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Angst in suburbia: Tokyo's once-gracious Setagaya Ward faces increasingly tarnished image

27 Comments

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

©2019 GPlusMedia Inc.

27 Comments
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Reverse gentrification. So where are the 'gentry' going?

3 ( +3 / -0 )

Go over to Meguro Ward and you'll see graffiti all over the place. Akabane in Kita Ward is turning into a slum. That said, things like law enforcement and rubbish collection are still better in Tokyo than in Chiba or Saitama. It's all relative...

1 ( +2 / -1 )

Lived in Setagaya ku 10 years. It is great for kids and wife but the commute on the Toyoko Line has become brutal after it connected to the Fukatoshinsen. In the past 2 years I have had occasions of almost passing out and panic attacks as I was crushed in the train and couldn't breath. Saw a man and few women literally pass out from the crush. Not worth it in my opinion.

4 ( +5 / -1 )

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."

Comedy gold. These are some of the safest areas in the entire developed world. This a complete non-story, concocted around a couple of dubious statistics and some hearsay whining. More rubbish from Spa magazine.

8 ( +10 / -2 )

I never understood why Setagaya was such a desirable place to live, it's a huge ward with large amounts of lacking rail networks, and since there are only a couple of train lines that also cross into Kanagawa or far west Tokyo you're guaranteed to enter a packed train on your way to Tokyo, and if you work in the Marunouchi business district then you've still got a long ways to go. I suppose that what's the article is getting at, perhaps back in the day this kind of suburban sprawl was desirable. Whatever though, I won't be crying for all of those stuck up "old money" complaining about the younger generation looking for better things. Especially that woman cited in the article, just casually moving from Minato to Setagaya like nothing and then complaining about "those people" being in the classroom. Welcome to the real world lady! Guess the only remaining option is to spend a ton of money on elite private schools, assuming her kid really belongs in that "society"!

-4 ( +1 / -5 )

These are some of the safest areas in the entire developed world. 

Except when they're not. Like the murder in Setagaya of a couple and their two small children in Setagaya on Dec. 30, 2000. Still unsolved, by the way.

Attacking the messenger isn't necessarily a smart approach. Spa has a pretty good focus on changing social trends and occasionally they scoop the competition.

-3 ( +2 / -5 )

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. 

Those are the areas the Japanese government need to keep a close eye on or they will develop in to ghetto's very soon, especially with the new policies starting to take effect.

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." 

Is it because the capacity of the schools in the area is not sufficient ?

Some more clarification is needed why exactly school quality is starting to detoriate.

-1 ( +1 / -2 )

Poor planning decisions are ruining neighbourhoods all over Tokyo. I don't know how planners can justify granting permission for an apartment block housing around 60 people built on the site of a family home down a quiet street, that housed 4 people. It's happening all over the place and there's only so much neighbourhoods and their infrastructure can take.

6 ( +6 / -0 )

"Shimokita" also has a reputation as being a place where "an unlocked bicycle parked on the street will disappear within 30 minutes."

First, only idiots would leave their bicycles unlocked, anywhere.

Second, those bicycles could have just been taken away by Setagaya ward bicycle collectors - if anything that reputation may speak to the efficiency of the Setagaya ward bicycle collectors :)

The real question is whether you can leave your umbrella outside your door to dry off, without it being stolen. I thought my neighbourhood was alright, but we have had umbrellas taken on at least two occasions...

Part of Setagaya Ward's woes are due to an anticipated tax shortfall of 5.3 billion yen this fiscal year 

Setagaya ward still has plenty of money, just means they need to stop some wasteful spending. My ward complains about furusato nozei too, but still has money to waste as I have seen with my own two eyes.

-1 ( +0 / -1 )

NCIS RerunsToday 01:13 pm JST

These are some of the safest areas in the entire developed world. 

Except when they're not. Like the murder in Setagaya of a couple and their two small children in Setagaya on Dec. 30, 2000. Still unsolved, by the way.

Attacking the messenger isn't necessarily a smart approach. Spa has a pretty good focus on changing social trends and occasionally they scoop the competition.

Yes, a terrible crime. I remember it well - we got a visit from the cops as our car had been on one of the CCTV cameras in the area. I think we'd been visiting friends after Christmas. Setagaya has over 900,000 residents now - it would be interesting to see how it compares to other places with a similar population for crime rate, particularly serious crime.

Attacking the messenger isn't necessarily a smart approach. Spa has a pretty good focus on changing social trends and occasionally they scoop the competition.

Not Spa per se, but the Kuchikomi articles featured here often seem to be constructed from nothing more than rumour, wishing thinking and ill-directed moaning. Fluff.

Those are the areas the Japanese government need to keep a close eye on or they will develop in to ghetto's very soon, especially with the new policies starting to take effect.

What? What on earth does this mean?

1 ( +2 / -1 )

What? What on earth does this mean?

The LDP has a policy where they are welcoming hundreds of thousands of low paid immigrants in the next few years and they are known to settle in areas of any big city where real estate becomes significant cheaper because they simply can't afford better housing.

The Japanese government has to do something about that and give them the proper tools to integrate and mix in to Japanese society if not these immigrants will form concentrated communities which keep largely to themselves and this will create all kind of problems.

The article speaks about school quality started to deteriorate and I don't know if this is the case in Setagaya, hence my question, but in my country the school quality is dropping in some areas of big cities because the children of immigrants who live in concentrated communties don't speak the host country's langauge at home so they have a serious handicap.

Furthermore areas of any big city with cheap real estate are know to attract criminals and they are known to prey on said immigrants if no proper plan from the government is in place.

