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Best Train Lines for Living in Tokyo: The Tsukuba Express

The sleek Tsukuba Express offers easy access to major Tokyo hubs, quiet locals stops and serene nature spots.

By 6 min read

Finding an affordable apartment still within Tokyo can be quite a challenge. So, to help you out with your apartment hunting, we’ve put together this series on the Best Train Lines for Living in Tokyo.

This time, We give you the lowdown on the Tsukuba Express line. It leaves Tokyo and stretches across Saitama and Chiba before stopping in Tsukuba, Ibaraki. But today, we’ll be covering just its Tokyo stations.

Overview

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The Tsukuba Express train TX-2000 rolls through four prefectures.

Launched in 2005, the Tsukuba Express, or TX line, is a comfortable and clean service with free Wi-Fi on the newer trains. It spans 20 stations and reaches impressive speeds of 130 kmh (~80 mph) on the rapid trains, mainly due to its raised railway that bypasses towns and crossings that might slow it down.

It has excellent access to the countryside and nature spots, getting from Akihabara to Tsukuba in just 45 minutes. One caveat, however, is that the line is about 30 minutes from more popular districts such as Shibuya, Roppongi and Shinjuku.

There are a total of four different train types:

  • Local: Stops at all stations
  • Semi-rapid: Stops at 15 of 20 stations
  • Commuter rapid: Stops at 12 of 20 stations
  • Rapid: Stops at 8 of 20 stations

From Akihabara to Kita-Senju, all trains stop at each station. The line is also very mindful of accessibility, with multi-language signs, wide ticket gates and step-free doors.

The commute

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Akihabara is busy, especially if you need to transfer to the Chuo line,

Great access to Akihabara, cheaper and larger apartments and peaceful living are great reasons to live on the TX line, but unfortunately, it doesn’t escape the morning rush.

According to 2020 numbers, between 6:29 a.m. and 9:29 a.m., the congestion rate on the Tsukuba Express rarely dips below 100% between Aoi and Kita-Senju, peaking at 116%. That means standing space varies, but you should be able to board with your backpack on your front and grab the handrail.

In peak hours, trains run every three to five minutes. So, if you have a bit of time to spare, you can always wait for the next train.

Popular neighborhoods

Although the Tsukuba Express line goes out to Ibaraki, it also stops at some interesting spots within Tokyo.

Akihabara

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Akihabara has more than just otaku goods and maids, but if you do love maids…

We won’t bore you with what you already know—Akihabara is famous for its electronics, manga cafés and quirky goods. For some, that’s more than enough, but others might not realize that it’s also an excellent area for hole-in-the-wall izakaya (bar for drinks and snacks), ramen spots and other shopping delights.

For example, for unique handcrafted items, you can head to the stunningly stylish 2k540 Aki-Oka Artisan. Or, for a serene evening, you can have dinner nearby, then take a walk along the Kanda riverside.

Asakusa

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Sensoji Temple is one of the most popular spots in Tokyo.

Asakusa is another major tourist hub, famous for Sensoji temple and its surrounding market-style streets. But there are plenty of other things to do in Asakusa.

Home cooks should look out for Kappabashi Kitchen Street, a chef’s paradise of gorgeous cooking equipment. Or, get a bit merry on Hoppy Street, a street packed with izakaya and outdoor seating. A daytime walk around the area will also result in good vibes and cute cafes, so it’s a great place for a date or lunch.

Keep in mind there is more than one “Asakusa station.” The platforms for the Tobu Skytree, Toei Asakusa and Tokyo Metro Ginza lines are nearly a 10-minute walk away on the street from the Tsukuba Express Asakusa gate, which is closer to Kappabashi. It’s easy enough to get from one platform to the other, but avoid mix-ups when meeting up by deciding on a different rendezvous spot, like Kaminarimon Gate.

Kita-Senju

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Night life in Kita-senju.

In contrast to the previous two, Kita-Senju is less likely to make it into your average Tokyo travel guide.

However, it’s more than worth a visit if you’re into drinking and meeting new people. There is no shortage of tiny independent izakaya and yakitori (skewered chicken) shops, where you can meet locals over a good brew. But if small and cheap isn’t your vibe, there’s a wide variety of other drinking and dinner spots too.

There’s also a convenient and large Marui shopping mall right outside the Tsukuba Express Kita-Senju station. And in the summer, the famous Arakawa fireworks can be seen from the river banks just a 15-minute walk from the station.

Best 3 Tsukuba Express stations for living in Tokyo

If you need help deciding on where to live, here’s a quick list of some of our choices for price and convenience.

Aoi

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The Tsukuba Express rides above the Arakawa River banks.

While Aoi is not the place to live if you’re looking for a bustling city hub at your fingertips, it is a good place to live if you’re looking for somewhere to wind down after a day’s work. Here, you can make the most of larger spaces for cheaper rent than you would find in Tokyo while still being just 14 minutes from Akihabara.

Of course, Aoi has everything else you would regularly need, such as a small shoutengai (shopping street), supermarkets and clinics, but it’s nice to know you can hop on the Tsukuba Express to get your dose of twinkly lights and crazy nights.

Average apartment price

  • 1K: ¥58,000–¥83,000

Local attractions

  • Aoi Heiwa Dori Shoutengai: A shopping street that hosts a morning market every fourth Sunday of the month.
  • Arakawa River: One of Japan’s largest fireworks festivals on the Arakawa River.

Minami-Senju

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You’ll have beautiful views of Skytree from Minami-senju.

Apartments in Minami-Senju are generally slightly cheaper than those in Kita-Senju, and it is much less rowdy, making for a better night’s sleep. However, it’s close enough that you can easily hop on the TX to avail of its izakaya or its great connections to other Tokyo lines. The Hibiya line makes for an easy commute for those working in Ginza or Hibiya.

Minami-Senju makes a good, cheaper option for those who want something between the city and suburban life. There are plenty of small cafés, restaurants, parks and shrines to wander around—and the Sumida River is only a stroll away.

Average apartment price

  • 1K: ¥58,000–¥88,550

Local attractions

  • Sumida River: A river with neighboring parks and great views of Tokyo Skytree.
  • Susanoo Shrine: An ornate shrine with seasonal flowers and hundreds of Hina dolls displayed on Girls’ Day.

Rokucho

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The Rokucho Museum Flora near Rokucho station.

While still cheaper than central Tokyo, Rokucho has become popular as a sleeper town, so you may have to look outside the immediate Tsukuba Express station area for the best apartment deals.

A little more exciting than its neighbor Aoi, Rokucho has several parks, small museums and art galleries to while away your time on the weekends. As Rokucho is on the semi-rapid route, if you time your travel just right, you’ll be able to skip Aoi for a slightly less crowded commute.

Average apartment price

  • 1K: ¥58,000–¥76,000

Local attractions

  • Rokucho Museum Flora: A beautifully designed art gallery and exhibition space decorated with seasonal flowers.
  • Hitotsuya Daiichi Park: A cute park for quiet sakura (cherry blossom) viewing not far from Ayase River.

What’s your favorite train line for living in Tokyo? If you want to write about it, contact us at content@gplusmedia.com.

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