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Destination: Tokyo

Japan With Kids - Forums: Moving to and Leaving Japan: Moving To Japan: Destination: Tokyo
By Nancy Lydon on Friday, March 26, 2004 - 2:06 pm:

What are the best parts of Tokyo to live in if you are an American. I also have a 2 year old that I would like to send to a good preschool as well.

Any thought and advice?


By Nancy on Friday, March 26, 2004 - 11:36 pm:

Dear Nancy

Many foreigners choose to live in Yokohama rather than Tokyo even when one spouse (or both)commute to work in Tokyo. This can take less time than moving through Tokyo in rush hour. Yokohama is a lovely city and expats tend to live near the international schools. There are a number of pre schools to choose from as well. So please do consider Yokohama unless the distance to work is prohibitive. Yokohama offers a very different lifestyle than Tokyo.(IMHO) Good Luck!

By Jenny on Saturday, March 27, 2004 - 3:14 pm:

Dear Nancy Lydon,
to put the Yokohama/Tokyo commute into perspective, the trains from Yokohama to Tokyo station can take as little as 24 minutes depending on which station you are starting from.
A comparable commute might be historic district of Alexandria into Washington,DC, or maybe north of Washington Bridge into downtown Manhattan.
Older kids often travel to school on their own or some schools have buses, so you need to choose a place close to the school but 2 yearl olds are usually brought by their caretaker. A lot of kindergarten type schools have a toileting policy where students must be toilet trained. Two is a bit young. I think most of schools start at 3 or even 4. To start research on schools you should look at the international school list on this web site. It's by far the most accurate list.
Sorry, if I've come to the wrong conclusion and you are really looking for Japanese schooling. If you are, then schooling does not start until age 4 (Yochien=kindergarten). There are private options though.
For example, there's this famous program that is really intense. Flash cards and left side brain training, etc. Kids learn a lot of symbol recognition. You can read more about it in the archives at the e-list.

By Sandy Wilson on Saturday, April 3, 2004 - 10:54 pm:

Tokyo - Himonya, Meguro ku OR Yoyogi Uehara, Shibuya ku
Hi, My husband is posted to Tokyo for opening an office/work for 1 to 2 years. We (American family - husband, 2.5 yr-old, & I with a baby due Sep 04) are planning to move in mid May 2004. During our visit 2 weeks ago, we viewed several apartments. We narrowed down to 2: (A) Himonya & (B) Yoyogi Uehara.

Does anyone has any advice as to which will be a better place for our family in terms of pre-school, shopping, commute, parks, etc.?
Also, is it advisable to purchase furniture and appliances, rather than rent? Thanks

By Sandy Cox on Sunday, April 4, 2004 - 8:02 am:

Dear Sandy,
Your stay is very short so if you rent most of your stuff, then leaving will be that much easier. The rental people come and pick it all up and it's done. You can always buy a few things if you fall in love with something furniture-wise, and ship it back. It is probably cheaper to store most of your things back home then to ship them over (and perhaps then back again). Both areas will work for you. There are good pre-schools in both areas. Yoyogi Uehara is closer to Harajuku and right next to Yoyogi park. Harajuku is like a street in Paris, a lot of westerners like to hang out there. All the big designers have stores there (as well as in Ginza). But I'm not sure the Yoyogi-Uehara subway station is very stroller friendly. The Harajuku Yamanote line station now has escalators AND an elevator!
See the conversation for that at:

By Geraldine on Monday, August 30, 2004 - 5:38 pm:

NEW to Japan????

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We will be having a "Newcomers Morning Coffee" session in mid October to welcome new arrivals, meet new friendsand share your impressions and experiences over a casual enviroment. This is a FREE EVENT and everybody is welcome!!!

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By Jillann Grooms on Friday, February 18, 2005 - 2:38 am:

We will be visiting Tokyo in March and moving in June, I have 3 school age kids and would like to live on an ASIJ bus line. We are not sure what neighborhoods to look at when we visit next month. Any suggestions, also, should we plan on buying a used car for grocery shopping etc..?

