The Inaka Lifestyle: 6 Joys of Living in the Japanese Countryside
Japan might be the most famous for its bustling cities, cultural exports, and economic power, but an entirely different world awaits in the Japanese countryside.
Residing in the Japanese countryside offers a unique experience that is rich in culture, nature, and a sense of community. As a part time resident myself, this is my guide to helping you understand the basics of embracing life in the Japanese countryside and how it can be a truly rewarding and fulfilling endeavor.
1. Embracing Nature
Living in the Japanese countryside means being enveloped by nature’s beauty. Lush green landscapes, majestic mountains, and pristine rivers become a part of your everyday life. Waking up to the melodious sounds of chirping birds and the gentle rustling of leaves is a priceless experience. Nature becomes your playground, offering opportunities for hiking, cycling, and simply enjoying peaceful walks amidst breathtaking scenery.
As a 16 year resident of Tokyo, my experience in the countryside was limited to the occasional trip to an onsen, and a month-long summer trip to Iwate as a high school exchange student.
I had never really spent a great deal of time in nature, and didn’t really know what to expect. However, after becoming the de-facto caretaker of a Japanese garden, I found myself loving the opportunity to enjoy gardening.
Even outside of waging war on weeds, I also began walking about town, and eventually doing some hiking, something I never saw myself enjoying before. With so many new areas and places to discover, it has become a great pastime.
2. Rich Cultural Heritage
The Japanese countryside is steeped in history and culture, offering a chance to immerse oneself in traditional practices and local customs. From traditional festivals to ancient temples and shrines, you can be a part of living history. Participating in festivals, enjoying traditional activities, learning traditional Japanese arts like calligraphy or pottery, or even joining a local traditional dance group can become a significant part of your life.
One thing clients often ask me is, “Will I be accepted into the countryside as a foreigner?” Given that Japan’s population is 97% Japanese, I understand the feeling. That said, I have never felt unwelcome in the countryside. Locals tend to feel honored that someone from overseas has chosen to live in their community, and I seldom hear of anyone having major struggles with getting along with their neighbors.
3. Warmth of Community
Building on this, one of the most endearing aspects of living in the Japanese countryside is the strong sense of community. Neighbors are not just next door, you can become friends with locals in your newly adopted home, regardless of your language ability. Having a close-knit community is one of the hallmarks of rural Japan, which fosters a warm and welcoming atmosphere where everyone supports and looks out for each other.
Engaging in local events, volunteering, and participating in neighborhood gatherings are opportunities to build meaningful connections and create lasting friendships. You don’t need to have fluent Japanese or a long history in Japan to be a part of your community. If you simply show up and try to help out in community activities like landscaping the neighborhood, people will take notice and you will be seen as an active contributor.
4. Healthy Lifestyle
The Japanese countryside promotes a slower-paced and healthier lifestyle. Access to fresh and locally grown produce is abundant, allowing residents to indulge in nutritious meals. Engaging in outdoor activities and maintaining an active lifestyle becomes effortless with an abundance of breathtaking natural surroundings. Additionally, the Japanese countryside provides a respite from city pollution, offering cleaner air and a more relaxed pace of life that promotes overall well-being. While Japan’s cities do not have serious air pollution issues, the sensory overload of crowded streets and shops, and the constant noise and light pollution can get on your nerves.
Being in rural Japan offers a nice reprieve from the bustle, and being able to hear the sounds of nature and the starry sky at night will do wonders for your wellbeing.
5. Life on easy street
Living in the Japanese countryside doesn’t just allow for an escape from chaotic city life, it also allows you an easy lifestyle that gives you more time to relax. Most areas have all of the lifelines that you could ask for in the city, but are easily accessible and affordable.
Not just in terms of mental wellbeing, but also from a financial perspective. Money goes farther in the countryside, just another one of the perks.
6. Technology breaks barriers
While the language barrier is perhaps the largest consideration for people debating whether to jump into the Japanese countryside, technology has made communication a whole lot easier. Useful tools like speech to text translation and instant translation via camera gives anyone with a smartphone enough ability to communicate in their daily life.
Knowing Japanese is a great asset, but there are plenty of foreign nationals living in Japan without any language ability. Living in a place where you don’t know the language is not for everyone, but it isn’t as important as it was before recent improvements in tech. Additionally, you will find people who speak English or they will find you. Even in small towns! The perceived barrier here is a lot higher than the actual hurdle.
These are just some of the niceties of living in the Japanese countryside. Trust us, it’s awesome!
So, what are you waiting for?