Hi. It sounds like being provided accommodation and getting a lower net salary is the better deal, since I can't imagine living and paying rent all out of 255,000 in Osaka/Kobe for an expat family of 3. But first ask to see the accommodation.
We moved to Kobe in early 2012 and looked at apartments in Osaka and Kobe. Osaka was just ranked 3rd most expensive city in the world for expats. Kobe expat apartments were comparable in rental cost to Osaka. We looked at 2-3 bedroom "expat" apartments ("luxury") of a size comparable to a Western apartment in the US and the rents were about 500,000-800,000 JPY per month. We did find some landlords were willing to negotiate to include utilities or gym membership, etc. According to our real estate agent, most landlords don't want to deal with foreigners so we only looked at expat friendly buildings.
Plus there is also the security deposit,brokerage commission, and key money gift to the landlord. It ends up being a huge amount out of pocket at lease-signing. Your employer will likely need to probably sign as a guarantor of your lease, regardless of whether you pay the rent or they do. You can get a much cheaper rent if you take an unfurnished apartment, if your furniture is being shipped or if you can just buy some cheap Ikea stuff. Most places we looked at with both furnished and unfurnished apartments on offer differed dramatically in price depending on whether or not the unit was furnished. If you are staying for more than a few months, it's worth it to get unfurnished.
Anyway ask to see the accommodation you'll be provided. The apartments my husband's employer's real estate agent showed us were to the local standard, clean and safe, but nondescript and very, very small, so a 3 bedroom apartment would be approximately 700SF. In the US, that would be a small 1 bedroom apartment. Also, the more local style apartments do not often come with a full-size fridge, an oven and full range-top or cooktop, or a western style clothes dryer or a regular shower. The Japanese style clothes dryer, if available, consists basically of hanging your wash in the bathroom with a strong fan on, so most locals hang their wash on the balcony. Personally, I wasn't willing to give up my creature comforts and I wanted western size and style kitchen and laundry appliances, and a western style shower instead of just a bath, and bedrooms large enough to accommodate beds instead of soft futons spread on the floor at night and folded neatly into a cupboard by day. We ended up looking on our own through an English-speaking real estate agency specializing in helping expats.
Owning a car seems to be very expensive although we don't have one here yet. Trains are reasonably priced but not cheap. Taxis are outrageously expensive. Exactly 1 hour taxi ride from Kobe to Kansai Airport (KIX) cost me 29,000 yen. Thankfully my employer was paying for that for a business trip; I almost had a heart attack when I saw the cost! Maybe there were a lot of bridge tolls to account for en route but it seemed like highway robbery! A half hour taxi ride within Kobe costs me about 5,000 yen.
Food is also expensive. If you buy imported (Western) food, it's of course even more so. You can check the prices of western imported food that, once living anywhere in Japan, you can order online through fbcusa.com (FBC's store is on Rokko Island in Kobe), most items cost about 3-4 times their US price. You can get a membership to Costco but even there the prices aren't so great. In the regular supermarket near us, an orange would be about 100 yen and a large apple may cost 200-500 yen per apple. Clothing and toiletries are more expensive here than in the US, UK or Australia, and it's hard to find things in sizes to fit. We bought a lot of new clothes before moving here and also included a few boxes of toiletries in our container shipment, and I buy additional items in bulk when traveling in other countries.
Dining out is very expensive at western style restaurants and more reasonable at local Japanese establishments. For example, dinner for 2 at Hard Rock Cafe in Osaka, no appetizer, no alcohol, just 2 main dishes, 2 sodas and 2 desserts set us back around 80,000 yen.
They do have Babies R Us and Ikea where you can get stuff for your baby although I've found the prices on most things are about 2-3 times higher than in the US. Some things we can't get here at all, or want to get a specific brand or specification, and then we get those things sent to us by relatives back home.
After moving here from the New York City area, we spend loads more money now on rent, taxis and food than ever before, and those are our biggest areas of expenditure. We spend far less on going to see movies, live theatre and concerts, etc because there's no point in going, given our lack of Japanese language skills. Thus it's important to also get a good cable tv package that includes English language channels. We negotiated to get the cost of ours included in our rent.