By Alexandra Roberts-Judd on Friday, February 18, 2005 - 10:21 am:

Hi Jilliann, We live in an area called, Daikanyama, and have an ASIJ bus stop literally on the corner of our block. Daikanyama is a very nice area of Tokyo that is very trendy and very international. You would have easy to access to many international restaurants as well as local ones. There are a number of good supermarkets within an easy walk that carry a good mix of both western and local foods. Apartments in our area are very nice, large enough for a family (we have foud bedrooms, 2.5 bathrooms) but are a bit pricey, so hopefully you have a company sponsoring the housing cost. If not, you might want to look elsewhere. Good luck.

By Jillann Grooms on Saturday, March 19, 2005 - 12:00 am:

We are a family of 2 adults, 3 kids moving to Tokyo in July. Even though we have a relo company, I was looking to see if anyone knows of a first floor house or apartment (we will be bringing a cat and dog) in either Shibuya-ku or Minato-ku near an ASIJ bus line with rent around 1.4 million yen that will be available in June or July? Maybe you know someone leaving that has not given their notice yet. I will be back after Golden Week to look for housing but would love to get a head start!

By chi park on Thursday, June 16, 2005 - 2:49 pm:

My husband and I are deciding whether to accept a 3-6 month assignment in Tokyo. We have a 10 week old and are wondering how easy it is to find a community of mothers with young kids, how easy it is to find a good English speaking pediatrician, how easy/difficult it is to get around with a baby on public transport (we probably won't have a car), babysitting, what areas are best for young families with parks, nice atmosphere...etc.

Reading some of the other discussions makes it seem that Hiroo and Omotesando are two good areas. Any other suggestions?

Any advice to help make our decision would be greatly appreciated.


By Scott Hancock on Thursday, June 16, 2005 - 4:15 pm:

If you browse the discussions here, you should get an idea of what's involved in setting up a house with a baby here.

3-6 months is pretty short, but it is doable if you are flexible and perseverent. Hiroo is probably better for meeting up with moms with infants. There is a park there that is popular to hang out in. Omotesando is great, too.

Public transport is great. You have to be prepared to carry stroller up stairs. Though at that age, maybe still in a sling? Anyway, lots of walking & climbing. Elevators in stations are expanding, though.

I think the general answer you are looking for rests mainly in your ability to be outgoing, resourceful, flexible, physically fit and not prone to being frustrated. If you are looking for full-serve, it could be a challenge.

There are a few English speaking pediatricians, so that's not much of an issue if your babay is in good health to begin with.


By chi park on Friday, June 17, 2005 - 7:29 am:

Thanks Scott. I had heard that there were elevators in almost all the subway stations, but maybe that is not so?

I forgot to ask about general baby-friendliness in the society. Is it acceptable to bring babies to shops, cafes, restaurants. Are these places generally elevator accessible and have highchairs, etc? When I was there for a short visit, staying right in the center of the city (by Tokyo Station) I saw no babies anywhere. Maybe I would have if I had been in a different area?

By Bethan Hutton on Friday, June 17, 2005 - 9:23 am:

The area around Tokyo Station is basically a business district, so you wouldn't expect to find many children around there. Omotesando and Hiroo etc are another matter. But children are welcome pretty much anywhere in Tokyo (shops, restaurants etc - certainly more so than in the UK, where I come from). Family-friendly restaurants don't necessarily have high chairs, however - babies are expected to be carried or held a lot of the time here. Accessibility is another issue. Big department stores and so on have elevators, but as Scott mentioned above, many stations still do not have elevators, and nor do many smaller stores. This can be a problem if your closest supermarket is the two-storey with no elevator type, but in general it just means you have to be prepared to carry the baby and/or stroller up and down stairs sometimes. A good baby-carrying sling and a light-weight stroller are essential around Tokyo.

By Scott Hancock on Friday, June 17, 2005 - 9:33 am:

I'm really speaking as an observer here, since my kids are 11 and 14 and I don't use the trains much.

Still, I don't know if we can say "almost all" of the stations have elevators. There are discussions about this elsewhere here. Seems people are still planning their travels according to stations with them.

It is a very baby friendly place, it seems to me. Every department store has baby rooms for changing & feeding. Even the men's rooms on the rest areas of highway have the baby-seat & changing tables. In general, people will be as goo-goo-ga-ga over any baby. When our kids were toddlers, they were constantly being given large bags of candy or gifts by strangers or people in stores. (I was always afraid they would grow up expecting presents whereever they went.)

