Kokubunji Area Guide

Finding an area that really speaks to you on a personal level can be a difficult task. However, if you're seeking a balance between all things considered (rent, transportation, entertainment, shopping, dining, safety, etc.) Kokubunji might fit the bill nicely. It could be this middle-of-the-road inclination that keeps it from being somewhat under the radar - which could play in your favor if you like to keep things simple and relaxed. Keep reading to get a better idea of what to expect from this livable neighborhood in west Tokyo!

Details

Highlights
-- Recently redeveloped North Exit of Kokubunji Station provides a variety of popular, modern stores/restaurants.
-- Strikes a balance between city and residential life.
-- Connect with history by visiting the various historical sites around Kokubunji (Manyo Botanical Garden, Tonogayato Garden, etc.).
-- Enjoy wide open space at the beautiful Musashi Kokubunji Park.
-- Various stores around the station; from the popular and modern, to more niche and unique stylings as well.
Trainline(s)
Kokubunji Station is located on the JR Chuo Line (Rapid), the Seibu Kokubunji Line, and the Seibu Tamako Line. It serves as a terminal station for its two Seibu lines.
Access
From Kokubunji Station on the JR Chuo Line (Rapid):
-- 21-min direct to Shinjuku Station
-- 34-min direct to Tokyo Station
-- 31-min to Shibuya Station (1 transfer)

Contents

The motto at Cafe Slow in Kokubunji is “slow is beautiful”. It’s a great space to find workshops and other creative events – or just pop in for a relaxing cup of coffee! Photo: Scott Kouchi 

Kokubunji at a glance

This used CD/record shop in Kokubunji is known in the collector’s community for having some of the rarest vinyl records in Tokyo. Befitting of its name of Mezurashiya (mezurashii is Japanese for rare). Photo: Scott Kouchi

Some have come to dub Kokubunji as the “belly-button of Tokyo” due to its central location in Tokyo – geographically speaking that is. This in-between location can work in your favor if you want some distance between work life and private life. It is a popular choice for commuters though, so rush hour trains can be a test of patience at times.

Once you put a little distance between you and the station, you’ll find streets like these which are rather calm for being lined with interesting businesses. Photo: Scott Kouchi

Transportation

You’ll find the south entrance to Kokubunji Station conveniently located on the ground floor of the CELEO department store. Photo: Scott Kouchi

There are three train lines available at Kokubunji Station: the ever-celebrated JR Chuo Line (Rapid), Seibu Kokubunji Line, and Seibu Tamako Line. It acts as a terminal station for the two Seibu lines as well, so all trains on these two lines go north. 

Which means that the Seibu lines are extremely helpful for getting northward without having to transfer. If you are going to want to travel south from Kokubunji on trains, your best bet is to go one stop over to Nishi-Kokubunji Station and transfer to the JR Musashino Line.

All in all, this is a relatively transportation-friendly location in west Tokyo. 

A line of parked bicycles lead the way to the station on this pedestrian path. Getting around Kokubunji is pretty comfortable and doesn’t feel too crowded or busy (except maybe right around the station). Photo: Scott Kouchi

Rent

Keeping in-line with what you would expect regarding distance from Tokyo and rent prices, rent around Kokubunji tends to be less expensive than stations to its east, and slightly more expensive than stations to its west. 

Studio/1K/1DK ¥62,900/month (About $590 assuming an exchange rate of ¥106/US dollar)

1LDK/2K/2DK ¥99,600 (About $940)

2LDK/3K/3DK ¥158,000 (About $1,490)

As these are averages, you’ll be able to find cheaper listings (most likely those farther away from the station, or in older buildings, etc.) if affordability is your main concern. For a better idea of currently available properties in the area, check out the listings for apartments for rent in Kokubunji.

For example, rent for 1R apartments around Kokubunji Station starts at around ¥45,000 per month.

