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Picking a place to live: Tokyo, Osaka or Kyoto?

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Picking a place to live: Tokyo, Osaka or Kyoto?

Postby logindenied » Wed 11.01.2006 3:21 pm

Hi everyone,

I'll be going to Japan next year in order to study Japanese at a language school for around 10 months. Since I'm free to choose where to go, I've spent the last few weeks gathering information on the different Japanese cities.
The best suited cities for my plan seem to be Tokyo, Osaka or Kyoto, however I can't find a more detailed comparison between these places. So I wonder whether anybody could give me some tips.

A short outline of my results so far (highly subjective):
Tokyo pros:
tons of language schools, tons of everything else one needs to live, people speaking standard Japanese
Tokyo cons:
inhabitants supposed to be more distant and hectic, too big a city, no green or interesting places nearby, too international

Kyoto/Osaka pros:
people supposed to be more friendly and open (at least in Osaka), moderate dimensions with lots of green places and more "cultural life" (esp. Kyoto), interesting cities/places nearby
Kyoto/Osaka cons:
people speaking dialect,
small range of language schools, small range of goods for daily life, extreme climatic conditions (Kyoto)

I'd like to avoid Tokyo as I've been living there for a short while and found it to be too gigantic for a period of 10 months. However, my top priority is, of course, to learn Japanese and I wonder how big an effect the Kansai dialect will be on my studies, especially as I'm planning to make contact with lots of 'aborigines'.
Any recommendations or comments appreciated.
Thanks in advance,

Gerd
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RE: Picking a place to live: Tokyo, Osaka or Kyoto?

Postby AJBryant » Wed 11.01.2006 6:06 pm

I never had that problem with Tokyo. Outside the city center (and by that, I mean about a six block radius of the imperial palace) Tokyo is a whole bunch of different regions and neighborhoods joined by subway lines. Shinjuku is very different from Akasaka, which is very different from Kanda, which is very different from Ueno, which is very different from Ikebukuro, which is very different from Meguro...

Tokyo is FULL of small interesting parks and things.

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RE: Picking a place to live: Tokyo, Osaka or Kyoto?

Postby ashitaka » Wed 11.01.2006 8:38 pm

Like Tony said, Tokyo is very diverse. As for the differenet dialect, they shouldn't be a problem. I would pick someplace i havent been to. I would recomend kyoto no osaka no kyoto...... i wouldn't be able to chose very easily between them.
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RE: Picking a place to live: Tokyo, Osaka or Kyoto?

Postby Mukade » Wed 11.01.2006 8:49 pm

If you like to go to good restaurants and bars, then I would recommend Osaka over Kyoto. If, on the other hand, you prefer the traditional museums, castles, temples and shrines, then definitely go for Kyoto over Osaka. As far as access to green stuff - south and east of Osaka, there is plenty of green to be had. Kyoto is practically surrounded by green, but is also close to Lake Biwa - nice if you like water sports.

As far as the dialect goes - you're going to run into dialect everywhere in Japan. There are even variations in the Tokyo area (perhaps not as deviant from standard as Osaka, but variations nonetheles). The Kansai dialect is also very widely recognizable due to its heavy use in TV and film, so I wouldn't worry so much about dialect.
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RE: Picking a place to live: Tokyo, Osaka or Kyoto?

Postby Oyaji » Wed 11.01.2006 9:02 pm

That is sort of like asking "Should I order Coke or Sprite?", it all depends on your personal preferences.

As to some of the issues you raise, all three are major cities, so there is no problem finding "goods for daily life" in any of them.

Except for the northern regions, all of Japan is very hot in the summer, and except for Okinawa, cold in the winter. 「京都は盆地だから」 is true, but I don't think I would call the difference *extreme*.

You will find friendly and unfriendly people where ever you go -- there's not that big of a regional difference. And What Tony said about Tokyo is definitely true (of course).

The dialects may be an issue. The first place I lived in Japan was Tokyo, and that is where I learned to speak. Even after nearly twenty years of living in Kyushu, I am still able to use standard Japanese as I travel around the country. I would be interested in hearing from people who first lived in Kansai or some such place. Was it a hinderance in learning *standard* Japanese?

My first inclination is to say "Choose Kyoto" simply because of the culture, but of the three, I've only lived in Tokyo, and I loved it.

I wouldn't lose any sleep over the decision. If you go with your gut feeling, and then make the most of your experience, you'll have a great time regardless of where you go.
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RE: Picking a place to live: Tokyo, Osaka or Kyoto?

