What are the more laidback towns in Japan?

Hi nomads!

I really like Japan and would love to spend more time there (I know it’s expensive!), but I generally dislike the stereotypical Asian city (aka soulless concrete jungles).

To define what I consider “cool”, I really like those young, laid-back, green and open places, where you can bike around and sit outside and meet people, even better with mountains, forests or beaches in range.

I haven’t been to Tokyo (I just supposed it would be too big to fit my expectations), but there might be some good areas there. So far Matsuyama was the closest I found to a “cool” place in Japan. I’ve met loads of laid-back “anti-culture” people and even hardcore hippies from Japan, so I’m sure they must gather somewhere :smile:

Anyone has some hints where to find a place like this? Or a recommendation of a nice area in one of the big cities?

Around Tokyo, areas like Koenji and Shimo Kitazawa might meet some of your criteria but it’d still be concrete jungle, although you could get to areas outside of the city easily by train.

I’ve never been to Nagoya but was searching for accommodation on Airbnb and there were some start ups with rooms to rent on there, kind of communal living with lots of things going on. That might be a good place to start – get to know some people and take it from there, otherwise the language barrier can be an issue.

Matsuyama, and the whole of Shikoku really, is pretty awesome. There is something very calming about the area.

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Kyoto is pretty small really and has a nice atmosphere. You can see the mountains from the city.

Kamakura is a laid back town with a lot temples and also lots of beaches and surfers. Bonus is it’s only an hour and a half to go into tokyo.

I love Hokkaido but it’s probably not “cool”, though I went to a small town called Hakodate that was really relaxed and had a young feel to it.

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Thanks guys! I’m planning to get a working holiday visa for Japan before I turn 30, so I’ll have a year to find a cool place! I remember Kyoto as a nice town, just way too expensive :confused:

I’ll definitely visit Nagoya and Kamakura. I also want to check out Fukuoka.

Personally, I am not that fond of Kyoto. I find it a bit snotty and it attracts the kind of foreigners that are into cultural one-up-manship. But that’s just my experience.

I think rather than finding one area that fits what you want, you’ll find pockets of more alternative cultures in different parts of Japan. Kamakura is definitely more alternative.

Hi cpury!
I spent 3 months as a digital nomad near Osaka this spring, in a small town called Shijonawate, and I was enchanted. It is not exactly alternative/hippy, more relaxed-family life. People are friendly and curious about foreigners (not that many around), and will spontaneously try to talk to you. Food is great! The town is at the foot of the mountains, and part of it is only accessible by bike. You can get to Osaka center in 30 min and to Kyoto or Nara in 1 hour. I stayed at Ichiro & Nam’s (you can find them on AirBnB) and it was much more affordable than Kyoto.


@kasutan that sounds lovely, thanks for the hint!

This article about Kamiyama might be interesting for you.

Also, Patrick McKenzie might be a good person to ask about this. He’s lived in Japan for many years and probably has some pointers.

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Fukuoka is laid back but still a big city so there’s lots of things to do and it’s cheaper than places like Tokyo. I spent two months there and just used a bicycle to get around.

If you’re looking for a small town check out Beppu in Oita prefecture. It’s got beach and mountains. There’s a university with some courses for international students so there’s a bit of student life. It also gets lots of Japanese tourists visiting for the onsen.

By the way, you don’t need to worry about Tokyo being soulless. It has many neighborhoods, each with it’s own vibe and interesting sub cultures.


Sapporo in Hokkaido. It is laid back and not crowded. Food is Amazing in Hokkaido. Sapporo is known for Ramen and Beer. You can catch a flight from Tokyo to Sapporo for 100USD round trip. There is a park call “Odori Park” in downtown where you can easily meet local people just like central park in NYC.

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And skiii :stuck_out_tongue: