To help you get the most out of your rent money, let’s go through the average cost for different neighborhoods in Tokyo, and some tips for finding the right place to live—for the right price.
Before we start you should know that terms for Japanese apartment layouts are different from what you might be used to. Typically you’ll see a combination of numbers and letters to indicate how many rooms there are in total e.g., 1K = 1 room and a kitchen, 3DK = 3 rooms, a dining room, and a kitchen.
Note that rent prices are per month, before utilities and other maintenance costs.
Tokyo is number 10 on the world’s highest average monthly rents by city
Known worldwide as an expensive city, it is not surprising that Tokyo makes the list of the world’s highest average monthly rents in Deutsche Bank’s 2019 edition of its annual Mapping the World’s Prices report.
It came in at number 10, with apartments for rent in Tokyo at a monthly average of US$1,903 – that’s around ¥203,730 – for a “typical” two-bedroom apartment.
Tokyo makes the list of the world’s highest average monthly rents
However, rents can differ greatly among the metropolis’ various neighborhoods, meaning that you can find a two-bedroom apartment with rent as low as ¥85,100—if you know where to look.
|Tokyo Wards||Average cost per month by Japanese apartment size|
Unsurprisingly, the center of Tokyo has the highest rent prices
Location is everything in real estate, right? Just like any other city, if you want to live in the center of it all, you have to pay a premium.
Within Tokyo’s 23 wards (or local administrative districts) five are considered the center: Chuo Ward, Minato Ward, Chiyoda Ward, Shibuya Ward, and Shinjuku Ward. This is the heartland of Japanese business, politics, and bureaucracy. They are also the most expensive places to live in Tokyo.
Chiyoda Ward is the most expensive place to live in Tokyo, Shibuya is the second most expensive
Chiyoda Ward tops the list with a monthly rent of ¥123,800 for an apartment with one bedroom and a kitchen, labeled a 1K in Japanese real estate terminology. Shibuya Ward comes in next, at ¥119,100, followed by Minato Ward at ¥117,500, based on figures collated from data on Japanese online real estate companies’ websites.
Meguro Ward, though not considered the center of Tokyo, is also expensive
In fourth place, though it is not considered to be in the center, Meguro Ward pops in. This area lies right alongside Shibuya Ward, is cultured and trendy, and has the most popular Tokyo train line running right through it, the Yamanote Line. (More on that later.) Meguro ward’s popularity puts it in fourth place also for one-bedroom apartments with a dining room and kitchen, a.k.a. 1DK, and in fifth place for a studio apartment, at ¥105,400.
A studio apartment in Minato Ward costs ¥132,300 on average
In Japan, studio apartments are called one-room apartments and abbreviated as 1R. The central wards lead the rankings for these, too. Minato Ward tops with an average monthly rent of ¥132,300, Chiyoda Ward is second at ¥130,600, followed by Chuo Ward at ¥124,100 and ¥117,000 in Shibuya Ward.
Just outside the center, the average rent drops by a little
If that’s somewhat beyond your means, let’s look slightly further afield. Although the order is somewhat different, the next set of five wards for both 1R and 1K apartments are the same. As well as Shinjuku Ward, these are all neighbors of the central group: Shinagawa Ward is next to Minato Ward, Koto Ward connects to Chuo Ward and covers much of the bay area, while Bunkyo and Taito Wards border on Chiyoda Ward, as well as each other.
It’ll cost you around $1,000 per month for a studio apartment in Shinjuku
For studio apartments, the median in this range is ¥97,300 a month, in Shinjuku Ward. For 1Ks, the median is ¥99,700, in Shinagawa Ward.
The next set of five wards are predominantly the remaining ones that lie adjacent to the central wards: Sumida, Nakano, Toshima, Setagaya. The median studio apartment rent here is ¥84,900 and median 1K rent is ¥87,800, both in Toshima Ward, which includes Ikebukuro.
In Arakawa, Kita and Suginami Wards, monthly rent for a studio apartment is around ¥80,000
The next five are roughly two steps removed from the central area and include the Arakawa, Kita and Suginami wards. The median studio apartment rent here is ¥74,900 and median 1K rent is ¥82,000, both in Kita Ward, which includes Tabata station on the Yamanote line.
Where are the cheapest wards to live in Tokyo? Edogawa, Katsushika, and Adachi
Ending the ranking – and making them the cheapest places to live in Tokyo by ward – are the most outer-lying wards of Edogawa, Katsushika, and Adachi. The lowest average monthly 1K rent is ¥68,300 in Edogawa Ward. For studio apartment rent, the cheapest is in Katsushika Ward, at ¥59,400, which is less than half the price of Minato Ward studio apartments.
Although the spread across the wards doesn’t quite reach as low as half price for 1K rents, for all our other categories it does.
Rent in Adachi Ward is less than half of the rent in Chiyoda Ward
Rent for a two-bedroom apartment with a kitchen (2K) costs ¥149,400 in Chiyoda Ward but just ¥65,600 in Adachi Ward. A one-bedroom apartment with a living room, a dining room, and a kitchen costs ¥293,400 a month in Minato Ward, but just ¥95,700 in Katsushika Ward.
A one-bedroom apartment with a living room, a dining room, and a kitchen costs ¥293,400 a month in Minato Ward, but just ¥95,700 in Katsushika Ward.
The longer commute to work is probably worth it
Keeping in mind that Japanese companies usually reimburse their employees’ transportation costs, that’s a significant discount for taking a longer commute. As an example, the train ride from Kameari in Katsushika Ward to Shimbashi in Minato Ward takes about 40 minutes.
