Moving to Tokyo?
Tokyo’s Most Popular Districts
Minato and Meguro
Minato-ku is the ward where many foreign embassies in Tokyo are situated. For example, you’ll find the missions of Australia, Brazil, Canada, China, France, Germany, Italy, Russia, Singapore, Switzerland, and the US there. But this is not the only reason for its popularity among the expatriate population.
Nearly 19,000 foreigners are registered in Minato-ku (as of January 2017). Minato is also home to big employers, for example Japanese global players, such as Sony, Fujitsu, and Fujifilm, or multinationals like Air France and Google Japan. Japanese media such as TV Tokyo are located there as well.
Among Minato’s 32 districts, much of Shinbashi, centered round a major railway hub, is dedicated to business and commerce. Roppongi, on the other hand, is its very antithesis. Featuring the shopping/entertainment complex of Roppongi Hills, a vibrant nightlife and upscale shopping facility. Roppongi appeals to the foreign residents of Tokyo. If Roppongi should prove too busy and exciting for you, as an inhabitant of Minato-ku, you can always retire to Akasaka. The local Nogi Shrine offers you an oasis of peace and quiet.
Some more foreign embassies can be found in Meguro-ku — that of Nepal, for example. After all, Nepalese expatriates make up 5% of Tokyo’s foreign-born population. Many of Meguro’s 27 neighborhoods are fairly calm residential areas. The posh shopping district of Jiyūgaoka is one of the few exceptions, though it’s still fairly cozy by Tokyo standards.
Shibuya-ku, is a large ward subdivided into more than three dozen neighborhoods. Its landmark railway station on the Yamanote Line has been a favorite meeting point for generations of Japanese teenagers. The busy street crossing is the center of a district dedicated to youth culture and fashion.
Among its numerous foreign residents, the more affluent expatriates might be interested in moving to the upmarket residential neighborhood of Hirō. However, other parts of Shibuya have more of a business character, for example those housing the HQ of Coca Cola Japan or GAP Japan. The Sendagaya district is home to fashion warehouses and art schools, with its proximity to the highly fashion-conscious neighborhood of Harajuku making it a design hotspot.
Last but certainly not least, Shinjuku-ku attracts lots of foreigners moving to Tokyo. With a foreign population of over 41,000 people (around 10% of the expats living in the 23 special wards and 8% of all foreign-born residents in Tokyo), it has the highest rate of foreign residents in the prefecture. Since Shinjuku consists of a large number of individual neighborhoods, its atmosphere varies from district to district.
The Ichigaya neighborhood and the skyscrapers of Nishi-Shinjuku represent commerce and administration. One of the towering edifices is the Tokyo Metropolitan Government Building, the city hall for the entire metropolis.
Shinjuku-ni-chōme, on the other hand, is famous for being the center of Japan’s gay subculture. Kabukichō, the “sleepless town”, is a nightlife and amusement district. However, it is also notorious for its hostess bars, massage parlors, and brothels, as well as the local influence of the yakuza, the Japanese mafia.
If Shinjuku-ni-chōme and Kabukichō should be too noisy for you, you could take refuge in Kagurazaka, a more traditional area. There, you can find both the last of Tokyo’s okiya (geisha houses) and a large concentration of French expatriates. What Kagurazaka is to the French, Ōkubo is to the Koreans.
Beyond the City Center
Once you go beyond the Yamanote Line, you may find that living expenses are slightly lower in the eight or nine wards of Shitamachi. This part of the city used to be Edo-era downtown, peopled by merchants, artisans, and the lower classes rather than feudal Japan’s warrior aristocracy.
Moreover, in the 10 suburban wards beyond central Tokyo, there are also more residential areas. Setagaya-ku, for instance, a large ward to the southwest of Tokyo’s center, has a foreign population of over 18,000 people.
Other expats do not even live in Tokyo itself, but rather in the Greater Tokyo Area. Yokohama in particular is a popular place for foreigners. The booming port city with more than 3.7 million inhabitants is an important location for shipping businesses, biotechnology, and the semi-conductor industry.
Its almost 88,000 foreign residents come, for instance, from China, South Korea, the Philippines, Brazil, the US, Vietnam, India, Thailand, Peru, Taiwan, Indonesia, the UK, and Germany. The latter is probably due to the only German International School in Metropolitan Tokyo being situated in Yokohama.
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