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Best Train Lines for Living in Tokyo: The Yamanote Line

Living on the Yamanote line gives you access to most of Tokyo without any transfers.

By 5 min read

Apartment hunting in Tokyo can be an overwhelming ordeal. Regardless of the season, rooms are taken off the market quickly, sometimes even before you decide to apply for them. Whether you base your apartment hunt on the neighborhood, commuting time or pricing, the Best Train Lines for Living in Tokyo guide is here help you make the best decision.

Today let’s take a look at perhaps the most popular train line in Tokyo: the Yamanote line.

Overview

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Operational since 1885, the Yamanote line is best identified for its light green color.

The Yamanote line (山手線, Yamanote-sen) was opened in 1885 and is perhaps one of the most famous train lines that circles Tokyo. The train line spans over 30 kilometers and covers the city’s main transportation hubs and business and entertainment districts all over Tokyo. In total, there are 30 local stops on the line and it takes about an hour to complete an enitre loop around Tokyo.

It goes without saying that the primary draw to wanting to live on this train line is its ease of accessibility to the city.

The commute

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The train line runs in two directions sotomawari (clockwise) and uchi-mawari (counter-clockwise). Most trains start and end at Osaki and Ikebukuro stations. Running as early as 4:30 a.m. to as late as 1:30 a.m. the next day, it remains one of the city’s busiest train lines, with intervals as few as two to four minutes.

Expect most commuters to transfer to the Yamanote line at Tokyo, Shinagawa, Meguro, Shibuya, Shinjuku and Ikebukuro stations. Research shows that the congestion rates for this train line typically stay above 150% and aren’t as crowded as other train lines coming into the city. In the past, certain sections of the train line had congestion rates of up to 250% before the Fukutoshin line and JR Tokyo-Ueno lines opened.

Popular neighborhoods

Using the Yamanote line means easy access to practically all the city’s central attractions. Here are a few of them.

Ueno, Okachimachi and Akihabara

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One of the best cherry blossom viewing spots in Tokyo.

Ueno is often synonymous with Ueno Park, one of the city’s best cherry blossom sightseeing spots. With around 800 cherry trees that paint the sky in varying baby pink hues, it’s long been a sought-after attraction for domestic and international tourism. Other attractions inside the park are the various art and historical museums inside the complex.

A stone’s throw away is Ameyokocho in Okachimachi, a lively outdoor market filled with an array of vendors and great hole-in-the-wall eateries. While this neighborhood isn’t precisely the trendiest in Tokyo, Ueno boasts of local flavors that you won’t get anywhere else.

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For electronics and anime goods look no further than Akiba.

The next stop after Okachimachi is Akihabara Electric Town or Akiba for short. Multiple major electronic stores and multi-story arcades line the main street along with anime goods stores. It’s the place to see new tech products on display. Spending an afternoon in Akiba is easy as there’s always something new to check out.

Harajuku and Shibuya

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The place for all things youth culture.

Harajuku and Shibuya are famous hubs for all things youth culture. Both are within walking distance from one another. Once you exit either station, expect to see a flurry of college and high school students rushing off to get to different boutiques, pop-up events or cafes that are trending online.

From the eternally crowded Takeshita Street to the iconic Shibuya crossing, there’s never a dull moment in these two neighborhoods. If you’re looking for upcoming trends in fashion or beauty, this is the place to hang out.

Ebisu and Meguro

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Yebisu Garden Place at night.

Ebisu and Meguro are two neighborhoods brimming with world-class bars, restaurants and attractions for a more upscale night out. Home to the Yebisu Beer Museum and the nearby Yebisu Garden Place, it’s the perfect place to stop for an after-work drink.

For art lovers, the two museums in this area include the Tokyo Photographic Museum and Tokyo Metropolitan Teien Art Museum.

Best three Yamanote line stations for living in Tokyo

If you’re considering residing along this train line, here are some other neighborhoods to watch out for.

Tabata

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Atrevie makes after-errands easy.

Ranking as one of the cheapest places to live along the Yamanote line, Tabata is in the Kita ward. It’s on the Northernmost tip of the train line and is connected to the Keihin Tohoku line.

This neighborhood has a more relaxed atmosphere for singles and young families with a few playgrounds dotted around the area. has a good number of groceries and discount stores in the area. Steeped in history and culture, this was where a handful of artists and writers used to reside.

Local attractions:

  • Tabata Memorial Museum of Writers and Artists – A significant landmark in Tabata, it showcases various art pieces and works from highly acclaimed Japanese artists and writers.
  • Atrevie – A shopping mall connected to the station’s Northern exit. It houses many different restaurants and stores to pop into before heading home.

Average apartment price:

1K: ¥80,250; 2DK: ¥112,000

Nishi-Nippori

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The famous sunset steps of Yanaka Ginza.

Nishi-Nippori is a quiet, traditional neighborhood that offers transfers to other city train lines, including the JR Keihin-Tohoku line, Chiyoda line and the Nippori-Toneri Liner.

While it isn’t as busy as the other stops along the Yamanote line, it does offer a peaceful respite from the business of the downtown districts. A few steps from the station will have you looking at a combination of traditional and modern-style Japanese houses.

Average apartment price:

1K:¥80,000; 2DK:¥100,920

Local attractions:

Yanaka Ginza – A traditional shopping street that’s been around since the 1950’s.

Mikawashima – One of the oldest Korean neighborhoods in Tokyo, featuring a handful of mom-and-pop general goods.

Takadanobaba

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A lively university town in-between two transportation hubs in Tokyo.

Located in-between Shinjuku and Ikebukuro, Takadanobaba is easily one of our top picks for apartment hunting. Best known as a university town with Waseda University less than a 15-minute walk away, this neighborhood is filled with cheap eats and entertainment. The station also connects to two other lines, the Tozai line which goes from Nakano to Chiba and the Seibu Shinjuku line which covers transportation from Saitama to Shinjuku.

Average apartment price:

1K: ¥90,000; 2DK: ¥110,000

Local attractions:

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