Top 5 neighborhoods for an easy commute to Shinjuku

Living in Shinjuku is definitely appealing: quick access to all the shopping and events in downtown, and the biggest station in Tokyo for simple transportation across the city.

But, we get it, not everybody is on board with living smack dab in one of the most people-dense cities on the planet. The good news is that around Shinjuku there are a handful of much quieter residential neighborhoods that are really only a few minutes away from all the nonstop action of downtown Tokyo. So today we would like to introduce some of these areas to you so that when you’re looking for just the right place to call home in Tokyo, you know that you’re making the right decision for yourself!

For a little background info before we dive in, the main reason we want to share these neighborhoods is so that people can find comfortable commutes for their work here. The actual average commute (one-way) is around 50 min for those working in the Tokyo Metropolitan Area (102 min round-trip). And that commute time adds up. So if you can find something that reduces that to around 40 min round-trip, you’d be saving 5 hours per week (assuming a five-day work week). If you’ve been always thinking “I’d like to go to the gym more,” or “I wish I had more time to study Japanese,” this is a huge factor in freeing up some time in your busy schedule to get things like those done.

Let’s take a look at our commutable neighborhoods around Shinjuku!

Kamiochiai /Higashi Nakano

  • 10 min train ride to Shinjuku
  • Walkable to Shinjuku Station
  • Variety of train lines available in the neighborhood
  • Apartments around Ochiai might be slightly more affordable compared to those in other Shinjuku commutable neighborhoods
  • Click here for listings: Ochiai Apartments For Rent

The area northwest of Shinjuku is a pretty relaxed neighborhood that combines very livable conveniences like affordable supermarkets, calm streets, and is close to Myoshoji River and Kanda River. There are a few different stations in this area as well, so depending on where exactly your apartment is, you can have a selection of a few different train lines that will get you to Shinjuku Station in roughly 10 minutes. And in a scenario where you’re out late in Shinjuku and miss your last train, it is possible to walk back to this neighborhood (maybe a 35-45 minute walk depending on how…. inebriated you are).

Hatagaya/Sasazuka

  • Roughly 5 min train ride to Shinjuku Station
  • 24 hour supermarket adds to livability
  • Nishihara shopping street gives local flavor to the area
  • Click here for listings: Hatagaya Apartments for Rent

Southwest of Shinjuku, and just a quick train ride away on the Keio Line (4 min from Hatagaya, 5 min from Sasazuka), this area is just ever so slightly more upscale compared to northeast Shinjuku neighborhoods. I say that because the redevelopment projects around here have been more recent, and have attracted many families looking for an area close to Shinjuku, but without putting their children right in the midsts of the chaos that can be downtown Shinjuku.

Close to these neighborhoods are other upscale areas around Yoyogi-Uehara and Yoyogi-Hachiman.

Yotsuya

  • 6 min to Shinjuku
  • 9 min to Tokyo
  • Located between these two major business districts for very convenient access
  • Relaxed residential vibe despite the very central location
  • Click here for listings: Yotsuya Apartments for Rent

East of Shinjuku, the upscale Yotsuya neighborhood is packed with a different kind of look and feel that sets it apart from downtown Shinjuku. Yotsuya has a family-friendly atmosphere and relaxed residential vibe, while also being home to the Yoysuya campus Sophia University. This gives it a student-friendly and international twist because of the many exchange students attending classes here. While the large main road of Shinjuku Dori Avenue runs through this neighborhood, it’s almost like stepping back in time when you head off the main road down some of the smaller alleys in this neighborhood. While that is certainly true for other parts of Tokyo (I’m looking at you, shitamachi areas around Nippori), it’s probably the sheer proximity to what is one of the most modern and digital urban hotspots in the world that makes this shift in living environment seem so drastic. Since this neighborhood is east of Shinjuku, it will be very convenient to get to and from either Shinjuku Station or Tokyo Station.

Honancho

Nearby Zenpukuji River in Wadabori Park provides a very relaxing and calm environment for those who also want to live near Shinjuku. Photo: Aoisora77 via Wikimedia Commons

Honancho Station is a terminal station on the Marunouchi subway line, which gives residents direct access to Shinjuku, Yotsuya, and Tokyo. This station lies almost between Hatagaya and Shimo-Ochiaai, just west of Shinjuku. And, coincidentally the atmosphere of the neighborhood is kind of between these two levels. Not quite upscale, but also not solely a budget neighborhood. The Summit supermarket is open until midnight, and there is a small shopping street (roughly 200 m long) with various markets and grocers offering fresh produce.

The Zenpukuji River and Wadabori Park give residents a great way to enjoy the outdoors as well.

Shimokitazawa

  • 11 min to Shinjuku
  • 7 min to Shibuya
  • Very hip, trendy cafes and restaurants
  • Subculture hotspot with a focus on vintage clothes and live music
  • Click here for listings: Shimokitazawa Apartments for Rent

South of Sasazuka, this neighborhood is without a doubt the most eclectic and eccentric of the bunch in the group. Shimokitazawa (often referred to as just Shimokita by younger, hipper, cooler Tokyoites) is a subculture hub where young adults in the fashion, apparel, and arts scenes congregate. If this is something that you connect with then this is a very vibrant, creative space to explore Tokyo. Even if you are just looking for a neighborhood with quick, convenient transportation, Shimokitazawa Station is located on the Keio Line and the Odakyu Line for direct access to Shibuya and Shinjuku respectively.