Several people contacted me asking if I could provide more hard data and evidence on why the Tohoku region is such a great place to live. Because I live in Sendai, I will focus here on just my city details.
There are certain criteria I think any family would agree on about what makes a city a good place to live. Safety, traffic, weather, and cost of living, are a few that come to mind immediately. Lets just jump into this article with those four categories and see what Sendai has to offer. In later postings we can discuss more nuanced reasons Sendai is such a great place to live.
Basic facts and history of Sendai
For those who have no information about Sendai, here is a LINK so that you can get the basic facts about where the city is, how many people live here, history and so on.
When it comes to safety, Sendai is like any other Japanese city-very safe. This is cliché ad nauseum for anyone who lives here. Japan is unlike anywhere else on the planet for the lack of serious and even minor crimes that plague the rest of the world. The crime rate is so low, I can't even find statistics for Sendai. NUMBEO is a user contributed database of city statistics from across the world.
You can estimate that Sendai would be slightly lower than Tokyo on this index. Much like Dubai and Lincoln, Nebraska Sendai is a very safe city.
There are no stats for traffic in Sendai, so included below is the traffic index for Tokyo. To understand how NUMBEO comes up with the traffic index number for a given city you can CLICK HERE.
My personal experience of driving in Sendai is that as long as you know where and when to avoid certain areas the traffic will not be a problem. If you need to commute downtown at rush hour, traffic will be very moderate. Especially when compared to other large cities of over a million people. When I lived in Portland, Oregon for instance, traffic was a huge issue in that city though if you look at their traffic index now things have improved markedly. The higher the number next to "traffic index" the worse the traffic is.
The take away from this traffic data from around the world is that Tokyo is on the lower end of the spectrum. So that, Sendai would be closer to the data for Muscat, Oman or even Omaha, Nebraska-both very drivable cities. What Sendai has additionally to keep traffic low is a combination of a great subway system, efficient and wonderful bus system, and numerous taxies and shuttles. All of which help to make Sendai's traffic problems nominal. There is also a Shinkansen Station (Bullet Train) with roughly eighty trains moving between Hokkaido and Tokyo each day.
Weather is one of my favorite criteria for a place to live. As anyone who has moved southward from the east coast of the United States can attest, weather matters when it comes to where you live. Even a place as temperate as Honolulu, Hawaii gets old after awhile. Sendai meets the weather criteria for me on multiple levels.
Starting with summer, it does get hot in July and August but is typically ten to fifteen degrees cooler then Tokyo. There are many mountain streams to cool off in as well as a handful of beaches-all of which are within thirty minutes of the city center. Incidentally, Sendai has some of the best surf breaks in Japan. Fall is absolutely amazing all around Tohoku and the region is known for the many festivals that celebrate this season. Winter sports abound all around Sendai to include world class ski resorts throughout Tohoku.
Spring, of course, is amazing everywhere in Japan. Ultimately weather is a very subjective issue but if you like all the seasons without the extremes then Sendai is a great place for you to live.
Cost of Living
This index attempts to put a number to the various items we spend money on. From an apartment or home, to how much vegetables and fruits cost, to the cost of a liter of fuel. Most of Japan is fairly expensive when it comes to clothing, cars or electronics. In Sendai that is no exception as things are relatively expensive if you like your toys. If you can live on simple fair everyday and don't need to splurge, then Sendai is a bargain.
The one area where Sendai is a bargain versus other places in Japan is in housing. Currently we rent a stand alone home, about 2400 square feet (70Tsubo), in a great neighborhood for $1165 (130,000Y) per month. We needed to buy all the appliances and our own furniture. Condos and apartments are similarly reasonable in Sendai.
So overall, Sendai is a great city for those who want the best of both worlds. In later posts we can discuss many other important factors that go into making a great city. The three we will tackle later are healthcare, schools and jobs.