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Kanto vs Kansai: Comparing Japan’s Two Big Study Abroad Destinations

When it comes to “studying abroad in Japan,” there’s a great variety of options in where to study, from Hokkaido in the north to Okinawa in the south. They’re all incredible locations, but today we’re going to compare th schools, cost of living, and other characteristics of the two most popular regions for study abroad: the Kanto region (Tokyo, Kanagawa, Ibaraki, Tochigi, Gunma, Saitama, Chiba) and the Kansai region (Osaka, Kyoto, Hyogo, Shiga, Nara, Wakayama, Mie, Fukui).

Point of Comparison 1: Number of Schools

Number of Schools in Each Area

Kanto Area Kansai Area National Total
Japanese Language Schools 105(42%) 47(18%) 250(100%)
Universities, etc. 143 125
(55 in Osaka, 36 in Hyogo, 34 in Kyoto)
Advantages – Tokyo has many options for schools
– There are many other international students
– Each prefecture is just international enough
– It’s easy to interact with Japanese people

Reference data: /

One of the most important aspects when it comes to studying abroad is your school. According to a survey from the Association for the Promotion of Japanese Language Education, there are currently about 250 Japanese language schools in Japan, and according to Obunsha Co., Ltd. there are nearly 800 universities and graduate schools. Of these, the data says that there are 78 Japanese language schools in Tokyo, and 143, or 18% of the universities and graduate schools, are located in Tokyo (survey by Insight International Inc.). Looking at the Kanto region as a whole, Kangawa Prefecture has 8 schools, Ibaraki has 4, Tochigi has 5, Gunma has 1, Saitama has 6, and Chiba has 8. The Kanto region has the advantage of having many schools to choose from. On the other hand, there are also many international students, so studying in this region may not be ideal for students who want to immerse themselves by surrounding themselves with many Japanese students.

The Kansai region has 47 Japanese language schools, or 21%, and has a total of 125 universities and graduate schools, with 55 in Osaka Prefecture, 36 in Hyogo, and 34 in Nara, making for a great number even on the national level. This region is perfect for those who want just enough of an international environment, with plenty of chances to interact with local Japanese students.

Point of Comparison 2: Cost of Living
Another important point to be considered is how much money you’ll need to support yourself. Let’s take a look at the difference between cost of living in the capital region versus other parts of Japan. According to one survey, the market rate for rent for a single person across the whole country is 48,000 yen (survey by Lifull). For the Kanto region, this number of 57,000 yen, and 51,000 yen for the Kansai region, and here we can see that there is a slight difference in price. When we look at data only for international students attending Japanese language school, the average cost of rent in Kanto is 44,000 yen, and average rent in Kansai is 34,000 yen, leaving a difference of 10,000 yen.

Cost of Living Comparison (in 10,000s of yen)

Kanto Area Kansai Area National Average
Single Workers 5.7 5.1 4.8
International Students 4.4 3.4 3.7

Arima Onsen, Hyogo Prefecture

Point of Comparison 3: Local Character
Studying abroad is more than just going to school, of course. Attending local events and experiencing local culture is another important element. You may think that a small island nation like Japan will have largely the same culture across the country. But if you look closely, you’ll find a variety of differences in each region! In Kansai, for one, “Kansai-ben,” or Kansai dialect, is spoken, using different intonation and vocabulary than standard Japanese. It’s not unusual for even the “dashi” soup stock used in cooking many dishes to have a different flavor in the Kansai and Kanto regions!

Some 1,100 years before Japan’s capital was moved to Tokyo, it was located in Kyoto, and for almost 70 years before that the capital was Nara, and as a political and cultural center for all of this time, the Kansai region retains a rich sense of traditional culture. Many think of Kyoto and Nara as cities with many temples, but in fact you can find data like the numbers below. Hyogo Prefecture’s number of shrine and temple organizations both rank at number three.

Number of Temple Organizations Number of Shrine Organizations
Number 1 Aichi Prefecture (4,542) Niigata Prefecture (4,677)
Number 2 Osaka Prefecture (3,381) Hyogo Prefecture (3,859)
Number 3 Hyogo Prefecture (3,277) Fukuoka Prefecture (3,408)

Survey of Religious Statistics by the Ministry of Education, Culture, Sports, Science and Technology (from a 2021 survey)

Annual Japanese festivals are often held at temples and shrines, and Hyogo Prefecture sees many of these each year.

Ikuta Shrine, Hyogo Prefecture

This is our comparison of the Kanto and Kansai regions, according to their number of schools, cost of living, and local character. Do you have a better sense of what studying abroad in Japan will be like? If you’d like to get a better idea of what it’s like to study abroad in Kobe (in Hyogo Prefecture) in the Kansai region, you can find out more in this article!