Tokyo Neighborhoods

Least expensive neighborhoods on the Yamanote Line: The good, the bad, the average rent

In Tokyo, the Yamanote line is the “It” line separating what is central from what is not.

Average rent and sale prices for homes inside the Yamanote line tend to be higher than outside. The train line itself crosses through nine of Tokyo’s twenty-three wards and includes some of the most high-traffic and internationally well-known interchange stations in the city, including Shinjuku, Ikebukuro, Ueno, Tokyo, Shinagawa, and Shibuya. These stations are so massive that they are mini-cities unto themselves.

Less well-known and much smaller are many of the stations along the northern half of the Yamanote line. Neighborhoods like Tabata and Otsuka aren’t touristy but they offer remarkably convenient and affordable options for living along the Yamanote line.

In the ranking below, we feature the nine least expensive stations on the Yamanote line, with a little bit of subjective (!) commentary on the neighborhood and some examples of the kinds of apartments you can rent.

Let’s take a look at some of the Yamanote line’s most affordable living options!

#1 Tabata

Average monthly rent: ¥81,000

Where: Kita Ward, between Komagome and Nishi Nippori, also on the Keihin Tohoku line.

Nearby: 4 stops to Ueno

The vibe: Rich in literary and artistic history, Tabata is one of the Yamonote line’s oldest stations, dating from 1896. Home to the Tokyo University of the Arts, a writer’s museum, and the Horizaru tattoo parlor.

Tabata Apartments: Budget Pick

A small but sunny private room for rent in a share house near Tabata Station. Total monthly cost ¥54,000 yen. No guarantor required short-term ok. Please click on the photo for the full listing and to inquire directly to the agent.

#2 Nishi Nippori

Average monthly rent: ¥83,000

Where: Arakawa Ward, between Tabata and Nishi Nippori

Nearby: 3 stops to Ueno

The vibe: Low-key commuter hub. Nishi Nippori connects to numerous train lines other than the Yamanote: Keihin-Tohoku which goes all the way to Yokohama, the Nippori-Toneri Liner and Chiyoda subway, which connects directly central business districts like Hibiya and Otemachi and uptown stations like Omotesando and Yoyogi Koen. Inexpensive chain restaurants near the station, walk south towards Nippori and Ueno to explore cemeteries where many historic figures are buried!

Nearby: 3 stops to Ueno

Nishi Nippori Apartments: High-End Pick

Furnished and renovated 2DK (Apartment with dining/kitchen area plus two bedrooms) near Nishi-Nippori and Sendagaya stations. Short-term stay and room sharing ok. Please click on the photo for the full listing and to inquire directly to the agent.

#3 Mejiro

Average monthly rent: ¥83,100

Where: Toshima Ward, between Sugamo and Tabata

The vibe: Bustling college town famous for being home to Gakushuin University, alma mater to many members of the Imperial family. Highly recommended for students studying at Takadanobaba and Shinjuku language schools and universities. (All the convenience, with lower average rent).

Nearby:  Takadanobaba and Ikebukuro are adjacent on the Yamanote line

Mejiro Apartments: Budget Pick

Studio apartment for rent near Mejiro Station. Total monthly cost ¥65,000, no key money, no deposit. Coin laundry on site. Please click on the photo for the full listing and to inquire directly to the agent.

#4 Otsuka

Average monthly rent: ¥84,100

Where: Toshima Ward, between Ikebukuro and Sugamo

The vibe: Laid back working-class neighborhood bordering the manic activity of Ikebukuro just to the west. The station building and area are more high-end with an ATRE shopping mall and an upscale hotel (Hotel Bell Classic Tokyo), but just a few minutes north of the station are small streets filled with izakaya (Japanese-style pubs) and small mom-and-pop shops. In August every year, Otsuka hosts a massive awa odori festival with a thousand dancers and tens of thousands of visitors, but for the rest of the year, it is just a quiet neighborhood on the Yamanote line.

Nearby:  Ikebukuro and Sugamo are adjacent on the Yamanote line

Otsuka Apartments: Mid-range Pick

Newish (2017) studio apartment for rent near Otsuka Staton. This is a Gaijinpot Housing Service apartment, so you do not need a guarantor and can pay for everything with a credit card. Total monthly cost if ¥88,873. Please click on the photo for the full listing and to inquire directly to the agent.

#5 Komagome

Average monthly rent: ¥85,000

Where: Toshima Ward, between Sugamo and Tabata

The vibe: Komagome’s main claim to fame is being home to two of Tokyo’s most beautiful landscaped gardens, the Rikugien and the Kyu-Furukawa gardens. It is also adjacent to Sugamo station, which has been variously dubbed the “Shibuya of the Grey-Haired Set” and  “Grandma’s Harajuku” which basically means that its convenient for accessing Sugamo’s shopping arcades and inexpensive shops, without paying Sugamo rent (see #9 below).

