The 11 Best Places to Live in Tokyo
Tokyo, a city so big that overlaying a map of it over any other city is a humbling experience. Indeed, Tokyo is the world’s biggest urban environment, holding more than a quarter of Japan’s entire population. So vast is the city, that it can often feel overwhelming picking a place to live within it!
Still, Tokyo has an inescapable magic about it, which is why over half a million expats choose to call Japan’s enigmatic capital home.
To help you and other expats looking to move to Tokyo, we’ve written a guide on our pick of the 11 best places to live in Tokyo.
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The best places in Tokyo for cheap property
Finding a cheap place to live in Tokyo can mean sacrificing space for location, or location for space, or… you get the idea. In such a busy city, space and location are always going to be at a premium, and it’s fair to say that the property prices reflect this. That being said, you can definitely still find properties in exciting areas that don’t break the bank. Take a look at some of the districts below for some of the best places in Tokyo for cheap property.
There’s no denying that Takadanobaba is an area in Tokyo awash with undergrads and other students, but once you look past this (if you even see it as a negative), you’ll find a ton of affordable properties. The average rent here is around ¥88,000 (roughly $800) per month, which will leave most expats with plenty of pocket money left to spend. And Takadanobaba has plenty of attractions to spend it on! Cheap karaoke, bars, and cafés are plentiful and there is a near-constant buzz about the place.
If you can handle the energy levels, Takadanobaba’s low cost of living (thanks to student-friendly pricing) makes it a top choice for affordable housing in Tokyo.
Found to the west of Central Tokyo, it’s fair to say Ogikubo flies under the radar. Which is a shame really, because the area does actually have its share of great parks (Otaguro Park is particularly beautiful, Zenpukujigawa Park too), restaurants, and karaoke bars.
A small word of warning though: don’t expect to find the area bouncing after 10pm, as people looking to experience more exciting nightlife tend to jump on one of the four nearby train lines heading to livelier parts of Tokyo. The plus side to Ogikubo’s peace and quiet? Rent is cheap, averaging at around ¥74,000 ($667), as are properties if you’re looking to buy.
The best places in Tokyo for green space
Green spaces in Tokyo, you say? Yes, we know, it seems almost unbelievable in this sprawling metropolis, but green tranquillity does exist in Tokyo. And where it does, it tends to be rather special. Including everything from shrines to temple grounds, through to abandoned ‘greenified’ military bases, Tokyo’s green spaces are often more than just parks.
Of course, there are still some spectacular green parks around Tokyo, which make for much-needed havens to escape from the busy crowds.
To an outsider looking in, Shinjuku might appear as a maze of skyscrapers and high-rise apartments, complete with all the bustle one would expect. But look a little closer, and you’ll find a plethora of green spaces brimming with blossom trees in the spring and dotted with carefully manicured Japanese gardens.
A particular highlight of the Shinjuku region is Meiji Jingu Shrine Gaien, which in the fall becomes awash with seasonal colors. There’s also Shinjuku Gyoen, one of the largest parks in Tokyo and a prime spot to witness the blossom trees in spring.
An added bonus to living in Shinjuku is easy access to the Busta Shinjuku bus terminal, which provides long-distance bus routes to locations across the country.
Like Shinjuku, Futako Tamagawa is close to the near-constant buzz of Central Tokyo – you can ride the Denentoshi Line to Shibuya in just 10 minutes. But what makes the area a fantastic slice of greenery in Tokyo are the long, grassy banks of the famous Tama River. Alongside it you’ll find numerous people enjoying picnics, walking dogs, exercising, or just taking in the abundant wildlife.
As for that wildlife, you’ll see an array of herons, kingfishers, and other birds going after the frogs and fish. If you’re lucky, you might even spot the resident turtles!
Skyscrapers are less abundant here, though luxury apartments are seemingly always appearing. It’s important to note, though, that these don’t infringe on Futako Tamagawa’s riverfront, which the Japanese government has gone to great lengths to protect.
Just a few decades ago, the Tama River had been ravaged by the rapid post-war industrialization of Japan. This rendered it almost uninhabitable for many species, which have now thankfully returned in huge numbers since the government started its river cleaning initiatives.
Tokyo boasts beautiful green spaces hidden away from the bustling streets
The best places in Tokyo for culture
It’s a cliché, we know, but Tokyo really is a fantastic example of modernity meeting tradition. Bright neon lights vie for attention with ornate temples, conveyor belts delivering ramen rub shoulders with centuries-old restaurants… you get the picture.
The point is that culture in Tokyo is an eclectic blend of contradictions with so much choice it can often be dizzying. To help expats looking for culturally rich places to live, we’ve written about two of our favorite hotspots, giving you the lowdown on just why these unique locations earn their place on our list.
