Live in Japan – The “Where”July 28, 2015
Now that you know what your employment options are and what you will need to get your new job in Japan, let’s talk about where to live.
I believe that where you work and live has the greatest impact on your perception of Japan. So, before choosing a job, you really need to think about where you want to live. You’ll need to think about what type of person you are and what types of things you like to do.
There are three basic “areas” available to you in Japan. You can either live in one of the major cities, one of the countless smaller cities or in the countryside. Each has a very unique experience to offer. And if you choose the one that fits your lifestyle, you’ll love everything about Japan.
City Life in Japan
There are tons of positives about living in a Japanese city. But with every up, there is a down. I’ll give you my take on the “Pros and Cons” of life in the city.
Transportation: Any large city in Japan, and even some smaller ones, will have awesome public transportation. There are taxis, buses, trains and subways that will take you to every corner of the metro area. There’s no need to own a car, a scooter or even a bicycle.
That being said, I do highly recommended the last one. Japan has very strict laws that protect pedestrians and cyclists. It has got to be one of the safest places in the world to ride a bicycle. It’s my favorite mode of transportation.
Entertainment: Finding something to do is super easy. There are more options for restaurants, bars and nightclubs than the more rural areas of Japan. You’ll have easy access to movie theaters, shopping and sporting events. And once you’ve done all that fun stuff, you can hit an all-you-can-drink karaoke hall and sing your heart out.
Employment: Since cities have more people, and people want to learn English, there are far more jobs available. Also, if you’d like to supplement your income, it’s much easier to find private students for one-on-one English tutoring outside of your job.
Housing: When I tell people I live in Japan, they always seem to mention that houses in Japan are small. This is partially true. The better way of saying this is – affordable houses in the cities are small. I mean SMALL!!
Most single foreign teachers in the cities live in either a 1K, a 1DK or a 1LDK. This translated is a 1-room apartment with a “K”itchen, a “D”ining area and a “L”iving area. Note that when I say one room, I mean all of these things are in that one room.
Think of it like this:
A 1K is like a hotel room with a kitchenette and your bed.
A 1DK is like a hotel room with a kitchenette and enough room for a small table and one or two chairs, plus your bed.
A 1LDK is like a hotel room with a kitchenette, a small dining area and a TV and sofa.
Depending on the city, age, condition, distance from the nearest train or subway and building amenities, this modest housing can run from USD $500 to $2000 per month.
Most teachers earn USD $2,500 gross per month. So they usually choose older apartments farther from the stations.
Population: If you are not good with crowds, then living in a Japanese city may not be your cup of tea. Morning commutes may be a bit too much for the agoraphobic in you. Just about everyone takes public transportation to work. And everyone needs to be at work at roughly the same time.
On the morning trains in cities like Tokyo, Osaka and Nagoya you will be uncomfortably close to people you have never met. You’ll get your feet stepped on. You’ll get coughed on. And you will come into contact with smells of passed gas, body odor and bad breath.
If you want to get a good idea of what I’m talking about, go to YouTube and do a search for Tokyo train rush hour. Keep in mind that Tokyo has a population of nearly 14 million people. The trains in Osaka and Nagoya are crowded, but not like this.
Rural Areas of Japan
In Japan, rural areas are not always rice paddies and fishing villages. Sometimes what looks like a thriving city at first, is actually just a small town with tall buildings. These areas come with their own good and bad qualities.
Peace and Quiet: One of the greatest things about living in the more rural areas of Japan is the silence. People from the cities escape to these places to reconnect with nature and forget about the stresses of living in the big city.
Time seems to move slower and people linger on park benches longer.
The People: Demographics in rural areas tend to skew older than in the major cities. There is also a tighter knit community. The people around you will know you moved in and you will be talked about.
Once you’ve been around a while and people realize you’re not that scary after all, they’ll start talking to you. Once you’ve visited the same shops enough you’ll start getting small discounts, or even free stuff.
It’s in these rural areas that the true heart of Japan and the Japanese people comes out.
Speak Japanese: Remember when I said people will start talking to you once they realize what a nice person you are? Yeah? I didn’t mean in English. Maybe sometimes, but most of the time it will be in Japanese.
People from these areas tend to have a more laid-back personality. They are more willing to engage in small talk with you, giving you the opportunity to practice using all that Japanese you’ve been learning.
English is not widely spoken anywhere in Japan. It is even more rare to find an English speaker outside of a major metropolitan area. So using Japanese will become a must.
No Public Transportation: The entire country of Japan is accessible via the JR train lines. But once you get into the rural areas, the trains are only there to either bring you in or take you out. Getting around is much more challenging.
Buses in smaller cities and in the countryside run few and far between. Sometimes there is only one bus a day in the more remote areas. In the centers there may be a few each hour. Nothing like the cities where you can get one almost every five minutes.
Taxis in these areas only hang out near the train stations. If you catch one on the street, it’s probably because the driver just dropped someone off and is returning to the station.
Having a car, a scooter or a bicycle is almost a necessity.
Fewer Jobs: Fewer people means less demand for English. Less demand for English means there aren’t very many job opportunities.
Most of the jobs in these areas are going to be ALT jobs and maybe some university jobs. Language schools have a hard time surviving in areas with low populations.
Not many foreigners live outside of the major cities, so finding people to hang out with may be difficult. Also, there usually aren’t many places to go out eating, drinking and dancing. There may be some, but there won’t be many options.