Tokyo is the dream for many, aspiring to live in one of the world’s biggest and busiest cities, along with over 13 million in the heart of Tokyo (38 million people if you count in the Greater Tokyo area). However, once IN Tokyo, where exactly is the best place to live? It’s really hard to say, as the city does not have one single center, but is a cluster of different areas with their own little centers. It also depends on your workplace, lifestyle, whether you are alone or a family with children and so on.
However, there are some things on which everyone agrees, making certain Tokyo spots especially popular. Various real estate agencies conduct annual surveys to feel the pulse of prospective renters and see what are the most popular Tokyo neighbourhoods. Chintaibest is one such website dedicated to researching the ins and outs of the Tokyo 23 wards’ real estate market. Their 2020 survey has the Top 10 most popular places to live in Tokyo and it’s very different from 2019.
Komazawa-daigaku station is on the Den-En-Toshi Line, and as the name suggests it’s close to Komazawa University and the Komazawa Olympic Park. The survey respondents said that this area has a lot of shopping and drinking establishments, so it’s lively and fun. Some people pointed that it has big hospitals too, which gives them a sense of security should they have a health emergency.
The area is very well connected to other popular spots, just an 8 minute train ride to Shibuya and 12 minutes to Omotesando.
Note that there was a surge in votes for Komazawa-Daigaku area right when the coronavirus pandemic started getting serious, with voters commenting that the huge parks made it easier to socially distance, and the area itself having everything necessary means less outings to other parts of Tokyo.
Another Setagaya neighbourhood, Sangenjaya has been quite popular for a while now. It is fun, full of bars and stylish cafes, while also being a good residential spot. It has a great connection to Shibuya, as well the Kanagawa prefecture which is excellent for daytrips, and is where a lot of Tokyoites have family and relatives living.
Young people voting noted that the area is stylish without being too famous and crowded like Shimokitazawa for instance. The establishments tend to be unique and numerous, meaning life is never boring.
Meguro Ward has always been popular, especially Nakameguro area, that topped the 2019 list. Gakugei-Daigaku station and its surroundings are not as famous yet, but that’s actually a good thing as the area is not too crowded.
Very similarly to number 10 and 9, people love this neighbourhood for its blend of fun and fashion, while still being a good residential area. It also has everything one needs, with a range of rental options, something cheap for students and something more luxurious for families.
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People love that Shibuya, Daikanyama and Jiyugaoka are nearby, as well as the great connection to Yokohama. There are big parks surrounding this area too.
A 3rd Setagaya neighbourhood and one that has been ever more popular, Shimokitazawa is a hipster paradise. No wonder it’s in the top 10, since it’s cool while still convenient, with cute streets and residential areas with houses just minutes from the station. Some would lament it’s actually TOO popular nowadays.
Voters love the cool vibe of Shimokitazawa, seasoned with many foreign food restaurants from all around the globe. There’s a lot of vintage and thrift shopping too, small art galleries, theaters, and all the live music shows one can wish for. Shimokitazawa is just minutes away by public transport from Shibuya, Shinjuku and Kichijoji, making it well connected. It also has a direct access to Enoshima island and the seaside of Kanagawa prefecture.
This neighbourhood resembles the vibe of neighbouring Meguro ward, and the not-so-far Setagaya Ward, as it’s lively but not hectic. It has more of a shitamachi local feel, as opposed to the huge class and concrete office area that is Shinagawa station. This is precisely why Musashi Koyama has been voted in the top 10 places to live.
As other entries on the list, it’s convenient, well connected by public transport, not lacking entertainment options. Voters say they like that the ward has a policy to help with child rearing, and a redevelopment being underway means they are excited for what is to come. Musashi Koyama has received votes from all age groups, making it a universal choice.
Here’s a surprise entry you don’t hear about that much! It seems many of the survey respondents themselves have recently discovered Kita-Senju through the lyrics of “Haru no Hi” by Aimyon. Name recognition in itself is quite important, and in addition Kita-Senju boasts great shopping and entertainment options on the west side, and a quiet residential area on the east side of the station. People who have heard negative things about this area, said they were surprised to see how it has developed.
The area is known to be more spacious and cheaper compared to other Tokyo areas that can be pricey and tiny. Survey respondents also said that the station has good connections both to other Tokyo areas such as the nearby Ueno, as well as neighbouring prefectures like Chiba and Ibaraki.
Stations on the JR Chuo line have always been quite popular, both in the 23 wards and extending outwards from Kichijoji up to Tachikawa. Ogikubo is one of those, but it used to be overshadowed by its insanely popular neighbours like Kichijoji and Koenji, and the up and coming Asagaya. Coming in 4th in the 2020 survey, people have said Ogikubo is full of life and entertainment, it has everything you need, while also becoming quiet just after a short walk away from the station.
Ogikubo got most votes from families because the ward supports child rearing and there is zero waiting time for childcare facilities enrolment. This is somewhat of a rarity, as kindergartens having no spots for children is a major frustration for Tokyo parents. In addition to being on the coveted JR Chuo line, it’s also on the Marunouchi metro line, opening up more transport options.
Akabane used to be known as a rowdy party town, but now it’s more of retro izakaya drinking paradise. People love the Showa style eateries and bars and the laid back atmosphere. As many Tokyo stations, Akabane too has a lively core and the streets become quieter as one walks away from the station. So, survey respondents said they love that they could grab a drink after work and still get to go rest in a peaceful apartment afterwards. Akabane is cheap and convenient as well, only 20 minutes from Shinjuku and neighbouring Saitama prefecture.
2019 winner and super popular spot Nakameguro almost won in 2020 too! However, negative points rolled in from people who have had enough of super crowded touristy areas, bringing Nakameguro to no.2. People who upvoted Nakameguro did so because of its fashionable and cool vibes, saying that “you have to live there at least once in your life”! The higher rent is no problem for what you get, and people who love popular places said they have no problem dealing with the crowds too.
The Meguro river lined with cherry blossoms is a breathtaking sakura spot and Tokyoites dream od living there. In addition, the world’s biggest and most beautiful Reserve Roastery by Starbucks opened in Meguro ward in 2019, drawing in people from every corner of Tokyo, and making Meguro ward even more popular.
Neighbouring Shinjuku, Nakano has always been very convenient, but never really stole the no.1 spot for the best Tokyo neighbourhood. Until now. People who are in subculture niches have always known how cool Nakano was, but now everyone is catching on. By everyone, we mean mostly young people in their 20s casting their votes for Nakano. They love all the entertainment and shopping options, especially the Nakano Broadway, often referred to as a more underground Akihabara. It’s a true otaku heaven with locally owned unique shops, game centers, bars and so on.
Survey respondents also cited that Nakano also has a quite Central Park just minutes from the station and a more quiet residential area, making it a great place to live. One can walk to Shinjuku or Koenji, and Nakano’s great location comes at a very affordable price when compared to other spots. In addition, there’s an abundance of cheap but super tasty food joints. Cheap, convenient, and fun. The winner of 2020 sounds like a great deal!
Featured photo by Louie Martinez on Unsplash