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Tokyo vs. Osaka: Which is Better for Foreign Residents in Japan?

Osaka picture

Japan is home to several major cities, known collectively as the “Big Five Cities” which include Tokyo, Osaka, Nagoya, Sapporo, and Fukuoka. However, Tokyo and Osaka are particularly notable for their scale.

Many foreigners who come to live in Japan often ponder over which city is better to live in. Each city has distinct characteristics, making this choice quite significant.

In this article, we will explore the question, “Which is more suitable for foreigners living in Japan: Tokyo or Osaka?”

The Appeal of Tokyo

Tokyo, the capital of Japan located in the Kanto region, is considered one of the “three major cities of the world” alongside London and New York. With a population of about 14 million people, the influx of workers from neighboring prefectures such as Saitama, Kanagawa, and Chiba, as well as the influx of visitors on weekends, means the city’s scale effectively reaches 20 million people.

Let’s look at some of the advantages of living in Tokyo:

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Catching the Forefront of Trends

As one of the world’s major cities, Tokyo is always introducing new services and shops. Since most trends in Japan originate in Tokyo, living there allows you to experience these trends firsthand. If you love new experiences, Tokyo is highly recommended.

Meeting People with Diverse Values

While Osaka also attracts people from various regions, Tokyo goes a step further. People from all over the world gather here, bringing diverse values and creating opportunities for stimulating interactions. This is not limited to meeting Japanese people; you can interact with people from many different countries.

Abundant Job Opportunities

Although Japan is economically wealthy on a global scale, finding work can be challenging in rural areas. However, in Tokyo, where many companies are concentrated, there are always numerous job openings, making it unlikely to find yourself completely out of work.

Regular Events Every Week

As Japan’s hub, Tokyo hosts various events weekly, including artist performances and corporate events. Living in Tokyo allows you to enjoy a variety of attractive events easily.

The Drawbacks of Living in Tokyo

Where there are advantages, there are also disadvantages.

  • High cost of living
  • High rent
  • Too many temptations leading to excessive spending
  • Weak social connections with others
Tokyo picture

The Appeal of Osaka

Next, let’s discuss the specific advantages of living in Osaka:

Affordable Living Even in the Urban Area

In Tokyo, renting a small apartment like a 1R or 1K can cost between 70,000 to 100,000 yen per month. However, in Osaka, you can find similar accommodations for about 50,000 to 80,000 yen, offering significant economic benefits.

Generally More Livable

Although Osaka may not match Tokyo in terms of trends, events, and the number of companies, it ranks higher in terms of overall livability, which includes healthcare, environment, education, and infrastructure. In fact, Osaka has previously ranked third in the “World’s Most Livable Cities” index (Tokyo was seventh).

Friendly and Humorous People

People in Osaka are often considered to have the opposite personality type compared to those in Tokyo. They use the distinctive “Osaka dialect” and are quick to strike up conversations with strangers, always looking to end discussions with a humorous twist.

Delicious and Affordable Local Food

Like many places, Osaka has its own soul food, including affordable and delicious treats like takoyaki and okonomiyaki. These dishes are a big draw for visitors to Osaka.

Close to Kyoto and Nara

Foreigners often have a strong interest in Japanese culture, particularly temples and shrines. Famous sites like Kinkaku-ji, Ginkaku-ji, Horyu-ji, and Kiyomizu-dera are well-known, but there are nearly 5,000 temples in Kyoto and Nara combined. Living in Osaka allows frequent visits to these culturally rich neighboring cities.

The Drawbacks of Living in Osaka

Like Tokyo, Osaka is packed with attractions but also has its drawbacks:

  • Some might not adjust well to the local culture.
  • Comparatively worse public safety than Tokyo.
  • Many disregard traffic rules.
  • Many people have an impatient disposition.


Tokyo and Osaka both offer unique advantages and appeal depending on one’s values and the characteristics of each location. Consider these factors and your personal preferences when deciding where to live in Japan.

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