Comparing to Tokyo
There is no doubt about it, Tokyo is expensive. With Japanese apartments being so tiny, it can feel even more expensive to shelling out half your paycheck for a one-room apartment. According to the Japanese real-estate site Suumo, the average rent in Tokyo’s more popular wards is about 70,000 to 90,000 yen per month for a one-room apartment. On the same site, similarly sized apartments in Osaka average between 40,000 and 60,000 yen.
A difference in pay expectations offsets this cost. Still, price gaps only get more pronounced as you look at larger apartments. In the 2LDK category–pretty much the minimum for anyone looking to start a family–the average cost of an Osaka apartment tops out at around 120,000 yen per month. In Tokyo, apartments of this size begin near 150,000 yen and max out at nearly 250,000 yen in Minato-ku.
Price Versus Quality of Life
As we saw with rent, Tokyo is much more expensive than Osaka. But this disparity actually goes further than just rent; Tokyo has ranked as one of the most expensive places to live for years. In 2021, Tokyo ranked fourth globally (an improvement over 2020’s third-place rank, but still very high). Luckily, Tokyo also scored fourth on the same Global Livability index; while costly, it has the infrastructure and quality of life to match its price.
But! Tokyo isn’t the highest-scoring Japanese city on the list. As of the 2021 rankings, Tokyo loses to Osaka in both livability and expense. While Tokyo took fourth place in the cost of living, Osaka came in at a reasonable 24th. Of course, this means Osaka is one of the most expensive cities in the world. Still, it is on an entirely different scale when compared to Tokyo. Regardless of the vast difference in cost of living, Osaka comes in second for global livability. Think about that, Osaka ranks 20 spots lower than Tokyo in price but still comes out on top in terms of livability.
There is no getting around it; Tokyo has the most foreigners than any other city in Japan. According to 2020 immigration data, the population of foreigners in Tokyo was more than double that of Osaka. Adding neighboring prefectures like Chiba or Kyoto to the calculation only makes the difference more pronounced.
Osaka isn’t the middle of nowhere, but the difference in size means that the communities of foreigners in the area are smaller and might mean fewer opportunities to interact with non-Japanese people. Of course, if you’re looking for greater cultural immersion, this is great. But, it might not be so great if you are prone to homesickness and prefer to be around more people fluent in your native language.
It won’t surprise you, but Tokyo has by far the most direct international flights of any airport in Japan. Narita has 114 direct foreign destinations in 41 countries. This is more than double Kansai’s biggest airport, Kansai International Airport (KIX), with 52 destinations in 20 countries. While KIX does have routes to most of the world, there is a chance you will have to transfer planes or stop in Tokyo.