology. The train dubbed Linimo (リニモ) levitates 8 millimeters above the rail and drives automatically.
The city also has an all-round one-hundred-yen bus system like Musashino City that covers eight routes. The bus fee is free for pregnant women, and children under the age of middle school. Guardians traveling with children under school age and people with disabilities also get a free bus ride.
Nishinomiya City, Kinki area
Nishinomiya City has a population of 483,974, of which 8,075 are foreigners.
This city owes its popularity to Nishinomiya North Exit Station which connects Osaka and Kobe via the Kobe Line, as well as Imazu and Takrazuka via the Imazu Line. These areas are where work offices and leisure spots concentrate, making access to them an appealing part of life in Nishinomiya City. Nishinomiya is also home to the famous Hanshin Koshien baseball stadium.
Marugame City, Chūgoku/Shikoku area
The name “marugame” may be more associated with slippery chewy udon noodles than a dream spot for convenient living. Or perhaps the name might be reminiscent of March this year when a frog went viral for swimming around in one of the company’s products.
Ironically, there is not a single Marugame Udon chain restaurant in Marugame City. The worldwide favorite of Japanese noodles Marugame Udon, or marugame seimen (丸亀製麺) in Japanese, began its business in an entirely different prefecture––Hyogo prefecture. But the sanuki udon (讃岐うどん) recipe that Marugame Udon serves did in fact originate in Marugame City.
Going back to the matter of why Marugame City is so livable, the city is known for childcare support, according to survey results.
Fukuoka City and Dazaifu City, Kyūshū/Okinawa area
These two cities came in at a tie for this southernmost region of Japan.
Fukuoka City is known for its cheap real estate prices that are as low as forty to fifty thousand yen of rent per month even in the middle of the city for a one-room/one-kitchen setup. The number of buses is so high that the city is called basu-ōkoku (バス王国), which means “bus kingdom,” making transportation super easy.
Furthermore, this city is known also as Japan’s food heaven. The quality is said to be great, and the prices are very low. A bowl of ramen can be as cheap as three hundred yen.
Dazaifu seems to attract positive opinions as a livable place for, as with other places in this survey, great transportation.
Best place to live for immigrants
Thinking of moving to Japan? You may also want to consider our post on the best cities to live for immigrants!
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