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Moving to Tokyo? Here are three reasonable neighborhoods to live in

By Casey Baseel

Committing to an apartment in Japan can be nerve-wracking. On the plus side, there’s no penalty for breaking your lease, but on the other hand, you can expect to pay somewhere between four to six months’ worth of fees and deposits to your real estate agent and landlord. This being Japan, they’d like that in cash, and before you move in, of course.

Long story short, bouncing around from one apartment to another is cost prohibitive, so you want to make sure you choose a location you like. For everyone who’s looking for a place to live in Japan’s capital, we asked a real estate agency for the three best, most affordable neighborhoods in which to live in downtown Tokyo.

Central Tokyo’s narrow streets and lack of parking mean that residents spend most of their time getting around by train and subway, and one of the most convenient rail lines is the Yamanote, which loops around the city center. It takes an hour to complete the full circuit, meaning that if you live near the Yamanote Line, you’re never much more than 30 minutes away from any other point in the heart of the metropolis.

However, housing at the most famous stops on the line commands a huge premium, as districts such as Shibuya, Harajuku, and Shinjuku are also where you’ll find the country’s most desirable commercial real estate.

Instead, our agent filled us in on his picks for the stations along the Yamanote Line that provide the best balance of convenience and affordability. Here’s what he had to say.

3. Sugamo

Sugamo often gets called “Harajuku for grandmas,” and the neighborhood is every bit the mecca for the elderly that Harajuku is for fashion conscious youths. Our consultant even pointed out how the main street leading to the station is nice and flat, perfect for seniors with a bad knee or hip.

Of course, the lack of cool-factor means lower prices. Also, the station is just a short train ride away from the glitzier locales of Ikebukuro and Shinjuku if you feel like going out to sample the nightlife, after which you can return home to Sugamo, whose silver-haired residents are generally peaceful and well-behaved (and particularly easy to subdue should any start causing trouble).

If you’re cruising for some cheap eats to go with your cheap apartment, our agent had several suggestions, including the pork cutlet restaurant Tonpei, ramen joint Senzoku Jiman Ramen, and the sweet manju dumpling specialist Fukubuku Manju. Or if you feel like whipping up dinner by yourself, you can grab groceries at the Atre Vie or Seiyu shopping centers, both near the station.

2. Tabata

The next recommendation was Tabata, also home to an Atre Vie, which sells both groceries and apparel, so living here makes it easy to check off your food, clothing, and shelter boxes. Tabata is a great station for those who want to live in Tokyo but need to often travel north to Omiya in Saitama prefecture or south to Yokohama in Kanagawa, as all three stations are connected by the Keihin Tohoku Line.

The area has an abundance of studio apartments, making it a great choice for singles. Unlike many other stops on the Yamanote, Tabata Station isn’t surrounded by an entertainment district, which means a thankful lack of noise from the loudspeakers outside shops and pachinko parlors. Unfortunately, this also means a dearth of places to eat, but our agent highly recommended the revolving sushi restaurant Morii, located in front of the station, which he tells us has great fish for just 150 yen a plate.

1. Komagome

Our advisor’s highest praise, though, went to Komagome. One stop east of Sugamo, Komagome attracts a mix of both well-heeled celebrities and ordinary working folks as residents. For would-be chefs, there’s a 24-hour grocery store (a rarity in Japan) right next to the station, and those in the know say the area is also home to a number of good fish markets. There’s also the shopping arcade called Shimafuri Ginza, which has been supplying locals for years and on the special days when you want to splurge, the upscale specialty grocer Sakagami is within walking distance.

The station building itself houses a bookshop, which might not be the most useful thing if you’ve recently arrived in Japan and not up to reading something written in kanji characters yet. Of more universal appeal is the station’s bakery, although if you’re looking for something more filling than a quick pastry, our agent comes through once again with the recommendation of Chinese restaurant Hermitage Hong Kong, which he tells us has the best dumplings around.

So, as long as you’re willing to put up with having an address that doesn’t immediately announce your status as a hip and suave Tokyoite, you’ve got three choices for a place where you can live in Japan’s biggest city without having to sell a kidney for rent money.

