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Best Train Lines for Living in Tokyo: The Fukutoshin Line

A great line serving west-central Tokyo.

By 7 min read

When searching for an apartment in Tokyo, your closest train line is extremely important. It’s a central component of your Tokyo experience, influencing everything from your usual hangout spots to where you buy your groceries. Your choice of station shapes how you think and feel about life in Tokyo, so it’s crucial to get it right. This series gives you an overview of some of Tokyo’s best train lines to live on.

Let’s take a look at the line that serves the bright lights of western Tokyo: the Fukutoshin line.

Overview

Photo:
The Fukutoshin line colors.

The Fukutoshin line (副都心線) is the newest of the Tokyo Metro lines. It runs from Wakoshi in Saitama through some of Tokyo’s major work and entertainment districts before terminating in Shibuya. From there, the train becomes the Tokyu-Toyoko line, which runs to Yokohama and beyond. You can even take one train from Wakoshi all the way to Yokohama’s Chinatown in just over an hour.

The Fukutoshin line has something of a split personality. The northern half of the line is quiet and residential, with sleepy suburbs and the occasional cluster of shops and restaurants. That all changes after Ikebukuro, though, as the train stops in some of Tokyo’s busiest and most famous districts, including Shinjuku, Meiji-jingumae (for Harajuku) and Shibuya.

The Fukutoshin stops at Ikebukuro and Shibuya, the second and fourth-busiest stations in the world.

Between Ikebukuro and Kotake-mukaihara to the north, the Fukutoshin line shares a track with the Yurakucho metro line, which then peels off to join the Seibu Shinjuku line. This means that anyone living on the line north of Ikebukuro can take trains to the Shibuya, Shinjuku, Iidabashi and Yurakucho business districts from a single platform. If your family works in different parts of the city or you have the kind of job that requires you to travel all over Tokyo, then living on this part of the Fukutoshin line gives everyone an easy commute.

For other connections, the Fukutoshin stops at Ikebukuro and Shibuya, the second- and fourth-busiest train stations in the world, as well as Shinjuku-sanchome. This gives you more transfer options than you can shake a stick at, including multiple connections to the JR Yamanote and Saikyo lines, as well as the Marunouchi line.

In a nutshell, the Fukutoshin line gives you close proximity to some of the best entertainment Tokyo has to offer without forcing you to give up the peace, quiet and affordability of the suburbs. It might not be as fashionable as some of Tokyo’s other lines, but it more than makes up for it in convenience. In fact, you’ll probably be the one smiling at the end of a night out when everyone else is bemoaning their convoluted route home.

The commute

Photo:
You won’t need to squeeze into the train here.

The Fukutoshin line has one of the lowest daily passenger numbers on the Tokyo Metro—a statistic that’s not to be sniffed at in a city full of jam-packed trains. In fact, by Tokyo standards, the Fukutoshin commute could almost be described as pleasant.

The northern part of the line is pretty busy, with a congestion rate that peaks at 152% between Kanamecho and Ikebukuro. That means that you’ll be standing shoulder to shoulder with other passengers, but still able to open and read a newspaper if the mood takes you.

The Fukutoshin line shares a track with the Yurakucho line in some sections and the two trains often arrive on the same platform.

After Ikebukuro, the crowd more than halves and decreases further at Shinjuku-sanchome. If you’re tactical about which car you ride in and where you stand, you might even get a seat for some of your journey.

The trade-off for an easy commute is that you need to be extra careful about taking the right train. The Fukutoshin line shares a track with the Yurakucho line in some sections and the two trains often arrive on the same platform. Trains come thick and fast in the mornings, and any delays can easily trick you into jumping on a Yurakucho line train by mistake. If you find yourself on the wrong train, you can change quite easily at any point up to Ikebukuro. Try to change early, though—if you transfer at Ikebukuro, you’ll have to dash halfway through the station to make your connection.

Popular neighborhoods

There’s plenty to see and do along the Fukutoshin line, as it passes through some of Tokyo’s most exciting areas.

Meiji-jingumae (Harajuku)

Fashionable Harajuku is popular with teens and adults.

