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Best Train Lines for Living in Tokyo: The Chuo-Sobu Line

The Chuo-Sobu is one of the finest commuter lines for convenience and affordability. Discover your new home in the heart of Tokyo with this quick guide. 

By 6 min read

Finding an apartment in Tokyo that is affordable and accessible can be a challenge. With so many train lines and neighborhoods out there, it is easy to find yourself overwhelmed. Thankfully, we’ve got you covered with our series on the Best Train Lines for Living in Tokyo.

Coming up next, take a  ride on a staple of many a Tokyoite’s daily life—stretching from central Chiba to Mitaka in western Tokyo—the Chuo Sobu line.

Overview

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The beautiful banks near the Chuo-Sobu line’s Ichigaya station.

The Chuo-Sobu line stretches across a whopping 39 stations. Several of which offer some of the most affordable neighborhoods you’ll find in Tokyo’s east and west areas. The line also has some of the city’s most popular spots, such as Akihabara, Shinjuku and Nakano.

The line’s Japanese name, Chuo–Sobu Kanko Sen, means “slow-moving Chuo–Sobu line” due to it being part of a two-line system: the yellow  Chuo-Sobu line—having only local and semi-express trains—and the orange Chuo line (rapid), a service that stops only at the major stations.

The commute

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The ride is pretty comfortable during off-peak hours.

While convenient connections, affordability and excellent accessibility are fantastic, there are caveats. The Chuo–Sobu line is so popular that you’re not likely to expect a seat at any point in your journey. After all, Shinjuku—the destination for many commuters on the line—is the busiest station in the world.

Notably, the morning rush between 8 a.m. and 9 a.m. can make you question your sanity and your salary. The congestion rate (Japan’s passenger rating) during peak hours averages over 190%, which means you’re squeezed in with just enough room to read a folded newspaper.

Koiwa is a great pick for anyone commuting between Chiba and Tokyo.

Additionally, if you’re looking to avoid the busiest stations, avoid living between Shinjuku and Kichijoji station. At rush hour, trains will sometimes start running late as the system falls apart with the sheer number of people taking their sweet, sweet time getting on and off the train, averaging a two-minute wait at each stop.

Consequently, this line would suit people with more off-peak-hours work like early-bird school teachers and the crème de la crème, flex-time contract employees.

Popular neighborhoods

The Chuo-Sobu line offers easy access to some of the most famous locales in Tokyo. Here are some of the most popular.

Ryogoku

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Do you want sumo of this?

Neighboring the bustling commercial area of Nihonbashi, Ryogoku is a location steeped in history dating back to the Edo period (1603-1868). However, the locale is most well known for the world-famous sumo tournaments at the impressive Ryogoku Kokugikan National Sumo Stadium. The venue hosts three of the six annual sumo tournaments in Japan. In addition, it serves as a small sumo museum and shop during the off-season.

An historic town, it is also home to the Ryogoku Edo Noren, a large-scale museum featuring a realistic replica of an Edo-era street. Needless to say, fans of traditional Japanese culture will love the Ryogoku area.

Mitaka and Kichijoji

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Who doesn’t want to live close to the Ghibli Museum?

Kichijoji offers a little bit of everything—drinking, shopping and relaxing and lots of green spaces. However, it’s most famous for Inokashira Park. The park is lively and beautiful every season, whether you’re visiting the scenic cherry blossoms in spring or watching the migrating birds making Inokashira Pond their home for the winter.

Nearby Mitaka is dotted with European- and Western-style restaurants and home to the famous Ghibli Museum, where you can see large-scale sculptures of your favorite characters from anime classics.

Shinjuku and Okubo

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The cool vibe of Okubo.

Shinjuku is both very fun and very dangerous. It’s one of Tokyo’s most important business and entertainment districts and as such almost unavoidable if you live or work in the city. It is home to several notable areas and landmarks such as Shinjuku Gyoen park, Nichome (Tokyo’s gay district) and the Tokyo Metropolitan Government building. It’s probably most infamous among foreigners, however, for Kabukicho—Tokyo’s historical red-light district. The city has been trying to clean up the area’s image in recent years, but the results vary depending on who you ask. Still: it is one area of Tokyo where you should stay alert and always travel in a group. This is unisex advice.

Nearby is Okubo. Often overlooked by its Yamanote line counterpart Shin-Okubo, Okubo is home to Okubo Korean Street, where you’ll find all manners of Korean food, supermarkets, bars, cosmetics and idol stores.

Best three Chuo-Sobu stations for living in Tokyo

Although host to many great spots with different scenes, benefits and perks, here are three stations on the Chuo-Sobu line perfect for accessibility and affordability.

Koiwa

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Koiwa’s Iris Garden on the Edogawa riverbed.

Closer to Chiba, Koiwa is a very convenient and affordable location with many small shops and restaurants close to the station. Keisei-Koiwa station is also within walking distance for easy transfers to Nippori or Ueno. The caveat is you might feel a little far from the action, but if you like quiet neighborhoods, it’s definitely the better option. It’s a great pick for anyone commuting between Chiba and Tokyo.

Koiwa is also home to several traditional shotengai (shopping streets) and temples. The area overlooks the great Edogawa river, of which the ward takes its name. For photography enthusiasts, Koiwa offers beautiful street views of traditional Japan and a great vantage point to photograph Tokyo Skytree.

Average apartment price

1K: ¥56,550~¥88,000

Local Attractions

  • Taishakuten Sando: Beautiful shopping street selling traditional Japanese goods
  • Koiwa Shobu Garden: Large riverside park on the Edogawa river, great for cycling
  • Flower Road Shotengai: Large shopping district for everyday goods

Koenji

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You’ll have a lot of options in Koenji.

The Koenji scene is a famously foreigner-friendly spot, where many international communities living there are happily ensconced. As a result, it is easy to meet people and make friends, which can be difficult in a big city. Alongside great foods, Koenji offers a budding coffee scene, with many independent artisans setting up shop in the area. Nightlife is also booming with many outdoor izakaya, craft beer spots and fancy European wine bars.

Access-wise, Koenji is great for getting into Tokyo, being only ten minutes away from Shinjuku on the Chuo–Sobu line. From Shinjuku, the rest of greater Tokyo is practically just a transfer or two away.

Average apartment price

1K: ¥50,000–¥75,000

Local Attractions

Ogikubo

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The Ogikubo area is popular for ramen and street restaurants.

Nestled in between the Koenji and Mitaka stations, this affordable and modern town in Suginami ward is an attractive option for many foreign residents in Tokyo. With a lively night scene and many unique coffee shops and bars, there is never a dull moment in Ogikubo. Moreover, it’s just a hop away from Nishi-Ogikubo station—another popular hot spot for ramen, bars and nightlife.

Ogikubo is extremely convenient with shopping malls surrounding the station building. The area around the north exit is a well-known ramen district if you are so inclined. Ogikubo also serves the Tokyo Metro Marunouchi Line for convenient access to  Akasaka-mitsuke in Minato, Ginza, Tokyo station and Ikebukuro,

Average apartment price

1K: ¥54,000–¥79,550

Local Attractions

  • Suginami Animation Museum:  Museum focused on the history of anime
  • Suginami Festa: Festival that takes place every November in Ogikubo
  • Igusa Hachimangu Shrine: Large and beautiful white and red shrine

What do you think is the best train line for living in Tokyo? Live elsewhere in Japan and want to contribute to our Best Train Lines for Living series? Hit us up at content@gplusmedia.com.

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