Read more stories from RocketNews24. -- 10 things Japan gets horribly wrong -- The 51 Busiest Train Stations in the World– All but 6 Located in Japan -- Yamanote Line Accident Horrifies Tokyo’s Commuters

© RocketNews24

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Some really good info, thanks JT! I don't know about Tabata and Komagome but one reason Sugamo is cheap is because of the abundance of massage parlours and sex shops near the station. Some Japanese might even consider the area dangerous (still extremely safe compared to some areas in north american cities). I guess having cheap sex available a few minutes away might even be considered a plus for a single guy!

6 ( +8 / -2 )

one reason Sugamo is cheap is because of the abundance of massage parlours and sex shops near the station

I heard that too. Is that because of or despite the number of senior citizens living there?

6 ( +7 / -1 )

I don't recommend any of those places, I know some really good places in central Tokyo really cheap because no Japanese want to live in them, just find a building 10-15 years old and negotiate the price down, I got my rent down nearly 50% because everyone is so desperate to fill the empty buildings.

8 ( +11 / -3 )

Only place to live in Tokyo is Roppongi Hills.

-12 ( +4 / -17 )

Moving to the Tokyo area? Number one tip - try to get a job that's not in the center of the city. Then you can avoid most of this nonsense.

5 ( +6 / -1 )

Agree, myself live and work in western Tokyo, central Tokyo might see me 3-4 times a year. Quiet area, bicycle lanes a heaven compared to the city centre.

6 ( +6 / -0 )

AKBFan, I keep a place there for entertaining, but Oakwoods is the way to go for living.

3 ( +4 / -1 )

On the plus side, there’s no penalty for breaking your lease

Yeah right....has the writer actually ever even had experience with rentor agreements in Japan?!

5 ( +6 / -2 )

Sugamo and Tabata are cheap (and conveniently located for me), but are pretty horrible in my opinion. Hordes of old people, bleak tray buildings, chinpira, fuzoku. Komagome is nice, I've lived there for 3 years and I liked it a lot, clean, very low criminality, no prostitution district. The problem is that Bunkyo-ku is famous for schools, and many families move in believing that little Taro will somehow become smarter in that neighbourhood. As a result, Bunkyo-ku and especially Komagome is very expensive.

2 ( +2 / -0 )

Another great tip is to look for old buildings. Particularly those that have been renovated. Old buildings are considered anything over 10 years here, but I'm talking old as in 25 years plus. Many of these buildings are considered undesirable to home hunters even if they have been renovated. With a bit of patience it's entirely possible to find a pretty decent apartment with a decent rent in one of the "high end" areas of Tokyo.

5 ( +6 / -1 )

We were living in Kudanshita, Chiyoda-ku and we loved it. Central, supermarkets walking distance, parks for the kids short walk too...there was the Yasukuni shrine just next door and the Palace Garden.. oh, i miss it soooooo much!

0 ( +1 / -1 )

Nerima is a good bet. A friend of mine has lived there for years and loves it. It's on three central train lines going into Ikebukuro, Shinjuku, Harajuku and Shibuya as well the Kasumigaseki area. You're close to a Shimokitazawa, Oizumigakuin and Hikarigaoka, the latter which, in my opinion, is much nicer than Yoyogi Park. Also, you're close to the kuyakusho and the central post office, which has a 24-hour window. The community gym is pretty new and nice and if you work in central Tokyo, the commute isn't too bad, relatively speaking, of course.

0 ( +2 / -2 )

I lived between Sugamo and Komagome for a year and thought it was a nice quiet neighborhood. I guess I should have tried the Senzoku Jiman Ramen joint. My suggestion is find somewhere close to a station. Less than 5 minutes is ideal and more than 10 minutes should be avoided. It doesn't seem like much, but on a cold windy day or during a summer monsoon it does make a difference.

3 ( +3 / -0 )

Arakawa-KU has the lowest crime rate in the 23 ward area and is only 15 min to central Tokyo. Because it is just outside the Yamnote loop, it is much cheaper as well. Downsides are the Chiyoda line (very crowded) and lots of old folks.

