When apartment hunting in Tokyo, it’s easy to get caught up in wanting to live right in the city center and be next to the train station. Not only are you severely limiting your options, but you might also miss out on great (more affordable) deals. There are so many other parts of Tokyo with lesser-known train lines that are just as connected to downtown, offer a great local atmosphere and are much quieter.
So, where should you start? Our guide to Lines for Living in Tokyo is here to help. Today, let’s go through a train line that runs up and down Tokyo (quite literally) called the Namboku line.
The Namboku Line (南北線, namboku-sen) is a teal-colored subway line owned by Tokyo Metro. In Japanese, namboku translates south to north which fits the route of this line perfectly. This 19-stop, 21.3-kilometer line runs from downtown Meguro station to uptown Akabane-Iwabuchi station (which connects to the Saitama Rapid Railway Line). Its route covers several key business and entertainment districts like Azabujuban, Roppongi and Tameike-Sanno.
One of the best features of the Namboku Line is how easily you can enter Tokyo from Saitama and transfer quickly to several other subway lines along multiple stops along the line.
Trains start and end at Meguro and Akabane-Iwabuchi stations. They start operating from 5:09 a.m. to 6:34 a.m. The last train is usually at 12:34 a.m. The interval between trains can be as little as three to six minutes, depending on the time.
Luckily, this line covers multiple central business districts, so you won’t need to make too many transfers if you find yourself working or studying in the previously mentioned stations, as well as Todaimae (Tokyo University) and Yotsuya (Sophia University).
According to research, congestion rates for Namboku Line it’s about 159% at peak hours, with transfers at Ichigaya, Yotsuya and Tameike-Sanno stations.
Here are some neighborhoods that are a favorite among locals.
Iidabashi is often overlooked in tourist guide books due to its proximity to Kagurazaka but come sakura (cherry blossom) season, it draws crowds from all over. It’s also a central hub of transportation covering five different train lines. One of the most popular cafes in the area is right on the water called Canal Cafe and offers romantic night-time views of the surrounding high rises and train tracks. During the warmer months, visitors can rent a small boat to row around the moat.
Azabujuban is located between Roppongi and Tokyo Tower. It’s a small but upscale neighborhood featuring multiple small boutiques and eateries from all over the world. Compared to Roppongi, it’s much quieter and has a much older atmosphere dating back to the Edo period. This area is also home to several embassies like the Philippine, Jamaican and Australian embassies to name a few.
Even if it’s one of the smallest city wards in Tokyo, Meguro is popular among locals looking for a classy night out. If you’re more into having a relaxing evening and unwinding over drinks, this neighborhood has everything from fine dining Italian restaurants to chic hole-in-the-wall pubs. Located nearby are photography and art museums perfect for slow afternoons.
The area surrounding Oji Station is an older neighborhood of Tokyo once known for papermaking and formerly housing the city’s most prominent figures. A nearby park complete with a water play area makes living around this station an ideal place for young families to raise their children. It’s a much slower environment than downtown Tokyo but offers much more space while being well connected.
Average apartment price
1DK ¥78,000 / 3LDK ¥149,000
- Asukayama Park: A massive public park with over 600 cherry blossom trees located nearby Oji station.
- Shibusawa Memorial Museum: A museum dedicated to the life of Shibusawa Eiichi a businessman during the Taisho period that helped drive the Japanese economy.
Nishigahara is one of the least used stations on the Tokyo Metro. It’s much less crowded than the neighboring Oji station with an average of fewer than 10,000 passengers per day. While this station doesn’t offer any other connections to other lines the area surrounding Nishigahara offers a similar atmosphere to Oji. A few minutes from the station is Kyū-Furukawa Gardens, a famous flower garden.
Average apartment price
1DK ¥85,000 / 3LDK ¥185,000
- Kyū-Furukawa Gardens: A flower garden home to beautiful seasonal blooms.
- Otani Museum: A western-style mansion featuring a blend of Japanese and Western interior design.
Komagome station offers transfers to one of Tokyo’s most iconic train lines, the Yamanote Line. While it isn’t a place packed with many tourist attractions, it’s located south of Sugamo which has a bustling shopping street (popular among the older generation). There’s also the scenic Rikugien Gardens which comes alive during autumn for its nighttime illumination.
Average apartment price
1DK ¥96,000 / 3LDK ¥199,000
- Rikugien Gardens: A spacious garden in the middle of Tokyo best known as an autumn foliage spot.
- Sugamo Jizodori Shopping Street: A lively shopping street nearby known as the “Harajuku for grannies.”