Apr 26, 2017
City or rural, that is the question. When foreigners look towards the East and see Japan, the most common image that comes to mind is Tokyo: The Shibuya crossing, Akihabara, Shinjuku station, the night scene of the lit-up Skytree. Those who dug deeper into the culture of Japan see a different picture: the grandmas working in the rice paddies, the trees along the little creek, the old wooden houses with paper doors and the children playing outside as the cicadas sing (or scream, depending on your perspective).
These two images resemble the two very different sides of both. Both are part of the country, but they don't co-exist close to each other, so many visitors in the country as well as local citizens all have this question to settle on: Do they want to live in the city, or the rural side of Japan?
Living in the city is of course, all about its conveniences, energy, and opportunities. To reside in a place like Tokyo means that the city never sleeps, literally. Any part of the city is within the reach of a couple train transfers, so there are always activities for you to do. You can spend your morning in Ueno park, hop over to Shibuya for a quick lunch and shopping, then travel to Roppongi for a beautiful and romantic dinner. And if you're not quite ready to go home yet, you can stay out and keep drinking until you've had enough and want to spend a night at karaoke or a manga cafe. These can all happen spontaneously, because that's just how convenient the city is.
There are, of course, a whole lot more job opportunities too in cities. While English teachers are needed all over the country in private and public institutions, jobs of other fields, especially the more focused careers will likely have their headquarters in cities like Tokyo, Nagoya, Osaka and others. Many choose to live in or at least close to these places just to open themselves up to opportunities to fulfill their ambition in life.
Life in the countryside, on the other hand, just isn't the same, because people who live there aren't seeking for the same. At least, I hope they weren't. Living in the rural side of Japan is all about the peace, harmony, and nature. Being satisfied with what is around you so you can focus on the blessings you have in life and earth, rather than chasing after the shining lights and booming echoes. Surely it isn't convenient, but when peace and time is what you have, there is no need for convenience and there isn't anything that cannot be handled. People in the countryside are also much nicer and more open to each other because they understand the importance the humanity better when they don't live a life that requires you to squeeze your arm and leg onto the next rapid train to attend the next business meeting. A few people may have chosen the rural side for saving money, but even more people are there to save time and space in their heart for peacefulness.
As a man who has lived in both, I have experienced and understood the merits of each. They are entirely different from each other, and being as greedy as I am, it is really difficult to select one over the other. Deciding where I want to go next is a constant struggle, and I imagine this struggle applies to people alike not only in Japan, but anywhere in the world with a developed city-side.
However, I also believe that there's the third option, the Suburban area. The outer edges of Tokyo, for example, provides some of the nature and peace that I long for from the rural side of Japan, but at the same time, a quick hop onto the train with some extra minutes will take me out into the heart of the city, where I can feel rushed and energized until I've had enough and decide to head back home to calm down.
I used to live in Saitama, and personally, that was the perfect balance for me. I didn't have the extremes of either side, but I also didn't want them. It was convenient enough, it was peaceful enough, it was just enough for me, and I imagine that other surrounding prefectures like Kanagawa and Chiba, or other prefectures or outer edges around other major cities in Japan can offer similar feelings for those who have experienced the goods of both the city and rural side and just couldn't give up either.
Thanks for reading.
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I am living in Fujisawa now, 3 stations from the beach and 45 minutes to Shinjuku. Highly recommended for your next apartment.