Jul 3, 2017
Seeking slow, but cultured retired living–but where?
As a gaijin married to a Japanese citizen, we just returned from another six-week trip in Japan, living like locals, and re-visiting the cities of Kyoto, Okayama, Kurashiki, and Takamatsu for the purpose of finding a place to own and permanently reside. Our housing options considered range from a renovated machiya to a 2LDK mansion. We seek an environment balanced between the built and the natural. Any recommendations and why? How can we overcome the challenges of uprooting and becoming an expat?
Retired architect and professor with insatiable curiosity and the highest respect for Japanese culture. My best discoveries are made by walking and life is good with a "just enough" outlook and my wife by my side!
It really depends on how much social interaction you want with other foreigners living in Japan and what conveniences you want to be very close to. A lot of people retire in Okinawa, but the summers might be way too hot, (and the opposite is true for Hokkaido). I've heard good things about Tokushima Prefecture in Shikoku, but haven't been yet. They have set up a strong infrastructure for internet access and a lot of people who work from home are relocating there, in addition to big companies setting up satellite offices, to get out of crowded cities. What are the most important factors for you? What about Japan do you and your wife really love and want to have regular access to once you get here? For example think about the size of the city, access to public transportation and international airports, the cost of living, close to mountains or the ocean, close to local family, etc. These should really help you narrow down your options. Another possibility is renting short term to make sure you like a new to you area and get to know it better, then buying.
If I were in your shoes, I will choose renovated machiya. Traditional machiya was designed with sustainable architecture in mind. From lighting, indoor airflow and space efficiency etc ... The house will be cheaper then an apartment but after the renovation cost it will cost more. I think it will be worth it. I think you will hate most of the 2LDK mansion/apartment in Japan, most mansion's natural lighting is bad, you have to keep your intake fan on all the time. The best ways to overcome the challenges are joining the community events and volunteering, you will meet many expats and locals that are willing to help you adjust to a new culture. Living in a machiya also allow you to invite your neighbor for a cook out and your friends to stay over while they are visiting you.