3 ( +4 / -1 )

Graham, where did you get that info from? The police statistics differ, Bunkyo-ku has the lowest crime rate (2012 and 2013 statistics).


2 ( +2 / -0 )

Good list! Komagome being a 'secret' favorite is what I've heard before. Places to absolutely prevent are Roppongi, Shibuya, and all the other hyped-up areas.

2 ( +2 / -0 )

Why are these all Shitamachi? What is wrong with the Yamanote area? YEAH Shinjuku! No better place to live in Tokyo!

-1 ( +2 / -3 )

This article is spot on Komagome is a great place to live. Lived there for 4 years until we decided to move a little closer to work in Minato. I miss living up there.

2 ( +2 / -0 )

Although people complain that Shinjuku has high rent (which is true - although there are bargains to be found), because of the high residential population density, there are loads of discount supermarkets, 100 yen shops, etc. etc. etc., so other expenses can be very low, more than compensating for the higher rent. Plus, you are living in Shinjuku!

-1 ( +1 / -2 )

The view of this article is so western, it seems there are no other foreigners in Tokyo!

If you are here for a short time (less than 2 years or so), you can stay on those so called "central" area. If you plan to be here for long, be an actual part of the society, spread out from these areas. Central Tokyo is just too concrete, dark, unless you are earning more than 10mil range. If you are afraid of "local people" out side the Yamanote/Minato areas, you are not cut out for an average life in Japan.

3 ( +4 / -1 )

Homeland - Oakwoods is a little bit out of the way, no? Hills for sleeping (or at least "resting") and just up the road is for entertaining (or is that entertainment)

0 ( +0 / -0 )

Thanks to all for those comments. I'll be in Tokyo in a few months, looking around for single (active, older guy) living quarters, and hope to see a few more comments before this thread disappears.

1 ( +1 / -0 )

One advice to you would be Tokyo denizens: civilization does not stop at the 23 wards

2 ( +4 / -2 )

All three areas the writer mentioned are ON the Yamanote line; within 10 minutes of Ikebukuro, 20 min of Shinjuku, and 20 min of Tokyo station. Despite what some of the posters have written, if you're looking for a good combination of convenience and lower cost, they are all pretty good bets. I live in Nishi-Nippori (one past Tabata), which it is also quite convenient with 5 train and subway lines (including the Yamanote), all within an 8-minute walk and a 10-minute walk to Nippori, with its Yanaka Ginza and one of the best shotengai in the Kanto area. The rents are reasonable (ex.135,000 for a modern 65 meter squared 'mansion') as well!

0 ( +0 / -0 )

If you don't mind historical connotations and how older generations view the area, there are plenty of reasonable places to live in Tokyo. The catch is that they were areas for burakumin, or the lowest caste of Japanese. Young Japanese people don't know or don't care about that and the same can be said for single, male foreigners. The area includes Machiya, Minami-Senju, Yahiro, etc. All fairly close to central Tokyo but about 10% below market value.

3 ( +4 / -1 )

Asagaya, Koenji, Nakano are good bets. OK so the chuo line can be a bit of a nightmare at rush hour (approx 10 mins to Shinjuku) but the marunouchi line is ok (20 mins ride for me to Akasaka) and you can cycle to Shinjuku easily anyway. The people around there are decent and there are tons of fun bars, izakaya/restaurants and live houses to keep you entertained. The rents are reasonable, the shops are cheap and Wadabori park is not far away.

2 ( +2 / -0 )

a lot of places on the Toyoko line are nice and vibrant [a bit expensive though] starting from Nakameguro, Gakugei Daigaku, Jiyugaoka, and so on. good mix of yummy eateries, places to go, and quiet when you need it.

0 ( +0 / -0 )

More good comments. Arigatoo gozaimas!

0 ( +0 / -0 )

Sorry, my info on Arakawa and crime is several years old. It's very possible that Bunkyo (right next door) has lower crime (& better schools, but higher rent). Still, Arakawa is safe even by Tokyo standards and is a good low cost option.

0 ( +0 / -0 )

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