It’s a good place to live, but I wouldn’t want to go there.
We recently reported on the Global Livability Index, compiled by British media giant The Economist Group, in which Osaka came 10th and was the only Japanese city to crack the top 10. While this was great news for many, few questioned the results, calling Osaka “dirty”, “not having a good reputation” and “full of murder”.
To all these people, I must first say: How dare you!? And then I must add that having lived in Osaka for over 15 years, I can say that they couldn’t be further from the truth…well, apart from that murder, but I’ll get to that in a minute.
So, What makes Osaka such a great city to live in, anyway? Well, I lived here for a while, and as of this writing, I’m still not dead. I put down my file.
▼ Exhibit A: Me, alive
Yet I can imagine you reading this and thinking, “But I live here in Walla Walla, Washington, and I’m not dead either…”
You raise a valid point, so let’s dig a little deeper into exactly what makes Osaka a great place to live.
● It’s safe!
Japan frequently makes international news for its natural disasters, such as typhoons, earthquakes, and heavy rains. The country itself is quite prone to disasters, but these events rarely occur in Osaka in any significant way. In all the years I’ve lived here, only once has a typhoon hit what I would call a real typhoon disaster, rather than just above average wind and rain.
It’s almost like the place is surrounded by an invisible force field, except it’s very visible and made of mountains.
▼ Most Osaka skyline images will have a line of mountains in the distant background
Before Tokyo, before Kyoto, and even before Nara, Osaka was once the capital of Japan and where the emperor resided. Even back then, they knew that the mountains surrounding the area provided excellent defense against nature and invading forces..
This worked so well that the area prospered and the population grew, so the nobility decided to move to a closed but smaller area in Nara and allow Osaka to become a spacious center of production and trade. , a feature that the city still embodies to this day. daytime.
▼ You can see the layout of the mountains on this map by their thick tree cover
Yes, the murder rate is high, but it’s not like there are murderous bands of road warriors who kill indiscriminately. Statistics often show that unless you are involved in war or organized crime, you are more likely to be murdered by someone you know than a stranger, which brings me to my next point.
● It’s user-friendly!
As I mentioned, Osaka was a merchant class area for much of history, and it still shows in the culture today. The number one rule of business is that it’s not what you know, it’s who you know, so it pays to know as many people as possible.
I like to think that’s why people in Osaka are more advanced than people in other parts of the country. Normally in big cities people tend to be aloof and mind their own business, and it shows to some extent here too, but I think the opposite – complete strangers getting involved in other people’s affairs – is a much more common occurrence here than anywhere else.
▼ And this despite the fact that many residents try to blend in by wearing camouflage patterns
A few examples that come to mind include times when I play Pokemon GO, which involves walking around and finding Pokémon with a map on my smartphone. While doing this, I sometimes get stopped out of the blue by people on the street asking if I’m lost and need directions. I must then explain that I am not lost, but that I am simply looking for imaginary monsters.
Other times I’ll just be stopped by an older person who wants to chat for about five minutes what they’re thinking, but usually before they leave they feed me for no reason. I’m also not talking about cookies or candy – although sometimes it’s candy – they sometimes give me full meals, right there on the street and with no strings attached.
▼ This type of behavior is perhaps best summed up in the classic short video Osaka no Obahan
Of course, the main reason for that is probably to be kind, but I think this level of intrusive kindness is rather unique to Osaka, because there’s a culturally deep-rooted corporate mindset that dealing with people are a currency, whether it’s just karmic or the fact that I will feel indebted to them at some point.
I think this way because the friendliness of the people of Osaka is matched only by their brutal business acumen.
● It’s cheap!
Of course, the most important factor in livability these days is being able to afford food and shelter, and Osaka has great deals on both!
It’s a big city and has its fair share of expensive houses and apartments, but I once rented an apartment that was about a three-minute walk from a major train station and only cost me £27 000 yen per month (US$198). Sure, it wasn’t the prettiest room in the world, but it wasn’t a flophouse either…although that might say more about my own standards than anything else.
There is also a long history of trafficking and commerce here which is ingrained in the culture, and my wife who was born and raised in Osaka will not hesitate to bargain even at the big box chain stores if she feels that she has an angle on them.
Local businesses, on the other hand, tend to be well aware of this and will cut to the chase by offering big discounts up front. Walking down the street, I often see stores that have big “SALE!” posters in their window 24 hours a day, seven days a week, 365 days a year.
▼ Osaka’s most famous supermarket chain, Super Tamade, has a 1 yen ($0.007) endless sale on certain items.
Even the vending machines here appeal to residents’ thrifty tendencies, sometimes offering drinks for 80, 50, and even 10 yen.
▼ 10 and 50 yen machines
● M. Night Shyamalan devours your heart!
Safe, cheap and friendly are certainly key factors when judging a place’s quality of life, so now you can see why Osaka is definitely worth considering moving there. However, the big twist at the end of this article is that none of the things I just mentioned even made it into The Economist Group’s index, and Osaka still ranked in the top 10!
As we mentioned last time, the index is based on five general factors; Stability, Health, Culture and Environment, Education and Infrastructure. These are a bit vague, so here are the subcategories for each.
Prevalence of crime, prevalence of violent crime, threat of terror, threat of military conflict, threat of civil unrest
Availability of private health care, quality of private health care, availability of public health care, quality of public health care, availability of over-the-counter medicines, general health indicators
Culture & Environment
Humidity/temperature, climate discomfort for travelers, level of corruption, social or religious restrictions, level of censorship, sports availability, cultural availability, food and drink, consumer goods and services
Availability of private education, quality of private education, indicators of public education
Quality of road network, quality of public transport, quality of international connections, availability of quality housing, quality of energy supply, quality of water supply, quality of telecommunications
It is difficult to speak objectively about many of these factors compared to other cities, but after undergoing two surgeries and the birth of two children, I can say that the health care is both of good quality and relatively affordable. Public transport is also quite solid, as I can get to just about anywhere I need to be by train and/or bus, including two major airports which are both easily accessible.
There is also a great cultural availability in the form of comedy, music and sports.
▼ Do you want art? We have your art here!
So it’s still no surprise, at least to me, that Osaka was ranked as high as it was and is the most livable city in the world… next to Vienna, Copenhagen, Zurich, Calgary, Vancouver, Geneva, Frankfurt, Toronto, Amsterdam, Melbourne and potentially hundreds of other cities around the world not included in the 172 included in the ranking this year.
I hope I’ve helped you feel the same way, but if not, would a super fun slide sweeten the deal?
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