3 Expat Friendly Areas in Tokyo
When you go on a city trip, it is interesting to discover all kinds of areas; the well-known highlights, the gritty parts of the city, the nightlife districts, the more traditional areas, and the areas where the local expats live. Being the world’s largest metropolis, Tokyo has all these areas and more. What are Tokyo’s expat-heavy areas? And what is there to do there for tourists?
Districts of Tokyo
The whole Tokyo metropolis consists of 23 special wards and 39 other villages on the western side of the city. The 23 special wards is what is commonly seen as Tokyo city. The wards in the north and east are commonly seen as ‘cheaper’ areas, while the wards in the south and especially west are considered the most desirable places to live and are thus more expensive. The central wards, of course, are always a good choice to live in, but homes in those areas come at a price. Which wards are considered centrally located? They are Chiyoda, Chuo, Minato, Shibuya, Shinjuku, Bunkyo, and Taito. Especially the Chiyoda, Chuo, and Minato wards are popular areas to live in because there is a lot of liveliness in those areas and many offices are located here as well.
These wards are divided into even smaller areas, and those are the neighborhoods we will talk about. It is the neighborhoods of Roppongi, Hiroo, and Azabu that are the most popular amongst expat couples and families. What are these neighboring areas like?
While Roppongi used to be known as a sleazy part of town with many hostess bars and nightclubs after the Roppongi Hills complex was built here things looked up for this neighborhood in Minato. With Roppongi Hills, not only a large department store became an attraction in the area, but also the Mori Art Museum, the view from the observation deck, and the artful Mori garden made the neighborhood a lot more attractive.
There are also many embassies located in or around the area, making it a popular place to live for embassy personnel. Because many people like a taste of home every now and then, there are many (upscale) international restaurants in Roppongi so you can have your share of American, German, French, Italian, Brazillian, and more world cuisines. Also, the nightlife is still as bustling as it was before, and it is definitely not only sleazy places that you can find. If you truly want to give Roppongi nightlife a chance, there are plenty of amazing options to let your hair down. Just don’t go with any of the touts on the street as you might get robbed in their ‘under the radar’ bars, and keep an eye on your stuff as you would at home.
So what should you go see in Roppongi as a tourist? Besides visiting the Mori Art Museum if you are interested in modern art and seeing the view from the observation deck, the beautiful Mori garden is especially worth a visit if you are in Tokyo during the cherry blossom season or during the illumination season in November/December. The pictures you will take there are certainly Insta-worthy!
Hiroo is like the posh sister of Roppongi. Never having had a sleazy image, Hiroo is associated with people who are well-off, family-friendliness, and international shopping. There are many international schools in this area, and the winding streets will remind you of the suburbs of good-looking European cities.
It is not exactly a tourist highlight, but if you have some time to spend in Tokyo and you come with kids, a visit to Arisugawa Park will definitely make them happy. Walking around the backstreets will give you a good idea of what an upscale neighborhood in Tokyo looks like, and give you a nice insight into upper-class real estate in Tokyo. You will have a similar experience in Nakameguro and Daikanyama, which are 2 of our favorite areas in Tokyo.
Out of these 3 expat-favorite areas, Azabu is the most picturesque and charming neighborhood. The area is known to be quite fashionable, and the streets are reminiscent of the winding roads in a southern European city. The neighborhood is well-designed, you can really see that they did their best to create a visually pleasing area. Azabu’s central area is the ‘shotengai‘ (business area near the station) in Azabujuban, which is a nice blend of European charm with traditional Japanese elements. You can find many little coffee places, bakeries, Japanese snack shops, small artisanal shops, and restaurants here.
It is a great place to visit as a tourist, as while you might see other foreigners, not many of them will be tourists. You can go there for lunch and visit a few little shops, and snap some nice pictures while walking around. If you are in Tokyo for a few days it is very nice to take some photographs of Tokyo’s many different faces, and Azabujuban is definitely one variety that will look good in your holiday photo album.
If you happen to visit Tokyo in late August, you can catch the Noryo Matsuri in Azabu, a great festival with many food stalls and fun activities. Visiting a festival during summer in Japan is one of those must-dos on your bucket list, you can really feel the energy of summer during that time.
Your Japan Tour
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