Also, for some perspective, my husband and I are both professionals with doctoral degrees who work in pretty decent jobs for large corporations and we each make a relatively high middle class income, without being wealthy. We are probably spoiled in our standard of living and wanted to keep it about the same as it was before we moved to Japan. Both of our respective employers agreed to relocate us to Japan but only 1 of our 2 employers gave us an expat package. I realize our experience as corporate expats in a luxury building is probably much different than many who are here with little to no expat package, whether as students, military, teachers, etc. I'm sure there are better deals and cheaper ways to live for people who are more frugal and willing and able to adopt a more local lifestyle, and also who have some ability to speak Japanese and find things out more easily. I'm just giving you my own individual experience.
Kobe is the capital of Hyogo Prefecture and one of Japan's ten largest cities. Located between the sea and the Mt. Rokko range, Kobe is also considered one of Japan's most attractive city. Kobe has been an important port city for many centuries. It's port was among the first to be opened to foreign trade in the 19th century alongside the ports of Yokohama, Nagasaki, Hakodate and Niigata. You can also go to Kyoto with famous sightseeing spots in 1 hour by train.
I will introduce representative sightseeing spots and special products of Kobe below.
Kobe Beef is a prized Japanese delicacy and probably the most widely-known regional specialty food in Japan. It is one of several breeds of Wagyu, or Japanese cattle, which are bred throughout the country and often associated with the area where they are raised.
Arima Onsen is a famous hot spring town within the city limits of Kobe, but on the opposite side of Mt. Rokko from the city center. The town lies in a natural mountain setting, yet is close enough for Kobe and Osaka residents as an easy and popular day trip or weekend getaway.
Shin-Kobe Ropeway is one of three services that lifts tourists up the southern slopes of the Mt. Rokko chain. The ropeway departs from next to Shin-Kobe Station, Kobe's shinkansen station. As it ascends, it passes by the Nunobiki Waterfall and the Nunobiki Herb Garden, giving a nice aerial view of both. The highlight of the ride lies in the observation deck located just beside the top station, which offers spectacular views of Kobe and is a popular night view spot.
Also, it is difficult to rent a apartments in Kobe, because few people can speak in English. I will introduce the only real estate service for foreigners I know below.
ERent, chat based real estate agents in Kobe.
It's a chat-based online real-estate agency. What you need to do is quite simple. Just talk to an agent about your ideal property and location. Then they will suggest a lot of options that the most suitable for you. They can offer you any kind: Cheap or Expensive, Furnished or Not-furnished, etc.
Please take a look at this as well. It is a point to note when a foreigner rents a room.(
Kobe International Community Center
Hope this info helps you somehow.
Thanks for the request. Not sure if 31 now counts as a young adult any more but here's my 2 pence/cents/yen. The answers given aren't necessarily in order and are just a highlight of some of the things I love.
- Kansai is one of the most open and friendly regions of Japan. I my apartment building people often greet each other in the lifts and corridors and despite my horrific Japanese they often are patient and don't mind too much. Also you get invited to quite a few community events which are a great way of trying to improve your Japanese. Also the local dialect, Kansai-ben (関西弁) just sounds so much nicer than the standard Kanto Japanese that you are taught in classes.
- There is a higher proportion of foreigners than other cities.Historically Kobe was the second port opened to foreigners after the Meiji restoration and so it has quite a strong foreign influence that impacts on its food, and culture. This is still true for the foreign restaurants/bars that you can go to if you miss home and/or are sick of rice. Plus you don't get stared at a much as if you went to some of the more rural area.
- Its just about the right size and it’s easy to travel to Osaka and Kyoto. Public transport in Japan is generally excellent and you can get into the heart of Osaka in about 30 minutes for about 300–400 yen. This is quite useful if you miss some stuff associated with living in a big city. Coming from London it took a couple of months to adjust to the smaller size and slower pace of life. But with Osaka not being so far away it was always nice to head across whenever I wanted to do something totally different. Plus Kyoto is only 75 minutes away
- Food. Aside from the stereotypical answer of Kobe beef. It seems there's always a new place to try out. The quality of foreign food is also pretty diverse (especialy for those on a lower budget). I've eaten everything from Indian to Mongolian food here. The only thong I've yet to find is a decent dim sum restaurant.