Postby Mukade » Wed 11.01.2006 9:16 pm

Oyaji wrote:
The dialects may be an issue. The first place I lived in Japan was Tokyo, and that is where I learned to speak. Even after nearly twenty years of living in Kyushu, I am still able to use standard Japanese as I travel around the country. I would be interested in hearing from people who first lived in Kansai or some such place. Was it a hinderance in learning *standard* Japanese?


I've never lived anywhere but the Kansai area, and I don't think I have much problem distinguishing between standard and Osaka dialect. The main reasons are that I've always studied standard dialect in the classroom or via textbooks, and I see and hear standard dialect every single day on television and in the newspapers/books that I read.

The only time it becomes a bit of a problem is when I am speaking in a very casual, crude way (as when hanging out with friends or chewing someone out). I find the only way I go do so is in Osaka dialect. Nobody around me speaks standardized casual Japanese, and when people on television do so, it is often the comedians - who are all speaking (or mimicking) Kansai dialect!

When I hear the casual version of standard dialect, I get the nagging, unexplained feeling that something isn't quite right... :|
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RE: Picking a place to live: Tokyo, Osaka or Kyoto?

Postby Oyaji » Wed 11.01.2006 10:21 pm

Mukade wrote:
Oyaji wrote:
The dialects may be an issue. The first place I lived in Japan was Tokyo, and that is where I learned to speak. Even after nearly twenty years of living in Kyushu, I am still able to use standard Japanese as I travel around the country. I would be interested in hearing from people who first lived in Kansai or some such place. Was it a hinderance in learning *standard* Japanese?


I've never lived anywhere but the Kansai area, and I don't think I have much problem distinguishing between standard and Osaka dialect. The main reasons are that I've always studied standard dialect in the classroom or via textbooks, and I see and hear standard dialect every single day on television and in the newspapers/books that I read.

The only time it becomes a bit of a problem is when I am speaking in a very casual, crude way (as when hanging out with friends or chewing someone out). I find the only way I go do so is in Osaka dialect. Nobody around me speaks standardized casual Japanese, and when people on television do so, it is often the comedians - who are all speaking (or mimicking) Kansai dialect!

When I hear the casual version of standard dialect, I get the nagging, unexplained feeling that something isn't quite right... :|


So, OP, it would seem that as long as you study standard Japanese at the school, living in Kansai should not hinder your learning, but would in fact expand it by exposing you to a wider view of the language.
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RE: Picking a place to live: Tokyo, Osaka or Kyoto?

Postby adam » Wed 11.01.2006 11:34 pm

Did you say there are no interesting places nearby tokyo? Tokyo is filled with so many vastly different places, your 10 months wouldn't be enough to see them all.
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RE: Picking a place to live: Tokyo, Osaka or Kyoto?

Postby firescorpy » Thu 11.02.2006 12:44 am

Tokyo, definitely. I love it. You can go to Yokohama or Chiba when you have free time.. haha.
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RE: Picking a place to live: Tokyo, Osaka or Kyoto?

Postby Strawberry_Juice » Thu 11.02.2006 12:56 am

I've only been to each one briefly, but I really loved Kyoto. It's got that big-city feel, but it's still more relaxed. Sort of like Chicago. And if you're into history and all that, you'll be taken care of. ;) Just watch out for the big, scary crows!
If you really want to study language, I think finding a good school is important, but it's also important to be able to figure out the other dialects and get used to them.
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RE: Picking a place to live: Tokyo, Osaka or Kyoto?

Postby Matsumoto_hideto » Thu 11.02.2006 4:01 am

IT depends on what Kind of experience you want. I personally wanted to have a really japanese experince (IE not a lot of gaijin interaction). Now that I think about it I am glad I am not in tokyo because I would have hated seeing a bunch of gaijin (especially tourists) everywhere. Although there are a lot of Gaijin in all the cities you listed I highly recommend going Kansai :]]]]]]]]

Plus if you learn kansai ben ppl outside of the area will think your really funny if you use it with them.

I mean doesnt anyone thing

チャウチャウ (Osaka Ben)

is way cooler than

違う違う!??!?!


Not to say that there arent any gaijin in my area either ( Gaijin are everywhere) but I am one of the very few!
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RE: Picking a place to live: Tokyo, Osaka or Kyoto?

Postby Kagemaru » Thu 11.02.2006 5:03 am

I think your Japanese would only be seriously affected if you were to live within countryside areas. Especially if you seek to master 敬語(keigo).

In the "travelling dart" program (throw a dart towards a map, where it lands they go) When visiting such places like Aomori and Okinawa, I have a very hard time following what they are talking about. Luckily for me(hopefully lucky for others too) there are subtitles.