A look at a more residential street in Kokubunji. Photo: Scott Kouchi

Apartments for rent in the Kokubunji area

Ease of living

This large water feature creates a very relaxing and welcoming ambiance at Musashi Kokubunji Park – just 5 minutes away from the station! Photo: Scott Kouchi

With the station servicing three total lines, it tends to have a busy feel – something you’d expect from a more downtown location like Takadanobaba. The station itself is quite large, but it’s still manageable and not overwhelming.

Checking out Kokubunji Station, if you head towards the south exit you’ll be greeted by the CELEO shopping mall. This 9-story building is filled with mostly women’s fashion boutiques, but you’ll also find electronics, a gym, and even an optometrist. 

The north section of the station has been newly remodeled and you’ll find a variety of modern shops/restaurants to browse at your leisure! Photo: Scott Kouchi

The north exit has a smaller collection of shops. While it doesn’t compare in scale to the CELEO shopping mall, the shops here are much newer. Construction on this new addition to the north exit, called Mi:ts Kokubunji, was completed in 2018.

The area around the station certainly has a city feel to it, but just a quick 5 minutes away from the station and you’ll get into quiet residential areas. 

Just across the street from the south exit of Kokubunji Station you’ll find this Maruetsu supermarket that’s open until 2AM. Photo: Scott Kouchi

Finding groceries shouldn’t be too much of a problem. There is a 24-hour SEIYU next to the station, along with a Maruetsu and Picasso. There are also other supermarkets and convenience stores located throughout the area, making Kokubunji rather livable from a grocery/produce perspective.

In the Kokubunji Manyo Botanical Garden you’ll find various plants which are mentioned in the Manyoshu – one of Japan’s oldest collection of written poetry. A wonderful way to connect with Japanese history and horticulture! Photo: Scott Kouchi

A location of historic (and artistic) note is the Kokubunji Manyo Garden. Here, you’ll find a beautifully maintained garden which displays flowers described in the Man’yōshū, the oldest collection of written Japanese poetry. Approximately 150 species of plants have been chronicled in over 1500 poems, and the Manyo Gardens (47 across Japan) are living catalogs of these flowers, grasses, and trees.

Ota Cafe is almost hidden away from view from the streets. However if you do get the chance to sneak away to this impressively peaceful retreat, you can enjoy some delicious curry! Photo: Scott Kouchi

Kokubunji has its own fair share of restaurants and cafes to choose from, making it a great place for eating out with friends. The only downside I can see is that it might be “too far” from downtown Tokyo for some friends. I think most people wouldn’t have a problem catching a train to grab dinner here though unless they live in Saitama or Chiba.

Who is this area ideal for?

Just five minutes to the south of Kokubunji Station you’ll find this Blue Seal Cafe. Blue Seal is the ever-popular brand of Okinawan ice cream – this is one of the larger locations I’ve seen in Tokyo. They often have very seasonal ice cream and drink flavors, definitely worth a visit if you’re in the area! Photo: Scott Kouchi

In my humble opinion, if you’re ok with a 20-30 minute commute to Shinjuku then this could be a great area to live in. There’s plenty to do around the station itself, and various parks around as well to keep you grounded to nature. The Seibu lines extending north make getting around west Tokyo less painful, and you’d only be one station away from the JR Musashino Line that travels south. All these factors come together to make an extremely livable area for those who prefer a little distance from the hustle and bustle of downtown.

Living in Kokubunji as a Student

There are a number of well-known schools and universities located in Kokubunji.

Waseda Jitsugyo School, located about a 10-minute walk from the station is attached to prestigious Waseda University.

Tokyo Gakugei Universityis located just a 10-min bus ride from the station. Chuo University (with 846 foreign students in 2018) has a campus located in Tama, about a 40-min train ride from Kokubunji Station. Meiji Universityone of the largest most prestigious universities in Tokyo, has a number of campuses in Tokyo and Kawasaki; the campus in Chiyoda Ward is about a 40-min direct ride from Kokubunji Station.There are a number of well-known schools and universities located in Kokubunji.

For more info, read our guide to living in Kokubunji as a foreign exchange student.

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