How should you decide what ward in Tokyo to live in?
Of course, it depends on what your priorities are which is perhaps the key to all real estate decisions. Setagaya Ward ranks 14th highest for rent for 1R and 1K places, but for larger apartments, it comes in at 9th or 10th, probably because of its popularity among families for its quiet, safety and many parks.
Similarly, Bunkyo Ward, with its reputation for good Japanese schools, ranks 6th for 2K and 5th for 2DK, beating out Meguro Ward, which falls to 8th place in both these categories.
Living near a Yamanote line station will make life super convenient
Another approach to apartment hunting is to search by train line. The ideal commute would take you swiftly to and from work and other favorite spots, too. One of the most useful lines is Japan Railway’s Yamanote loop line.
If you live near a Yamanote line station, you can conveniently get almost anywhere in Tokyo. It surrounds the center of the city and connects most of its major stations and urban centers.
|Yamanote Station||Average cost per month by Japanese apartment size|
But avoid the station stops in central wards if you want cheaper rent
The most expensive Yamanote line stations to live on are ones in the central wards. For studio apartments and 1K, 1DK flats, Shimbashi station in Minato Ward tops the average monthly rent list at ¥126,800, closely followed by ¥126,400 at chic Ebisu in Shibuya Ward, and Shibuya station at ¥124,750.
For larger apartments, Harajuku leads with ¥271,700 for rent for 1LDK, 2K and 2DK places, and ¥412,650 for 2LDK and three-bedroom apartments. For both of those rankings, stations in the central wards of Minato, Shibuya, and Chiyoda, fill up almost all of the top ten. (Meguro station, which is actually just over the border in Shinagawa, jumps in at seventh spot for both.)
Differences in lifestyle priorities between renters sees Tokyo station (Chiyoda Ward) ranked 11th place (at ¥180,300) for the mid-sized category, but last (at ¥124,000) for 2LDKs and up.
Northern stations are the cheapest to live at along the Yamanote line
Roughly speaking, the Yamanote line stations with the highest rents are those between Shinjuku (in the west) – down along the southern half that wraps around the most expensive wards – and Ueno (in the east).
Consequently, if you want the advantage of living on the Yamanote, without breaking the bank, go north. The cheapest option is Tabata, at ¥77,750 for one-room apartments and ¥112,600 for mid-size rentals. Tabata is the only Yamanote line station in Kita Ward.
Komagome, Otsuka, Nishinippori and Shin Okubo are good options
The second-cheapest place for one-room apartments is Komagome station, at ¥80,350, and in fourth place, at ¥81,700, is Otsuka. Both of these stations are in Toshima Ward and just three stops out, or one stop out, of Ikebukuro, respectively. The third-cheapest station in this category is Nishinippori, in Arakawa Ward, at ¥81,650.
Rents for all these four stations rank low for all rental sizes, as does Shin-Okubo, in Shinjuku Ward. Along with the slightly higher-ranking Mejiro, Shin-Okubo station has no other connecting train line. You can check what other train lines service the Yamanote line stations here.
More people in Tokyo = higher rent prices across the city
The Tokyo Metropolitan Government estimates the capital’s population will peak at ¥13.98 million in 2025. Rent-wise that means that, for the time being at least, the only way is up.
Global real estate firm Savills, citing the continued popularity of central living and a steady national economy, says “rents should continue to rise in the 23W (wards), and perhaps more rapidly in the C5W, where supply is tighter and demand is stronger.”
Rents in the central five wards (C5W) rose by 2.6 percent quarter-on-quarter and 3.2 percent year-on-year in the first period of 2019, Savills says in its Residential Leasing report on the metropolis. The average rent for the 23 wards increased by 2.7 percent on quarter and 3.6 percent year on year.
“One year has now elapsed since the C5W surpassed its Q3/2008 level, and 23W rents are now steadily approaching their own high water mark,” Savills says.
Families and elderly people are driving prices up
Rent rises in the central area are being led by three wards in particular; Chiyoda, Chuo and Minato wards. An influx of families and elderly people to these wards has the Tokyo government predicting the population there will rise beyond 2025, to a collective total of around 635,000 in 2040, up about 40 percent from January 2017.
the population [in Chiyoda, Chuo and Minato wards] will rise beyond 2025, to a collective total of around 635,000 in 2040, up about 40% from January 2017
Koto Ward is growing, too. So much so that it is introducing restrictions on the development of family-type apartments, following a surge in the population of young families that is putting a strain on its nurseries and elementary schools.
Tips for renters in Tokyo
According to the Savills research, even rents in humble Katsushika grew in the first quarter–by almost 10.0 percent on quarter! So what’s a renter to do?
You could consider living outside the 23 wards. If you choose a reliable train line and a biggish station, there’s not much difference in lifestyle. A train from Shimbashi to Wako City, which is just over the border in Saitama Prefecture, for example, can take as little as 40 minutes. It’s on both the Yurakucho and Fukutoshin subway lines. Explore Greater Tokyo’s many train lines here.
Living further away from a train station will also save you money. Prices drop once apartments get more than 10 minutes away from a station. Working some exercise into your daily schedule was part of your plan anyway, right?
Prices drop once apartments get more than 10 minutes away from a station
You could also try to cut down on the costs involved around what you need to rent an apartment in Japan by searching for apartments that don’t require key money or seeking out a Japanese guarantor rather than paying a company.
Share houses too are an increasingly popular option; with some interesting options like social apartments that offer a luxury living experience for a fraction of the cost.
You can read more about finding an apartment in Japan in our Japan 101: Moving In and Moving Out section. Good luck with your search!