Mukade wrote:
The only time it becomes a bit of a problem is when I am speaking in a very casual, crude way


hehe, how easy it is to slip into that form too.....

Matsumoto_hideto wrote:
Plus if you learn kansai ben ppl outside of the area will think your really funny if you use it with them.


I disagree here. It's a little aggresive sounding using it to people you just met.
Kansai ben is generally spoken faster with gusto.

Matsumoto_hideto wrote:
I mean doesnt anyone thing

チャウチャウ (Osaka Ben)

is way cooler than

違う違う!??!?!


No, because チャウやで or チャウやん is cooler again.... ;)
Last edited by Kagemaru on Thu 11.02.2006 5:15 am, edited 1 time in total.
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RE: Picking a place to live: Tokyo, Osaka or Kyoto?

Postby logindenied » Thu 11.02.2006 9:29 am

Thanks for all the replies.
What I meant by Tokyo not having many interesting places nearby was the fact that outside Tokyo, the number of other, autonome and different cities is limited. Or in other words, it takes a lot more effort and time to leave Tokyo for the first new city/place with different characteristics. Of course, Tokyo itself is diverse enough for a life time, but I feel more attracted to the situation in Kansai, allowing me to go to either Kobe, Kyoto, Osaka, Lake Biwa etc. - in a relatively short amount of time.
And on a side note, I will most likely end up in Tokyo anyway later on, should I ever consider working in Japan after that course, so it is certainly better to pick a different location for now.

Considering the general consensus of what everyone has posted here on the issue of dialect influence,
it shouldn't have a severe impact at all on my language studies unless I'm really living in the countryside, so I guess I can drop that point. If doing so, though, there's one more quite interesting city I'd like to hear your opinions about, and that is Fukuoka.

Certainly, Fukuoka is a bit far off, nonetheless there're a couple interesting places (including Korea) nearby, plus it does have that insular charm.
The texts I read all described Fukuoka as an international city as well due to a high amount of tourists visiting the place regularly. The reason I'm suddenly considering Fukuoka out of the blue is the fact I was recommended a very good language school ( http://www.genkijacs.com/ ) over there with courses consisting of 6 people at most. That would pretty much make up for most language schools in Japan majorly being attended by other Asian people like Chinese or Korean (which is a con for me both in social interaction and focus of the lessons). Additionally, Fukuoka is cheap, it generally takes less time to get from A to B (apartments are said to be in walking distance of the school), it is quite close to beaches one can actually still use with ease and it has good climatic conditions.
While looking for a place with a low quantity of gaijin, I'd still want the city to have a little international flair, maybe even a small international community allowing me to dive in for the times I need a break from Japan. Bearing these points in mind, Fukuoka seems to be a good compromise ... I assume.
However, I don't know anything about the 'friendliness' over there compared to Kansai or Kanto. And apart from that, is there probably anything else I forgot to consider about living in Fukuoka?
Right now, it's the choice that's attracting me the most besides Kyoto and Kobe.

I'm aware of the fact all opinions are based upon very subjective personal views and preferences, yet they are very helpful especially when reading between the lines.
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RE: Picking a place to live: Tokyo, Osaka or Kyoto?

Postby keatonatron » Thu 11.02.2006 10:40 am

logindenied wrote:
That would pretty much make up for most language schools in Japan majorly being attended by other Asian people like Chinese or Korean (which is a con for me both in social interaction and focus of the lessons).


I was the only English-speaker in my Japanese class. That meant I couldn't rely on English as a crutch when talking to my classmates. The Chinese and Korean students were always using their native languages to talk to each other, and their Japanese conversation skills were lacking considerably compared to those of us who could only use Japanese.
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RE: Picking a place to live: Tokyo, Osaka or Kyoto?

Postby Rounin T » Thu 11.02.2006 12:04 pm

I've never been to Tokyo, but I'm sure, as others have said, that you can find any Japanese experience you want there. As for Fukuoka, I've talked to a few people who lived there, and in other areas of Kyushu. They all had different experiences, but the word they all used to describe it was "beautiful." I get the impression that the Kyushu countryside resembles the kind of tropical paradise you see in movies. Waterfalls galore, from what I hear. If you're interested in that type of thing.

If you go for Kansai, though, you may actually want to try a nothern suburb of Osaka, like Hirakata, Takatsuki, Suita, or Ibaraki. That way you could be living in Osaka with easy access to Kyoto, and I personally think day trips to Kyoto would be enough to see its major "attractions." Hirakata is home to Kansai Gaidai, which is probably as diverse a school as you could hope for. I'm with keatonatron, though; you'll learn Japanese better if you're the only English speaker, and I can promise you that won't be the case at Kansai Gaidai.
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