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Taking the trains to Tokyo's foreign enclaves


Once, back in the old days, if you wanted to eat authentic Asian dishes in Japan, you bought a discount ticket and flew south. But now, reports Aera (Dec 1), all Tokyoites need to do is hop the Yamanote loop line or one of the city's subways to one of the city's "foreign neighborhoods."

Aera marvels at the diversity and accessibility of some of the city's foreign enclaves, which, among their most appealing attractions, are authentic cuisine. A little over a decade ago, one such spot, offering Indian cuisine, began to take form around Nishi Kasai Station on the Tozai subway line in Tokyo's Edogawa Ward. Take the same Tozai Line westward to Takadanobaba in Shinjuku Ward and just a short walk from the station you can feast on a bowl of mohinga (rice noodles in fish soup) for 700 yen in "Litte Yangon."

Just a few stops away from Takadanobaba is a Chinatown in Ikebukuro that rivals the older and more famous one in Yokohama. In the vicinity, you'll find imported food shops selling Shanghai crabs (a seasonal delicacy) at surprisingly inexpensive prices.

Over the past 30 years, the number of non-Japanese residents in Tokyo has grown more than threefold. The majority of these are Chinese and Koreans. Since the late 1980s, the number of "new overseas Chinese" alone has grown to 160,000. In addition there are some 28,000 Filipinos. Vietnamese and Nepalese both number around 10,000, followed by 8,000 Indians, just under 7,000 Thais and 5,000 Myanmarese.

While North Americans and Europeans can be found working in large numbers at companies and embassies in Meguro, Setagaya and Minato wards, students, particularly those from Asian countries, are more likely to reside in the eastern part of the city.

"Inexpensive apartments can be found close to stations, along with places nearby where they can work part time, and study Japanese," notes Tsukuba University Professor Kiyomi Yamashita. "Likewise, the north exit of Ikebukuro station has been lagging behind in urban redevelopment, and old apartments remain, which is a major factor (in attracting foreigners)."

One anticipated change is the arrival of more people from countries with large Muslim populations. Since their appearance in Tokyo up to now has been scattered, one can't observe anything resembling concentrations in one particular area of the city. But with the arrival of more tourists, restaurants serving Halal meals have been springing up, and some universities, such as Kanda University of International Studies in Chiba and Shizuoka Prefectural University have begun to provide Halal meals for their Muslim students.

Moves to provide tourists with a more "Muslim-friendly" environment have been ongoing, with prayer rooms being set up at Haneda Airport and the Takashimaya department store in Shinjuku. And in October, the Tokyo metropolitan government issued 6,000 copies of a "Hospitality Handbook for Muslim Travelers," distributed free of charge.

© Japan Today

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For what it's worth, my favourite if a little Nepalese hole-in-the-wall with seating for about a dozen people and a take-away window at the sidewalk, about a block-and-a-half from Hamamatsucho Chisun Hotel. Run by a great guy named Paudel Sabanath...Five stars!

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I'm surprised the article didn't mention the famous Brazilian enclave around Oizumi in Gunma Prefecture, which is accessible by Tobu trains. It's been said in parts of Oizumi, you wonder if you're really in Japan with all those Brazilian shops and restaurants.

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Halal meals are served at most hostels as well, which often provide prayer rooms. We were also impressed to see Halal meals at Tokyo International University in Kawagoe, Saitama. Though not Muslim, I am unable to eat pork (which is so very common in Japan, and not always easy to avoid as lard is used even when pork is not listed as an ingredient) and appreciate Kosher or Halal offerings.

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Inexpensive apartments can be found close to stations,

Inexpensive apartments close to stations??? Can't even imagine how horrid they are.

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I'm surprised the article didn't mention the famous Brazilian enclave around Oizumi in Gunma Prefecture, which is accessible by Tobu trains.

I think that's because the focus is on Tokyo-based locations. That said, you're spot on about the Brazilian population in Gunma. I lived in Gunma 10 yrs ago and would go to awesome restaurants in places like Isesaki & Ota.

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