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Best Train Lines for Living in Tokyo: The Marunouchi Line

This luminescent red line is designed to stand out.

By 7 min read

When searching for an apartment in Tokyo, your closest train line is essential. It’s a central component of your Tokyo experience, influencing everything from your usual hangout spots to where you buy your groceries. Moreover, 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 delve into the line that’s made for city living: the Tokyo Metro Marunouchi line.

Overview

Photo:
Tokyo station on the Marunouchi is an architectural icon.

The Tokyo Metro Marunouchi line (丸ノ内線, Marunouchi-sen) opened its doors in 1954 as the first Tokyo subway line built since the Second World War, making it the second-oldest after the Ginza line in 1927. Its name, meaning “within the circle,” refers to the moat that encircles Tokyo’s Imperial Palace.

Its lopsided U-shaped trajectory heads east from Ikebukuro station before swinging west towards its final destinations, Ogikubo and Honancho (via a branch line) in Suginami ward. All stations fall within the city’s border, and there are no direct connections to other lines, making it one of the shortest lines in Tokyo.

What the Marunouchi lacks in length, it makes up for with convenience.

However, what the Marunouchi lacks in coverage, it makes up for with convenience. Sixteen of its twenty-eight stations provide barrier-free switches to numerous JR and subway trains, including the Fukutoshin line at Shinjuku-sanchome and a same-platform transfer to the Ginza line at Akasaka-mitsuke. Not to mention, it stops at the most important transport hubs in the city for those journeying further afield: Shinjuku, Ikebukuro and Tokyo station.

On top of that, it isn’t without style. The 63-year-old line caused quite a stir in 2019 by ditching tired-looking cabins in favor of brand-new, scarlet-red cars, mimicking its predecessors that had run until the 90s. The Marunouchi line stands out with cars that have a sleek, rounded finish and on-brand circular windows and handles—especially compared to its less-than colorful counterparts.

All in all, settling down on this line means excellent access to major stations such as Tokyo, Shinjuku and Ikebukuro, while still connecting to quirky popular neighborhoods like Koenji in the west.

The commute

Photo:
The Marunouchi’s Metro Series 2000 train car.

Early mornings on the Marunouchi line are no exception when it comes to commuter footfall. As with most Tokyo trains, you probably won’t be able to stretch your legs out between the hours of 8 a.m. and 9 a.m. But there are some upsides that may make your journey to work a little more bearable.

Marunouchi’s congestion rate typically hovers under 165%. So, while it gets a little cramped, you can still pull your phone out of your pocket to pass the time. Six-car trains mean that passengers tend to bunch up on either end, so make sure you’re sitting in the right car for the smoothest exit.

This is especially true between transfer points such as Yotsuya to Akasaka-mitsuke and Shin-otsuka to Mygodani. But if you don’t want to squeeze in, new cars come about every two to four minutes, so you can always just wait for the next one.

There are five separate starting points: Ikebukuro, Shinjuku, Honancho, Ogikubo and Nakano-fujimicho. Hence, there is a higher chance of snatching that coveted first-train seat. Even if you fail, the Marunouchi is not nearly as claustrophobic as other subway lines.

Popular neighborhoods

The Marunouchi line takes you all over Tokyo, why not hop on and see what it has to offer.

Marunouchi District and Imperial Palace

Photo:
Autumn in the Marunouchi office district .

We wouldn’t dare discount the area that gave its name to our favorite scarlet-red subway line. The Marunouchi district consists of three streets that lay parallel to the Imperial Palace. Once considered only a destination for business, it has since reinvented itself into one of Tokyo’s top spots with rickshaw rides, Michelin starred restaurants and an unforgettable night-time view of the historical Tokyo station building.

For nature-lovers, you can’t go wrong with a walk around the Imperial Palace, which becomes a picturesque pink paradise between April and May. A highlight of this walk is Chidorigafuchi, undoubtedly one of the most iconic places to view cherry blossoms in Tokyo.

Ginza

Photo:
A busy intersection at night in the Ginza area of Tokyo.

Literally built upon silver coins, this high-class, swanky commercial neighborhood has not lost its shine. As one of the most expensive wards in the richest cities in the world, Ginza is not a place to go looking for a bargain. But if you need to find premium products and exquisite dining options, you’ll find rows upon rows of well-regarded stores to fulfill your needs.

Shinjuku

Photo:
Crowded streets of Shinjuku shopping district with commuters.

Whether you want to stroll through the delightful gardens of Shinjuku Gyoen, shop til you drop in a department store mecca or make some memories down Omoide Yokocho lane: the Marunouchi line has a stop for that. Shinjuku is a vibrant city with three contradictory characteristics: the charming bad-boy Kabukicho area in the north, the strait-laced business district in the west and the calming open-spaced terrace in the south.

Best three Marunouchi stations for living in Tokyo

If the Marunouchi line has caught your eye, check out these recommended areas when apartment hunting.

Ogikubo

Photo:
People walk past the Ogikubo station in Suginami, Tokyo.

Ogikubo is the perfect splice between a big city and a suburb. As you exit the station, you’ll be met with a glittering array of lights from inviting department stores, but turn the corner, and you’ll enter into the stillness of residential houses and river walkways. The station connects to three major lines: the Chuo (rapid), Chuo-sobu and Marunouchi, which is a great starting point for any journey.

Known as one of Tokyo’s ramen havens, Ogikubo is a must for any noodle lover. It even has an original concoction, made from a soy sauce and sardine base. Living here could make you pile on the pounds, but it’s a sacrifice you might have to taste.

Average apartment price

1K: ¥80,000; 2DK: ¥130,000

Local attractions

Shin-nakano 

Photo:
Nakano Broadway is one of the centers of Japanese subcultures.

Just down the road from its older brother, you can enjoy all the attractions of Nakano minus the price tag while still retaining a six-minute commute to Shinjuku. You’ll see all types of residents exiting the station as the homey atmosphere of Shin-nakano makes it popular amongst families and students. The main road has all you need: drug stores, banks, convenience stores and a post office. Down Nabeyayokocho street, you’ll find plenty of excellent mom-and-pop restaurants filled with friendly regulars.

Average apartment price

1K: ¥80-90,000; 2DK: ¥140,000

Local attractions

  • Nabeyayokocho Street: a sloping street with bakeries, cafes, cheap stores and welcoming, small-scale eateries.
  • Nakano Broadway: known for its endless supply of anime and manga goods.

Myogadani

Photo:
Koishikawa Koen is just a 10-minute walk from Myogadani station.

If you’d like to live in the heart of Tokyo but still be close to lush parks, then Mygodani might just be for you. While it is slightly more expensive than other options, you get what you pay for. It’s only two stops from Ikebukuro and next door to Tokyo Dome City, heaven for thrill-seekers and baseball fans.

Due to its close placement to many schools such as Ochanomizu University, you are treated to a wide selection of green spaces and sports facilities, including Bunkyo Sports Center and, of course, Tokyo University’s Koishikawa Botanical Garden.

Average apartment price

1K: ¥90,000; 2DK: ¥150,000

Local attractions

What 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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