When we first found our previous apartment in Minami Asagaya, my partner and I were thrilled. It was near a lovely park and gave us an easy commute to work. And then the coronavirus pandemic hit. Suddenly the apartment felt very, very small. Both of us were working from home and neither one could get space away from the other.
After a year of making due, our lease came up for renewal. A few months later, we finally found the perfect house for rent and moved from urban Tokyo to a semi-agricultural area located a 25-minute walk from Mitaka station in the western region of the city.
This has improved our lives, and I highly recommend it for folks who can work from home. Like everything, there are pros and cons, although I personally feel the benefits have very much outweighed the downsides.
While still cheap compared to cities like New York or Singapore, getting a 3LDK within the main 23 wards of Tokyo can be expensive. Moving to the outskirts has allowed us to go from a 42sqm apartment with paper-thin walls to a two-story 110 sqm house for just ¥40,000 more per month.
Innumerable little daily stressors disappeared: we can both work in the kitchen simultaneously, don’t need to fight for closet space and can keep our individual workspaces how we like them. This has improved our relationship, as we both have the space we need and can work without getting in each other’s way.
Peace and quiet
Until moving to the boonies, I didn’t realize how much the constant noise drained my mind. In the evening it is easy to fall asleep, as there are no loud cars, music playing in shops, or rowdy passersby chatting loudly after a night out.
The lack of crowds also makes walking around, shopping and other daily chores so much more pleasant. Walking home at the end of a long day rushing around the city is a pleasure, as just a few minutes from the station the main sounds transition to bird song, chirping insects and the wind through the trees.
Local produce on parade
One of the more unusual reasons for moving to Tokyo’s outskirts was to be able to have a garden, which I have done by colonizing our car-less parking space with large planters and improving the soil of the tiny border of land around the sides. Of course, it is not impossible to grow lots of food in this small space, but we don’t have to since there are over a dozen farms in the vicinity, with four just a couple minutes away by foot.
The year-round availability of fresh produce from our neighboring farmers is wonderful. Plus, most of them price their goods at ¥100, which is cheaper than supermarkets too!
Access to the great outdoors
If you enjoy hiking and hanging out in the cool river valleys outside of Tokyo, being on the Western side of the Chuo Line makes going on impromptu hiking adventures much easier. From Mitaka, it is an easy train ride to Okutama, the mountainous areas of Saitama and the river valleys of Akigawa.
Of course, this isn’t only valid for trekking fans. I have seen folks relocate to the Eastern outskirts of Tokyo or even to Kanagawa to have larger apartments (with killer sea views) for a more affordable price.
Avoiding lifestyle inflation
I am a bit of a finance fiend and aim to live below my means to speed up my retirement timeline.
Thanks to the increased size of our digs, we no longer have to “outsource” things. We can have parties and dinners with friends at home, instead of meeting at a restaurant. We buy almost all our produce from nearby farmers at 100 yen a pop. We enjoy being at home, so the urge to “get out of the house” just to get some space is gone.
Of course, it is not all sunshine and roses. Moving to the suburbs (particularly when you don’t have kids or a car) does have some drawbacks.
Transportation costs and time
With greater distance come higher transportation costs and it also takes longer to get places. However, since my partner only goes to the office six to seven times a month and my jobs often cover traveling expenses, on the whole, this has not been too much of a bother, but you should definitely look into it if you are thinking about moving further out.
Keep in mind that a greater distance means you will likely need to plan things more carefully. I definitely missed the last bus after an evening gig and ended up with a late-night 25-minute walk home from the station.
Popping into central Tokyo will take a little more time and thought. Personally, I have found this to be strangely positive. A day in the city almost feels like a little trip, and we tend to pack in a few more things and fun side quests when we do so, which is both efficient and oddly fun.
Our area is quite suburban and is surrounded by families with children and older folks. We are also the only young-ish folks in the area that don’t have a car and I am the only non-Japanese person on the block. Add to that the regular sounds of opera practice, and our “parking” spaces colonized with planters, so it’s clear that we definitely stick out. A quick round of aisatsu (greetings) and little gifts will help smooth things out, but you should be prepared to face more curious looks than you would in central Tokyo.
If you love the highrises and convenience of central Tokyo, a move to the city’s outskirts may not be for you. But for those looking for a slower, more relaxed lifestyle, I hope to see you at the veggie vending machine soon!
Would you rather live in central Tokyo or on the outskirts? Let us know in the comments.