Best cities in Japan for expats

There are many things to think about when moving to Japan. The road, however, will not be easy. Wherever you are coming from, it’s very likely that the culture will be totally different from yours. And then there is the language to get used to, finding a perfect home, job… The list just goes on and on! Don’t worry, though! We are here to help! Before contacting Kokusai Express Japan and arranging your move, you will need to find the city where you are moving to. And in this article, we have made a pick of a couple of the best cities in Japan for expats!

What kind of life are you looking for?

Before we take a look at the best cities in Japan for expats, there is a number of things to consider. As it is in the rest of the world, Japan also has different cities for different people. You will need to know why you are moving to Japan and what you expect your life to be like here in order to make a good pick. Think about practical, but also personal factors. You will need to consider the cost of living and the accommodations. You need to pay attention to amenities and entertainment opportunities as well. Also, decide if it is a quiet life you are after or a fast-paced nightlife. Do you want to live secludedly or have some friendly locals eager to help you?

Usually, expats will flock to the biggest cities in a country. It’s the same case in Japan. Around 70% of expats live in the three biggest urban Japanese areas. These are Tokyo, Osaka-Kobe, and Nagoya.

Best cities in Japan for expats – Tokyo

Tokyo is the most famous Japanese city.
Tokyo is the most famous Japanese city.

Tokyo is probably the most famous city in Japan and is fairly known all around the world. It is also one of the best cities in Japan for expats. This is where you can find the most job, as well as the highest-paying ones. If you are looking for a career, Tokyo might be the easiest place to go to. Another great thing is that the cost of the living in Tokyo is pretty much the same as in other bigger Japan cities. This might be surprising to someone who has lived their fair share in cities like New York or Los Angeles. The expats usually live in the Minato, Shibuya, and Meguro wards, which are in the very heart of the city. However, there is a downside. The living accommodations here are quite pricey, which can put many people off. This is one of the main drawbacks of Tokyo.

Another thing that might make some people reconsider Tokyo is the size of the city. It’s a huge place, which means there are a lot of people here, too! The metro area has the population of almost 38 million people! This is a higher population than that of New York metro area, and it’s almost 7,000 people on a squared mile! So, if you are not a fan of highly populated cities, Tokyo might not be the place for you.

There is a solution to both problems that one might find with Tokyo, though! You can always make your new home in some nearby towns. For example, many expats choose to live in Yokohama. It is Japan’s largest port, just 25 miles away from Tokyo. Here, you can find a relaxed pace of life, unlike the rush of the big city. Most expats live in the Naka ward.

Best cities in Japan for expats – Osaka

Osaka is one of the best cities in Japan for expats.
Osaka is one of the best cities in Japan for expats.

If Tokyo is just too big and expensive for you, you can always try Osaka. It is the second-largest city in Japan. Together with Kobe, which is Japan’s second largest port, it forms a continuous Osaka-Kobe urban area. It is one of the best cities in Japan for expats – the population of foreign residents here is around 120,000 people. If you are looking for a more relaxed life, you can find it here. Unlike the haste and frenzy of the bigger city, they say people in Osaka are friendlier. And if you like a gourmet meal, then this is the right place for you! As well as being quite cosmopolitan, Osaka is also “the nation’s kitchen.”

There is a drawback to Osaka as well. Even though it had fairly cheaper accommodations than Tokyo, sometimes it can be harder to get around Osaka. This is because there are few street signs, so you will need a fair grasp of Japanese if you need help.

Best cities in Japan for expats – Nagoya and smaller cities

The last but not the least, we have the third largest urban area in Japan, and that’s Nagoya. The place has a slower pace than the other two metro areas, and a lot of its expats are connected to the vehicle manufacturing business.

Sapporo is great for nature lovers.
Sapporo is great for nature lovers.

There are also some smaller towns you can look into. Three of the most popular smaller towns are Fukuoka, Hiroshima, and Kagoshima. The area north of Tokyo, from Tohoku to Hokkaido, is, however, less populated. You can find really cheap accommodations here because of that. However, smaller places can often be harder for life. Pople here might not speak English, so you will need to learn a little bit of Japanese. Also since it is a smaller area, jobs will be harder to come by.

And finally, if you are an outdoors kind of person, you can look no further than Sapporo, the capital of Hokkaido. As mentioned before, the accommodations will be cheaper than the metro areas, and you can also enjoy hill-walking, skiing or white-water rafting. You won’t be alone either – around 10,000 expats live in Sapporo.


In conclusion, naming the best cities in Japan for expats can be kinda hard. There is a wide variety of them, and they all differ in unique ways. One thing is for sure – you will certainly enjoy your time here, and if the time for relocating from Japan comes, you will miss these wonderful areas dearly. Now, all you need to do is make your choice and start planning your next big adventure today!

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