- There’s always something to do outside. The ease of public transport helps here. but there's often some kind of activit or event going on in the weekend or if, like me, crowds aren't your thing then you can always get a bike and tour around quite a bit of Hyogo or if you're feeling fit you can try cycling up the mountains. Rokko is a particularlay fun challenge but definitely doable on a decent bike. Which leads me onto my last point
- Kobe has both the mountains and the sea It has the bits of nature that I love the most. Walking 15 minutes from the downtown area of Kobe. You can take one of the many trails up the mountains and see many breathtaking views. Just be sure to watch out for the wild boars! But if it's too hot you can always head down to the beach and cool down in the waters of Osaka bay. Occaisonally there are also runs or triathlons that mean you see more of the area.
There’s way more but this answer is far too long already. Message me if you've got any more questions
Very cool to read this post about Kobe – our little Aussie family stayed there for about 5 months in 2013 and have lots of fond memories of the place.
Thanks a lot! We are lucky to live here!
You nailed it. All of these are 100% right, people! I can attest to its accuracy, being close enough to Kobe to be considered a resident. Amazing city! Well written, Kevin!
At first it was just an idea. What if we lived here? We used to visit Kobe, usually on our way to visit family and friends during the holidays. We loved those visits. The crisp, clean air in Winter, and the gentle snowfall on Mt. Rokko. We discovered this amazing city, cradled between mountains and the sea, where all the seasons are beautiful. And the integration of many peoples, cultures and cuisines from around the world in this extremely progressive, creative and distinguished Japanese city makes it uniquely cosmopolitan.
And then the day came when we made a decision to move to Japan. And when we considered quality of life, Kobe stood out from all the other possible places to live. For business, for education, safety, accessibility and more. Kobe is one of Japan's largest cities, but doesn't feel that way. And yet it's a jumping point to anywhere in Japan or the world.
We created Living in Kobe as a place to share resources, information and experiences to help make anyone's visit, whether it's brief or long-term, a visit of a lifetime. Just choosing where to live in Kobe took us hundreds of hours, finding the resources we needed to make the move a smooth and successful one took hundreds of hours more, and settling into the city, despite many other great resources, took still more hours of learning. Now that we're living in Kobe, we get to enjoy the countless hours of exploration and discovery of all the wonders that this city offers. Our goal with Living in Kobe is to help introduce you to Kobe, whether it's for your first trip or your daily life.
Living in Kobe was created by James Coleman, who lives in Kobe with his wife and two boys. James is an entrepreneur originally from Southern California and more recently founder of Japaneur and Tech Concierge.
Connect with us on instagram @livinginkobe, on twitter @livinginkobe and on Facebook. If you're interested in guest posting or contributing, sign up here. For sponsorship, advertising or editorial inquiries, please inquire here.
What is it like to actually move to Japan?
If you could pick anywhere to live, how would you decide? My wife and I tackled that question, we made the move of a lifetime, and then everything was new.
We decided to make the city of Kobe our new home, and I want to share with you what it’s like living here. So I’ve started a Japaneur sister site: Living in Kobe. The content there will be more lifestyle focused, from how we picked a city to live in, how we made the move on our own, to the hundreds of new decisions we faced once we moved here. I'm not exaggerating... hundreds.
My goal for the content on Living in Kobe is to make it useful to anyone interested in Japan, no matter where they live, regardless of your age, whether you're single or married, have kids or no kids, and regardless of whether or not you've been sent to Japan by your work, or you made the decision to move yourself like I did.
The world's changing faster than ever, and I think there's never been a better time to choose where you want to live, and where you want to work. The tech available today makes it possible to work from anywhere. And some cities, like Kobe, make it easy to jump to anywhere in the world in a matter of hours by plane.
Why not choose a city based on overall quality of life?
My first post took hours to write, and months to come together. It's about the electric power-assisted bicycle we bought for the family. It's not just about shopping for a bicycle. It's about how to maximize your odds against getting hit by a car, surviving an accident if one happens, and how not to kill anyone in the process. It's good reading no matter who you are, whether you're a college student, an executive, or a parent taking care of kids during the day. Curious what the "safest" bicycle color is? I was too, and I found some interesting info I think you'll like.
Check out Living in Kobe, and let me know what you think in the blog comments, or message me on Instagram or Twitter.
My OH comes from Suma so I have spent quite some time in Kobe. While there I used to go to the movies quite a lot. Western movies were shown in English with Japanese subtitles. All very relaxing after struggling to understand and be understood during the day.
And my two sens' worth: Kobe is one of the nicest places in the world to live: culture, cuisine, scenery, accessibility, climate (summer's a challenge, but it does seem to have its own micro-climate), the old and the new, and the best beef in the world