What’s the appeal of the more rural southwestern prefecture over a centralized urban lifestyle?

In the last few years, we’ve heard along the grapevine that many people in Japan are moving to Fukuoka Prefecture, the northernmost prefecture on the east side of the island of Kyushu, in southwest Japan. In theory, we could understand why, because in our experience, Fukuoka is a pretty nice place. It’s easy to get around, the rent is cheap, and the food is delicious, and we’ve seen that Japanese people these days seem to be leaning towards a more rural lifestyle anyway. But why are so many people moving to this particular part of Japan?

And what’s more, there’s one particular place that’s rising in popularity: Itoshima City, to the west of Fukuoka City. It’s not only being revitalized as a tourist town, but its population is also increasing. What’s so special about it? We asked someone who moved there to get the scoop.

Our informant was a man in his 30s who we will call “Mr. Tokui”. He moved with his wife and children from Tokyo to Itoshima two years ago. What caused him to move there, and does he like it?

SN24: Why did you choose Fukuoka prefecture when deciding to move?

Mr. Tokui: “It just so happened that we had to move to Fukuoka because of a job transfer.”

SN24: So it was related to work. Had you set your sights on Itoshima as a place to live from the start?

Mr. Tokui: “No, actually we didn’t. We were only really looking for vague qualities, like it being close to Fukuoka City, and that we could buy land there. But the places we liked that were close to the city ended up being a bit too expensive.

The prices were especially high in the Hakata and Tenjin areas. So when we expanded our search area, we found quite a lot of candidates all around the city, and among those was one really good one, which is how we settled on Itoshima.”

SN24: Housing near central locations like Hakata and Tenjin definitely tends to get expensive. Since you were looking for land, did you want a single-family house?

Mr. Tokui: “Yes. We thought about renting, but because of COVID-19, working from home has become the norm for us, so my wife said she’d prefer to have our own place, which is why we decided on a single-family house. Unfortunately, a place like that within the city was completely out of our reach, just like it would have been in Tokyo.”

SN24: We’ve heard Itoshima is rising in popularity, and that it has both the sea and mountains. Is that why you chose it?

Mr. Tokui: “It is definitely up-and-coming, but for us personally we weren’t especially interested in the sea or the mountains (laughs). If we had to pick a reason why we chose Itoshima, it’d be that it was close to Fukuoka City and was within commuting range.

I don’t particularly like being around a lot of people, so I was pushing for a suburb that was almost rural. In terms’ of the kids’ futures, it was also nice that Fukuoka City is close enough to commute for school if that’s what they want…Oh, and since Kyushu University moved its campus to Itoshima, it also seemed unlikely that the area would suddenly decline.”

SN24: You were thinking pretty far ahead! So how long does it take to get to Fukuoka City from Itoshima?

Mr. Tokui: “It takes less than an hour by car, about 30 to 40 minutes. There are some places where train transfers are tricky, but now that I live here, I really like it. There aren’t too many people, and I really like that time seems to move slowly around here.”

SN24: There really are a lot of people in the big cities.

Mr. Tokui: “Where we lived before, the streets were so loud, and there weren’t many places for kids to play, which was a concern. Here it’s so quiet, and we feel much safer letting the kids play.”

SN24: Are there any little things that are kind of inconvenient?

Mr. Tokui: “Let’s see…We can get pretty much everything we need, so that’s not really a problem. However, and this is something you’d probably have in any suburb, it might be hard to live here without a car. Personally, I prefer driving over riding the train, so I don’t feel like it’s inconvenient. I actually find the drive refreshing.”

SN24: That’s good news for people who like cars. If you have a car, you can access the bullet train in an hour from Hakata Station [in Fukuoka City], and it seems like you can also fly anywhere in the country from Fukuoka Airport.

Mr. Tokui: “The airport is especially convenient because it doesn’t even take an hour to get there by car. With things how they are right now, international travel still can be difficult, but I love that there’s an international terminal there too.”

SN24: So are you glad that you moved to Itoshima?

Mr. Tokui: “I am. I like the slower lifestyle, and I really love how fresh and delicious the seafood is here. Especially the oysters. I also like how I can easily go jogging, and once it gets warmer we’re looking forward to going hiking and swimming.”

SN24: How many points would you give Itoshima?

Mr. Tokui: “Hmm…Maybe 95? No, 100! I haven’t lived here long, but I really think it’s a great place.”

In summary, according to a person who moved there, Itoshima is a great place to raise a family, is convenient for commuting, and has a reasonable cost of living. It does sound like it’s earned the points Mr. Tokui gave it!

Fukuoka seems to be a prefecture that’s neither too rural nor too metropolitan. The city centers may look appealing, and it must be nice to be able to get there easily while still living in the quiet suburbs. We can see why the area is gaining popularity. Besides, a recent survey voted Fukuoka as the prefecture most people want to return to after moving away, so it seems even the locals know their hometowns are great places.

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