2 ( +2 / -0 )

Not Spa per se, but the Kuchikomi articles featured here often seem to be constructed from nothing more than rumour, wishing thinking and ill-directed moaning. Fluff.

You have just described Japan's weekly tabloids, on which Kuchikomi articles have been based for the past -- what is it now, 20 years? If you don't like them, stick with newspapers and wire services, which even Japanese agree tend to be dreadfully boring.

1 ( +1 / -0 )

You have just described Japan's weekly tabloids, on which Kuchikomi articles have been based for the past -- what is it now, 20 years? If you don't like them, stick with newspapers and wire services, which even Japanese agree tend to be dreadfully boring

Yes, I usually skip them but I read this one, since I live in Setagaya. More fool me, eh.

0 ( +1 / -1 )

Jog on sunshine, life's too short to waste on trolls.

And still no arguments I see, simply pathetic...

-1 ( +0 / -1 )

Went to Setagaya to make paintings. Many good places for that.

0 ( +1 / -1 )

Went to Setagaya to make paintings. Many good places for that.

Nothing wrong with some nice street-art, you can see a lot of that in the up and coming neighborhood close to the NHK Studio Park in Shibuya.

-1 ( +0 / -1 )

Yes, I usually skip them but I read this one, since I live in Setagaya. 

I do too and am almost tempted to check out Chitose Karasuma, but it's bound to fall short of expectations. Shinjuku still rules the roost.

0 ( +0 / -0 )

Having farms inside such a crowded metropolis that's surrounded by lots of farmland on the outskirts is a really dumb idea, anyway. And how does the ending of an extensive tax break for farmers raise taxes for everyone else? It should be the other way around. And what's the deal with inheritance taxes? Isn't that a central government levy?

1 ( +1 / -0 )

NCIS RerunsJuly 26 09:13 pm JST

Yes, I usually skip them but I read this one, since I live in Setagaya. 

I do too and am almost tempted to check out Chitose Karasuma, but it's bound to fall short of expectations. Shinjuku still rules the roost.

About 10 years ago there were a couple of kyabakura-style places in Chitose Karasuyama. I knew a few people who went there occasionally after work but I've no idea if they're still there now. Also, there were a couple of places opened in Shimokita a few years back, Kabukicho overspill I heard. The locals were most unhappy.

0 ( +0 / -0 )

with the exception of Odaiba, all of Tokyo, to me, looks and feels like a concrete slum, no imagination, and a tired grey depressing place. Ueno and Akihabara, probably the worst. Even Ropppongi Hills and Azabu, just a crappy hell. Now, the Japanese inaka, I like it, and places like Kumamoto, Nagasaki. Osaka, Kyoto, Saitama, Chiba, Kanagawa, Tokyo, all ugly unimaginative places. but very Japanese.

2 ( +3 / -1 )

There are a real lot of international school students running around as well. Probably the thickest enclave of foreign men too.

1 ( +1 / -0 )

I never understood why Setagaya was such a desirable place to live

For the same reason people with new money will pay $180 for a $4 t-shirt that says 'Emporio Armani' on it.

Because all their friends are so they feel like they have to.

0 ( +0 / -0 )

I quite like that area, not so far from Shibuya but mostly low rise. I heard a massive block is going up in Sangenjaya, which is a shame.

I believe Setagaya is right up there with the most people on waiting lists for nursery places. It is also one of the country's largest losers from Furusato Nouzei. Furusato Nouzei is a braindead scheme for diverting your local taxes to another town whose services you don't use in return for gifts. Since taxpayers get something for nothing, it is fantastically popular. Lots of places in inaka compete to attract money by giving the biggest gifts, sometimes even things which have nothing to do with that town. At one stage it was Ipads and game consoles. Anyway, the net outflow of tax from Setagaya is something like 15 million USD a year. You can fund a lot of nursery places with that.

1 ( +1 / -0 )

@JeffLee

Having farms inside such a crowded metropolis that's surrounded by lots of farmland on the outskirts is a really dumb idea, anyway.

I’ve always enjoyed the presence of these market gardens in Nerima-ku. Better than jamming more people into the area.

0 ( +0 / -0 )

Kyodo Station is just down the street from me. My husband and I are residence of Fukuoka City and live in Kyodo, Setagaya area of Tokyo. It’s sort of the situation many Japan residences experience about work availability for those 60 and over. Companies typically reduce pay and medical benefits when you are older, which means working professionally under a contracted company provides better pay and benefits. So here we are living in Kyodo, Setagaya in a loft apartment that looks pretty good and the neighborhood and area very Suburbia. I like it. Our street and neighborhood in Kyodo is very family oriented. I see homes some new some dated, families going along their everyday business of life of raising a family and the elderly proudly taking care of their beloved potted plants. Our loft dwelling apartment is an addition to the area and such loft apartments are growing bringing outside people like ourselves to the area. I feel like a participant observer and honored to be part of their neighborhood. Our train ride are the Odakyu Line and the Chiyoda Line, Odakyu Line for work and the Chiyoda Line to visit family. The experience is all like a train ride. Setagaya is a cool place to live, just take the time to enjoy the familial all season atmosphere during Spring, Summer, Autumn and Winter. It’s worth it.

0 ( +0 / -0 )

Better than jamming more people into the area.

If the farms weren't there, more residential land would be freed up, and there would be less "jamming" of residents.

0 ( +0 / -0 )

Yeah, hope you are enjoying the humidity...

0 ( +0 / -0 )

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