Nearby:  Sugamo and Tabata are adjacent on the Yamanote line, 16-min direct to Shinjuku, 23-min direct to Shibuya

Komagome Apartments: Budget Pick

Small, furnished apartment for rent near Komagome Station. No key money, ¥60,000 a month Total Monthly Cost. Please click on the photo for the full listing and to inquire directly to the agent.

# 5 Takadanobaba (tied with Komagome)

Average monthly rent: ¥85,00

Where: Shinjuku Ward, between Shin Okubo and Mejiro

The vibe: As a stop on the Yamanote, Seibu Shinjuku, and Tozai lines, Takadanobaba is a major commuter hub. From here, it’s only two stops to Shinjuku and five stops to Shibuya on the Yamanote line.

On Real Estate Japan, Takadanobaba is a popular choice for students studying at Japanese language schools in Takadanobaba and Shinjuku.

Takadanobaba is thought of by locals as a college town because of nearby Waseda University and the many vocational and language schools, including the Sendagaya Japanese Language School, near the station.

The area near the station has a great mix of ethnic (especially Indian) restaurants, ramen shops, cafes, and izakaya (Japanese pubs) all competing for your yen at student-friendly prices.

Nearby:  Two stops to Shinjuku and five stops to Shibuya

Takadanobaba Apartments: Mid-range pick

Top (10th) floor studio apartment for rent near Takadanobaba Station. Total monthly cost ¥81,000. Please click on the photo for the full listing and to inquire directly to the agent.

#7 Nippori

Average monthly rent: ¥86,000

Where: Arakawa Ward, between Nishi Nippori and Uguisudani

The vibe: Slow-paced neighborhood with a Showa-era vibe filled with….fabric, lots and and lots of fabric shops. Nippori is well known for the Nippori Textile District, a one-km long street lined with textile and fabric stores. This part of Tokyo is also famous for Yanaka Cemetary and Tennoji Temple, perfect for history and culture buffs as well as cherry blossom viewing in the spring.

Nearby:  Two stops to Ueno

Nippori Apartments: High-End Short-Term Rental Pick

Designer, short-term rental in Nippori. Fully furnished, built in 2018. Total monthly cost ¥200,000.

#7 Ikebukuro (tied with Nippori)

Average monthly rent: ¥86,000

Where: Toshima Ward, between Mejiro and Otsuka

The vibe: Ikebukuro is a major commercial and shopping district (really, a mini-city inside Tokyo) and the second busiest station in the world, after Shinjuku, with 2.71 million passengers a day on average in 2007. It primarily serves commuters coming in from northwestern Tokyo and Saitama prefecture.

Here you will find the Sunshine City complex (which includes a 60-story mixed-used skyscraper with an observation deck, aquarium, planetarium, and shopping mall), branches of Seibu and Tobu, two large department store chains, major electronic chains, and shopping and restaurants galore. In recent years, it has also developed a small otaku sub-culture.

Live here if you want to be right on the Yamanote line and have easy access to points in north and west of Tokyo and shopping at your doorstep.

Nearby:  Four stops to Shinjuku

Ikebukuro Apartments: High mid-range pick

Furnished, renovated studio apartment for rent in Ikebukuro. No deposit, no key money, no agency fee. ¥152,680 Total Monthly Cost. Please click on the photo for the full listing and to inquire directly to the agent.

#9 Sugamo

Average monthly rent: ¥86,000

Where: Toshima Ward, between Otuska and Komagome

The vibe: Sugamo has developed a reputation in the last few years as the “Shibuya of the Grey-Haired Set” and  “Grandma’s Harajuku,” which means that it is the place to shop for stockings, household goods, traditional treats like senbei (rice crackers) and mochi (glutinous sweet rice cakes), and lots of other things. For this, you will want to head to Jizo-Dori (shopping arcade). There is also a famous temple (Kogan-ji) in the neighborhood where you can pray for good health. But don’t let all this fool you. The station building is super busy and has branches of popular modern shops like Seijo Ishii (a high-end supermarket) and MUJI.

Nearby:  Mid-way between Shinjuku and Ueno (six stops in either direction!)

Sugamo Apartments: Mid-range pick

Brand new (2018) studio apartment for rent in Sugamo. No key money. Total monthly cost is ¥80,000. Please click on the photo for the full listing and to inquire directly to the agent.

Lead photo: Tokyo Otsuka Noren Machi traditional-style pub in Otsuka, Tokyo

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