In May this year, for the first time since 2013, the population outflow from Tokyo exceeded the inflow – and it has continued over the months that followed. Most of those who left Tokyo moved to nearby Kanagawa – and I’m happy to say that our family is among those who did.
So why did we, and a lot of other people, move out of Tokyo? Read on for the reasons listed below and you might even decide it’s time to pack up your bags and leave the capital.
1.Obviously, the biggest contributing factor to this exodus is COVID-19. Like most major cities, the population density in Tokyo is very high because of the employment opportunities available. However, even at the time of writing, as 2020 is about to end, a lot of employees in the capital and all over the country are still being mandated to work from home. There is really no need to be in the epicenter of business anymore. Quite the opposite, the cramped dwellings in the metropolis are straining the performance of people doing their work from home – especially those who have a family with small kids. Well, I don’t really have research and data to back this up but take it from someone who’s experienced it firsthand. And sure, there would really be no need for things to be like this once a vaccine is out. However, given how things have run relatively smoothly, there are talks of many companies actually considering making the arrangement permanent – or at least permanently offering it as an option for employees. Of course, your company might not be too eager to have you continue working from home after conditions improve. But that’s the beauty of moving to Kanagawa (and other prefectures near Tokyo like Chiba and Saitama) – you could still get there by train in 1 to 2 hours. If you wanted to, you could even get a car! I know, that might be a big leap from your arrangements in Tokyo but one of the biggest reasons why people in the capital don’t want to have a car is the parking fee. Parking is cheaper outside of Tokyo. Some places such as townhouses or detached units might even come with free parking. Given the lower rent, the surplus from what you were paying while living in the city might be just enough to cover the costs of having a car.
2. Many would argue that not having to commute to and from the office would just give residents more time and freedom to explore the bustling metropolitan. It’s true that Tokyo is not imposing (and has actually never imposed) any strict lockdowns or travel bans amid the pandemic. Many businesses are operating – almost as if everything is normal if not for the ‘new travel manners’ being observed to prevent further spreading of the virus. That said, as someone who up until recently lived in a commercial district (a shotengai – more than a handful of restaurants, supermarkets, convenience stores, hospitals and other shops literally minutes away), going to these places when you feel like it and being right in the middle of all the hustle and bustle 24/7 are two very different things – especially in the midst of a pandemic. Every single time I would step out of the house, I couldn’t help but worry about catching the virus from that group of salarymen exiting a nearby izakaya or maybe that group of school girls chatting outside the cafe next door. Maybe this makes me an obsessive compulsive freak but hey, I’d rather be that freak than be a careless possible-virus-spreader – especially since I am a mother to an infant. In our new place, I feel that there is more space to move freely, have my baby explore his surroundings, breathe some fresh air. It’s a bit more of a walk (4-8 minutes in our case) but this is still Japan and somewhere near Tokyo to boot, so every convenience we need is still accessible.
3. Lastly, a very big deciding factor to our move – when you strip Tokyo of its convenience and proximity to work and fun, the simple truth is that you just get much more bang for your buck outside the city. The 3-bedroom apartment that we currently live in is more than twice the size of our previous home but, I kid you not, it is slightly cheaper. Size is not the only thing that we got more of though, the amenities are also so much better. We get more and well thought-of storage, useful provisions such as the dishwasher, heated floors and faucet with filter for turning tap water to potable water, better and regular building maintenance, in-building parking (paid), extra perks like the Jitaku box where couriers can deposit your delivery if you are not home to receive them, heck we even have a view. I’ll have to be honest and say that we really did luck out on this apartment – we found it quickly when it hit the market after a tip from a realtor friend. Still, my experience of browsing apartments in Kanagawa area is enough to let me know that properties here just have more to offer than the ones in the city for the same budget.
And so, here we are – in this quite little place in the suburbs. And we couldn’t be happier.