Harajuku blends traditional Japan with a legendary fashion scene, based around Takeshita-dori. It’s a fashionista’s paradise, with everything from world-famous designer brands to tiny boutiques in the maze of alleyways around Omotesando. Harajuku is also home to Meiji Jingu, one of Tokyo’s biggest shrines, and Yoyogi Park, one of the city’s most popular hanami (cherry-blossom viewing) spots.

Shinjuku-sanchome

The station is a quick walk from Shinjuku Gyoen National Garden.

The busiest train station in the world squats in the middle of this endless sprawl of restaurants, department stores and nightlife, drawing millions of yearly visitors. The Sanchome area of Shinjuku, where the Fukutoshin line stops, has a delightful array of izakaya, pizzerias and wine bars with European-style outside dining options. It’s also extremely close to Shinjuku Gyoen, where you can stroll around gardens designed in Japanese, French and English styles.

Ikebukuro

Ikebukuro is a mix of Shibuya’s fashion and Akiba’s geekdom.

What Ikebukuro lacks in tourist appeal it makes up for in sheer retail power. Some of Japan’s best shopping malls are scattered around the area, including the Tobu and Seibu department stores on either side of the station. With wide boulevards and hidden green oases like Minami-Ikebukuro Park, Ikebukuro is great for your fix of big city vibes without the tourists.

Ikebukuro has a huge collection of game centers, manga shops and maid cafés, giving it a prominent position in otaku culture. It’s often called Akihabara for girls, thanks to the shops that specialize in yaoi (boy’s love) manga along the Otome Road. To top it all off, the Sunshine City department store has the biggest Pokémon Center in Japan.

Best three Fukutoshin stations for living in Tokyo

If you fancy living on the Fukutoshin line, these neighborhoods are a good place to start your apartment search.

Nishi-Waseda

Photo:
The view from Toyama Park.

Based halfway between Shin-Okubo and Waseda University, Nishi-Waseda is great for students. The station even exits directly into one of Waseda’s satellite campuses. The student focus makes Nishi-Waseda a good place to live for cheap drinks, international food options and a general youthful atmosphere.

Most of the station exits are on Meiji-dori, an extremely busy road that runs all the way to Shibuya, so if traffic noise bothers you it might be worth looking for an apartment a few minutes walk from the station.

Average apartment price

1K: ¥80,000, 2LDK: ¥220,000

Local attractions

  • Toyama Park: a pleasant green space between a sports center and one of the Waseda University campuses.
  • Waseda University: one of Tokyo’s most prestigious universities, with a beautiful campus and a decent range of facilities.

Kanamecho

Photo:
Exiting Kanamecho station.

Kanamecho is based on a busy intersection that’s peppered with shops, pharmacies and chain restaurants. The main draw of the area is that it’s close enough to walk to Ikebukuro, but far enough that you won’t be swamped by crowds every time you leave the house.

However, Kanamecho isn’t just reliant on Ikebukuro for entertainment. The Ebisu-dori shopping street has a surprising selection of bars, bakeries and boutique restaurants, all mixing with the residential life of the street. The Yahatagawa pedestrian path is also great for a stroll, with children’s play equipment and a few restaurants along the trail.

Average apartment price

1K: ¥80-90,000, 2DK: ¥120,000

Local attractions

  • Ebisu-dori: cozy izakaya and cafes along a quiet residential street
  • Yahatagawa Walkway: a leafy pedestrian walkway that’s great for families and children

Hikawadai

Photo:
A neighborhood in Hikawadai.

Hikawadai feels a world away from the noise and crowds further down the Fukutoshin line. There’s not much going on around the station itself, with a couple of small grocery stores and some chain restaurants near the main exit, but it’s the quintessential Japanese suburb: quiet and residential, with some pleasant open spaces.

Nearby, Johoku Central Park has a wide array of athletics facilities and shady paths that are popular with runners. In the spring, gorgeous sakura blooms along the Shakujii river behind the station. Think Naka-Meguro without the crowds.

Average apartment price

1K: ¥70,000, 2LDK: ¥140,000

Local attractions

  • Johoku Central Park: a large park with sports facilities, including several baseball fields and an athletics track
  • Shakujii River: a riverside path lined with cherry trees and the occasional temple

What’s do you think is the best train line for living in Tokyo? Want to write about it? Get in touch with us at content@gplusmedia.com.

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