An address in Setagaya, the most populous of Tokyo's 23 central wards, was once considered prestigious. Some of the city's wealthiest individuals -- including many businessmen, professional athletes and show business figures -- built spacious and comfortable homes there. Less affluent suburbanites can enjoy shopping and gourmet dining in trendy locales like Seijo Gakuen, Shimokitazawa, Sangenjaya and Futako Tamagawa.
But in an article subtitled "Urban Collapse," Spa (July 30) looked at what is claims to be Setagaya's deteriorating image.
In 2022, a large percentage of provisionally designated urban farms, which for the last 30 years were subject to special tax breaks, will lose their status, which means owners of many lots will put them on the market simultaneously. (Setagaya has 910,000 square meters of such land, making it second in the city after Nerima Ward, with 1.85 million square meters.) In addition, Junji Sakaki, a journalist covering real estate, tells the magazine that with the squeeze from rising property taxes and inheritance taxes, more residents are putting their holdings on the market.
"Property values in areas outside Ring Road Number 8 like Okamoto and Kitami, which have poor access to public transport, are likely to plummet in value," he predicts.
Another factor influencing home purchases has been a change in lifestyle perceptions. "There are quite a few areas in the ward's western parts that are more than 20 minutes' walk from a rail station," Sakaki points out. "Before, these homes were promoted as being in 'quiet residential areas.' But these days people in their 30s and 40s find it more appealing to be able to live closer to their place of employment."
Somewhat surprisingly (or perhaps not), sex-related businesses and crime groups have also been making inroads into Setagaya.
"Because of the upcoming Olympics, there's been a crackdown on illegal sex businesses in the city's central areas," the editor of a magazine that covers the flesh trade tells Spa. "So over the past several years, some places offering sex around Chitose Karasuyama (an express stop on the Keio commuter line) have sprung up, along with outcall centers where 'delivery health' masseuses wait to be summoned."
The area around Futako Tamagawa station on the Denentoshi Line, with many high-rise buildings, has said to have attracted quasi-gangsters who have been active in so-called "it's me, send money" scams that defraud mostly elderly victims.
According to Tokyo Metropolitan Police statistics, last year some 6,035 crimes were reported in the ward, making it the capital's second highest after Shinjuku.
A sidebar identified Setagaya's top five "dangerous" spots as Seijo Gakuen district, with 2,193 reported crimes in 2017, including nine cases of rape; Futako Tamagawa, which is said to be on the receiving end of criminal elements from across the Tama River in mostly blue-collar Kawasaki City; Chitose Karasuyama, where cabaret clubs and underground massage parlors have sprung up; Yoga, where fights between rival biker gang members have been known to break out at night spots; and Shimokitazawa, said to be the best place in the city to score some marijuana. "Shimokita" also has a reputation as being a place where "an unlocked bicycle parked on the street will disappear within 30 minutes."
Part of Setagaya Ward's woes are due to an anticipated tax shortfall of 5.3 billion yen this fiscal year -- up sharply from 3.1 billion yen in 2017. It's been blamed at least in part by Setagaya's failure to harness the Furusato Nozei Program (hometown tax donation program), a tax incentive scheme aimed at supporting development of smaller, less funded municipalities.
New arrivals to the ward have been disappointed.
"We moved from Minato Ward because discipline at my son's primary school was collapsing," relates a housewife in her 30s. "We enrolled him in a school here with a good reputation, but his class is out of control. I checked out three other schools in other districts and found that the environment everywhere else was just as bad, with bullies and 'monster parents' proliferating.
"People told me that the school quality started deteriorating five or six years ago, when the number of 'primary school immigrants' from outside the district began to increase."
Setagaya's medical services also rate poorly, in terms of the per capita availability of hospital beds and hospital floor space; the ward is also said to have dragged its heels on welfare facilities for seniors.© Japan Today