Stretching along Osaka Bay, the prefecture of Osaka lies in the heart of the Kansai area, with its borders flowing into neighbouring Hyogo, Kyoto, Nara and Wakayama. The greater Osaka area, which also includes Kobe and Kyoto, is one of Japan's most important economic centres.
Living in Osaka as an expat
As Japan’s primary area of business and commerce until the 20th century, Osaka and its port, Naniwa, connected Japan with other countries such as Korea and China. Despite briefly being the country's capital, Osaka has been shaped most by its merchants. Their influence has inspired the metropolis to become a cultural centre, especially in terms of entertainment, arts and food. Known as a source of much of Japan's most delicious fresh produce, Osaka is also often referred to as the 'nation’s kitchen'.
As the city has always been in touch with the world outside of Japan, most Osakians welcome foreigners and will eagerly help whenever a foreigner gets lost. Orientation can be challenging in Osaka since the city is divided into numerical areas. It's advisable to note a few landmarks for reference, such as hotels, supermarkets and parks, to help when asking for directions or directing a taxi. On the other hand, using Osaka’s extensive public transportation system, which consists of subways, railways, buses and one tram line, is easy and convenient.
Cost of living in Osaka
While Osaka is noticeably cheaper than Tokyo, expats will still likely need to keep a sharp eye on their budget, particularly when it comes to accommodation and utilities. Public transport is priced reasonably but using taxis can become expensive fast. Eating out is fairly cheap as long as one sticks to local fare, and single expats may even find this is more cost effective than buying ingredients to cook for one person.
Expat families and children
For many families, education and healthcare are priorities, and Osaka offers a good standard of both. Public schools are largely excellent, although this can come at the price of a high-pressure academic environment. Getting to grips with Japanese, the language of instruction, is another hurdle to overcome. For many families, international schools are an ideal solution to these issues, allowing children to be taught a familiar curriculum in their home language.
When it comes to family fun, parents will be pleased to know that getting bored in this thriving city is virtually impossible. There are plenty of kid-friendly activities throughout Osaka, including the thrilling rides at the Universal Studios theme park, one of only five in the world.
Climate in Osaka
Expats moving to Osaka will need to get used to the ever-present rain in the city. Downpours are most common in June – the height of summer – but rain falls regularly for most of the year. While the resulting humidity during this time can be uncomfortable, winters are more pleasantly mild.
While the city's weather can be damp, the spirit of Osaka is anything but. Expats will soon feel at home in this humming metropolis full of opportunities for career progression, new friends and a high quality of life.
"Since there are many groups for cultural exchange in Osaka it is easy to get in touch with open-minded Japanese and other expats." Read more about Franziska's experiences living in Osaka.
Are you an expat living in Osaka?
Expat Arrivals is looking for locals to contribute to this guide, and answer forum questions from others planning their move to Osaka. Please contact us if you'd like to contribute.
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