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Hi!

Ii wonder if you could help me decide which city to travel to in Japan.  

I am living in Grand Cayman at the moment working as a Heating and Airconditioning techincian.  I am planning to move to Japan and work for a year or so as an ESOL english teacher. I have relevant experience and qualifications.

Im not sure which location/city would be right for me.

I would like to live in a city I think. I like nightlife and places with plenty of activities.

Whats important is that there is a good market for ESOL teaching, becasue I would like to set up my own school.  If it goes well I will stay longer than a year.  Initally I would probably move out there and work for another school, then after my contract has finished set up my own school.

I am looking for a place with as mild a climate as possible. I see that it gets uncomfortably hot in Tokyo and most of the southern areas of Japan in the summer, so thats why I was thinking about somewhere up north.

I have heard that commutes in Tokyo and huge cities are also invariably long, and im hoping to find a place that my work will end up fairly close to home.  Are such long commutes a part of life in all Japanese cities?

Can you suggest any places that might be right for me?

Any other tips appreciated.

Thanks,
Dale.  

Answer
Hey there!
Well, if you are looking for a big city, Osaka or Tokyo are definitely the way to go!
You're like me, I love the night life.  So, while I live in Osaka, Tokyo is an extremely tempting place.  The advantages to living in Tokyo, in regards to night life, are essentially the variety and availability.  In Tokyo, you can wander around one area for days and not find the time to check out every bar and club.  Plus, you can wander out any day of the week and find SOMETHING going down.  There are so many events going on I don't know how people keep track!
However, I love the nightlife ATMOSPHERE of Osaka SO much more.  I've been told very, very often that people in Osaka are ten times warmer, more cordial, more laid-back and friendlier than their Tokyo counterparts.  This isn't to say people in Tokyo are cold and stand-offish, but Osaka is about the only place in Japan where a stranger can walk up to another stranger on the street and strike up a friendly conversation.  That's pretty much a big no-no anywhere else, outside of bars or clubs.  Plus, I personally feel that the nightlife in Osaka is more of a network, even a family.  I run into people I know all the time on street, even though there are like 12 million people here.  The major disadvantage I see is the lack of activity during weekdays.  90% of the places are just DEAD Monday through Thursday.
As for the market, that's a pretty close tie.  While competition is much higher in Tokyo (not to mention standard of living), job availability is also much higher there.  I personally don't see much of a difference job market-wise, although I would like to advise that the pace and stress levels in Tokyo are greater, but at the same time Tokyo is much more accommodating to foreigners.  Osaka is well-suited to them as well, but there seem to be a greater number of English-speakers up in Tokyo and tons more resources for foreigners, from finding lawyers to finding onsens.
If you're thinking to set up your own school, I would discourage moving to Tokyo.  As I mentioned before, competition is HIGH.  Unless you have some ingenious plan for how to market or create a school, there's a very decent chance you'll go bust within a year.  Osaka is still far behind as far as innovation and quantity.  There's lots of room here to experiment with different kinds of schools (but there is some healthy competition, so don't think of it as a cake-walk!)
Interestingly enough, while Osaka is further south and gets quite muggy in the summer, Tokyo is considerably HOT.  I really don't know why, but I've heard it has something to do with all the concrete and metal which holds the heat in.
I'm not too familiar with year-round weather in Tokyo, as I live in Kansai, but as far Kansai, fall and spring are BEAUTIFUL.  The weather is absolutely gorgeous; very very mild.  Winters and summers are quite tough, though.  But, in all fairness, you won't really find any region of Japan that has mild weather all year round.  I think that, overall, Osaka is more bearable than Tokyo, especially in the winter.  It's definitely less dry.  Okinawa actually has the best reputation as far as weather.  It's also extremely popular among foreigners, though not nearly as active as Tokyo or Osaka.
You're right about the commutes in Tokyo: they can be horrendous.  If you're hoping to live near work in Tokyo, expect to pay up the wazoo.  I had a friend who recently moved back to Osaka.  I think he was paying about 800 dollars a month to live in a one room apartment about an hour from work.  In Osaka, you could get a decent place right in the heart of town for that much.  I lived one station from right in the center of the city and was paying about 500 a month.  There are places downtown, which is near where the nightlife is.  You can pay 800 dollars and get a decent-sized two bedroom apartment, or, if you're willing to slum it a bit, pay as little as 300 dollars a month.
Hope that info helps!  Any more questions, feel free to send me a follow up!

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Brian

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Any and all questions about Japan, especially in regards to the Kansai area. I'm familiar with, in particular, dining and night life.

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Been living in Japan for almost six years, and I go out A LOT.

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none in particular in this area.

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