The best places to live in Tokyo
At first glance, it may seem impossible for an expat moving to Tokyo to consider where to live in a city that's one of the world's largest and also one of the most expensive.
Tokyo is a massive metropolis made up of small distinct neighbourhoods, several of which form a ward or ku. There are 23 wards in total within Tokyo. Minato, Shibuya and Meguro are particularly popular with expats.
These areas and suburbs in Tokyo are ideal for expats who prefer a locale that can offer plenty of international interaction as well as supermarkets and shopping options that shelve familiar items from home.
Factors to consider when choosing an area or suburb of Tokyo
Most foreigners search for housing in Tokyo with the guidance of a real-estate agent, which can be a great advantage for expats needing to understand all there is to know before making a final decision about accommodation.
There's a long list of factors to consider when choosing which house to make one's home in Tokyo. In many cases, the most important variables may differ dramatically from what took priority in an expat's home country.
Most people living in Tokyo choose not to own a car, so access to public transport will be a priority. It's also important to consider commute to and from work or school for those with children.
Those moving to Tokyo with children will also need to consider the proximity of an area to good schools. Most international schools in Tokyo are located in the heart of the city.
Expats should ensure that, when choosing an area, that the type of housing they're looking for is available in that area. For instance, Akasaka is made up of mostly high-rise buildings, but it's possible to find some very nice homes in Shirokanedai, Hiroo and Moto Azabu.
City living in Tokyo
Located in central Tokyo, Akasaka means "Red Hill" and is home to the US Embassy. This thriving business area is frenetic during the daytime, with excellent nightlife once the sun goes down. Weekends here are blissfully quiet in contrast to the constant bustle of workers during the week. Expats will find state-of-the-art high rises here with fantastic views of the city.
Walking in Daikanyama feels different to other areas in Tokyo. The architecture is eclectic, the people are eccentric and the shops and restaurants are quirky. Known as 'Little Brooklyn' in reference to the New York City borough, it's said to be one of Tokyo’s best-kept secrets. While it may not be one of the most convenient areas to live in, it is one of the most unique.
Omotesando Dori is akin to the Champs-Élysées in Paris or Fifth Avenue in New York City. It's a beautiful, tree-lined street – quite unique to Tokyo – filled with high-end designer shops and department stores. Many smaller boutiques can be found in the backstreets of Omotesando and the neighbouring area of Harajuku.
Although Omotesando is primarily a commercial area, there are residential pockets tucked away among the boutiques and cafés. If an expat is passionate about the area and willing to settle on something older, smaller and more expensive, this may be a happy compromise.
Family life in Tokyo
The quiet, ancient streets of the Azabu area twist and turn up hills and down alleys, winding around parks. Expats will find many embassies tucked away within streets adjacent to large homes and small apartment buildings. This area is devoid of the massive high rises so common in other expat areas.
If looking for a real prototypical neighbourhood, Azabu has it all. It is, however, one of the most expensive areas to live in Tokyo. Many expat bankers live here with their families. This neighbourhood is jam-packed with green spaces, international supermarkets and pre-schools, shops, cafés, bars, and restaurants.
Shirokane and Shirokanedai
Shirokane and Shirokanedai (two areas divided by Meguro Dori) are neighbourhoods to consider if wanting to live in a house rather than an apartment. This area is known to be largely residential and not as commercial as the other expat neighbourhoods surrounding it. It's also home to Platinum Dori, the main shopping street in the neighbourhood, which features high-end shops and cafés.