Tokyo’s electric modernity dominates, but that doesn’t mean there aren’t corners of the city still dedicated to tradition. Asakusa is the perfect embodiment of this; a bastion of ancient Japanese culture with its numerous old-fashioned izakaya bars and the iconic 7th-century temple, Sensō-ji. Could it be argued that Asakusa is a little on the touristy side of things? Absolutely, but does that mean the area is a write-off for expats? Absolutely not!
There is plenty of value to be had from living in this traditional enclave, and if you want to get anywhere else in Tokyo, the Asakusa Station is just 15 minutes by train from Tokyo Station. Don’t forget to visit the Nakamise shopping street for its 250m stretch of shops selling local specialities (and of course, touristy items).
Ikebukuro is a perfect embodiment of what happens when you pack as much culture into one place as possible. That’s not to say living here feels claustrophobic or unfocused – far from it. Instead, it’s more that the area’s myriad theaters, bars, restaurants, and shopping centers all seem to vye for your attention, creating a permanent sense of ‘something’s happening somewhere, and I want to be a part of it.’
The area is popular with everyone from students to socialites, through to families enjoying a day out at popular attractions like Sunshine City. There’s a big international contingent in Ikebukuro too, with large numbers of foreign residents all adding to the cosmopolitan vibe.
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The best places in Tokyo for food
It’s almost impossible to decide where to begin when talking about Tokyo’s endless array of places to eat. Home to a staggering (and record-breaking) 212 Michelin-starred restaurants, Tokyo has culinary credentials that are beyond reproach.
Whilst the cuisine is of course predominantly Japanese, that doesn’t mean there aren’t countless exciting eateries to choose from. There are the obligatory ramen and sushi joints of course, but once you start to branch out you’ll soon discover the true depth of Tokyo’s dining experiences.
Nihonbashi Ningyocho, Chuo City
Nihonbashi Ningyocho (bit of a mouthful!) is home to Tamahide, Tokyo’s oldest restaurant. It’s famous for its oyakodon, a dish dating back to 1760 that is a delicious combination of chicken, egg, sliced scallion, and other ingredients.
So famous in fact, that queues outside the restaurant often leave revellers salivating impatiently for over an hour! With a history going back more than 260 years, and eight generations of chefs, Tamahide is an inimitable slice in Tokyo’s culinary landscape.
As for the area itself, you’ll find it’s surprisingly affordable, with apartments averaging around ¥1.1 million (approx $98,000) per square meter.
The best places in Tokyo for nightlife
Tokyo’s nightlife is unlike that found in any other city, truly. Sure, there are the usual nightclubs, bars, and classy diners, but what other city has literal penguins chilling out in a bar’s aquarium? Or a bar with monks for bartenders?
Honestly, whatever quirky idea you can think of, Tokyo’s nightlife scene will probably have it. Check out the locations below for a preview of where to go for a night out in Tokyo.
The stomping ground of Tokyo’s nightlife aficionados, Shibuya is jam-packed with nightclubs of all shapes and sizes. You’ll find everything from high-class cocktail bars dedicated to mixology (don’t miss Bar Ishinohana), to old-fashioned streets like Nonbei Yokocho, which contains a collection of quirky (and sometimes tiny), traditional bars.
In the immediate aftermath of World War II, Roppongi became hugely popular with Allied forces. Its plethora of bars and clubs make it a top spot for expats to this day, and you’ll find numerous international revellers enjoying the atmosphere well into the early hours. Whilst living in Roppongi is desirable for many, you’ll need to accept the fact that peace and tranquility is in short supply!
Traditional bar street in Tokyo
The best places in Tokyo for schools
There are numerous places in Tokyo for expats in need of high-quality schools, with plenty of well-known international schools teaching a Western curriculum.
Located within Minato (just right of Shibuya), Azabu holds the highly regarded Nishimachi International School (NIS). It was founded more than 60 years ago as a bilingual school, providing lessons in English but with all students learning Japanese as part of the curriculum.
Both the Western Association of Schools and Colleges (WASC) and the Council of International Schools (CIS) have accredited NIS, so you can rest assured knowing your child is getting one the best educations available in Tokyo.
The American School in Japan, found in Chōfu, is widely recognized as one of the best international schools in the country. Numerous US expats living in Tokyo choose to send their children here, and like at the Nishimachi International School, the curriculum is English-focused with students also learning Japanese.
Finding a place to live in Tokyo
We hope this guide has helped give you a solid idea of where you might want to live when you make the move to Tokyo – though that’s just the beginning.
Your next step is finding a home, finalizing the purchase, and then sorting out the shipping for your belongings safely and securely.