For over a millennium, Kyoto was Japan’s main city and capital. Though it’s been overshadowed by Tokyo, Kyoto remains a vibrant city where tradition meets the modern world. It’s certainly one of the cities not to miss on a visit to Japan, but what would it be like to live in Kyoto?
The great thing about Kyoto is that it has all the conveniences and modernities of Tokyo but it’s a lot less hectic. The city is surrounded by lush forests and mountains on all sides and is divided by the Kamo River, so it’s easy to escape the hustle and bustle and take a stroll among nature where it’s more peaceful. Otherwise, there’s plenty of life all around, amazing food, and a pretty vibrant nightlife fueled no doubt by the city’s student population. Due to its green surroundings, I imagine it’s a jaw-dropping place to watch the seasons change. Though some of the oldest and most beautiful parts of Kyoto like Gion and Arashiyama are always crawling with tourists, I’m sure it’s nice to occasionally be able to take a walk among the traditional wooden houses to have dinner.
One of the upsides of Kyoto compared to Tokyo is that it would be cheaper to live but still feel like a big city with a lot to do. Rent and utilities are considerably cheaper though consumer prices are comparable. Transport, on the other hand, is slightly pricier in Kyoto, which is ironic considering it’s not as convenient.
Getting around Kyoto is simple but not quite as simple as Tokyo. The public transportation system is vast and includes buses, trains, and subways. My biggest gripe with it is that unlike Tokyo, where you can seamlessly transfer from one mode of transport to another, some of the stations in Kyoto don’t connect, which adds some time to getting around. Bus transport is also not my favorite even though it’s just as efficient as other transport in the city.
While it’s still a big city, Kyoto doesn’t have the same job opportunities available as Tokyo, particularly for foreigners who don’t speak a word of Japanese. There are a lot of highly renowned universities in Kyoto, but I’d sooner join a traveling circus than pay money to go back to school.
It’s hard to differentiate between cities in Japan in terms of how nice people are because people are nice everywhere. The one noticeable difference is that unlike the people in the gargantuan metropolis that is Tokyo, people in Kyoto are more laid back. They don’t all seem like they’re in a rush to get to work, which makes for a more peaceful environment. Outside of that, everyone is incredibly sweet and helpful, even when there’s a language barrier – which is how all Japanese people are.
Kyoto’s neighbor Osaka has the reputation for being a foodie mecca, but Kyoto must not be too far behind. From the bustling food markets to even casual restaurants that are absolutely stellar, I would venture to say that the people of Kyoto benefit from some of the best dining in Japan. In fact, I have never had better beef than the wagyu beef I had in Kyoto. I wish I could eat it all the time. There is an abundance of delicious and culinarily diverse places to eat from the adorable Pontocho Alley to the feudal era Higashiyama Ward.
Total Livability Score 5/10
I do love how beautiful and serene Kyoto can be, but the heavy presence of tourists all year round might get suffocating and it might be difficult to get work as a foreigner.