In Japanese society, the birth rate is falling, so statistically fewer babies. But, in the circles you will seem to travel, those that do have them put a lot of attention on them, so stores & services in the environment seem to support that.

You didn't see babies staying near Tokyo station because that is a completely business district. You will see many babies - especially among the non-Japanese population these days. I notice this very much, now.

Another point about elevator and other information is that there are tons of maps & guide books in English with details. Your stay might be a bit short for this, but the Japanese maps are usable also for their proliferate details.

Have a great time.

By Scott Hancock on Friday, June 17, 2005 - 9:41 am:

You can do a search on "elevator" and see all the discussions/posts about that subject.

The other thing I would mention is the famous "safety" of Tokyo. For your purposes, this is true. Also, as for directions on how to get places, people are very helpful. All visitors tell me that they have only to open their map on the street and within minutes, someone will offer directions. I wish I could say the same thing about helping up stairs with strollers or loads, but I have observed the opposite on that one. Anyone else have a different experience?



By Steve B on Friday, June 17, 2005 - 10:34 am:

Our baby is about to turn one. We noticed that very few people gave up seats on trains and only one person, an Indian man, ever offered to help my wife carry the stroller up station stairs. Japanese society in general loves babies. Nearly every day at least one person and usually several say "kawaii" (cute), waves or interacts in some way or another. People of all ages have come running up to us from behind to return a dropped sock.

We have found restaurants generally acceptable of babies, but naturally choose restaurants that are most likely to be baby friendly. This includes restaurants that are relatively clear of cigarette smoke. We have been offered high chairs but so far have turned them all down because they have been too large or just look less safe than holding on our lap.

All in all, we found it quite easy to care for a new baby here.

Hope this will help shed some light.

By Norm Havens on Friday, June 17, 2005 - 11:43 am:

>>We have been offered high chairs but so far have turned them all down because they have been too large or just look less safe

When our kids were small we got into the habit of carrying with us one of those folding child seats that mounts directly onto the edge of the table. It worked fine for us. Ours was similar to this one:

By Chi Park on Saturday, June 18, 2005 - 2:41 pm:

Thanks everyone for your advice. I will be traveling to Tokyo in July just to check it out. Is there a good way for me to get in touch with other mothers with young children to talk to while I am there? We are thinking to stay at the Mansions at Azabu for the week in July and also possibly for the 3 month stay. Does anyone have any knowledge about this serviced housing?

By steve on Saturday, November 12, 2005 - 3:33 am:


not sure if this is the right place to post this,...but..

My son (month shy of 15) has a chance to visit Japan. He has friends who will be visiting Tokyo, but no room for him. He had a host family in Nagoya, but that fell through. Now I am scrambling.

Any ideas for finding a family (tokyo preferably, nagoya still ok) that might host my son? His mother--the wiser one of us-- thought a pre-screened host family would be safer. So, does anyone know of an appopriate family situation?

I realize this is short notice, and it is the main reason none of the normal channels will work. The host-family groups are all telling us to just wait till the summer. But his friends will be long gone by then.

By Andrew J. Hazelton on Saturday, November 12, 2005 - 6:31 am:

Not sure if this will work, but you can try the Yokohama International Association (YOKE):
They arranged a host family for a student friend of mine last year.

By Intotheblue on Tuesday, January 3, 2006 - 12:50 am:


I am currently considering a job opportunity in Tokyo and if I accept, will be arriving sometime mid-2006 from Europe. It's been an ambition for sometime to live and work in Japan, but the opportunity came out of the blue, and we were planning to start a family this year.

I am concerned this may be too difficult for my partner, moving to Japan and starting a family in a big city like Tokyo. (With no Japanese language skills)

Has anybody been in a similar situation, who can share advice?

By Scott Hancock on Tuesday, January 3, 2006 - 3:26 pm:

Japanese language skill is pretty far down on the list of concerns, I think. These days, there is much in English, including plenty of medical care. There are hundreds of non-Japanese speakers having babies here these days. There are other discussions on this board about it and if you read them, I think you should get some comfort.

This is not to say that you wouldn't be incurring a couple of classic stress producing situations at once. New job. New place to live. New baby. No matter where you do those together, you will need a resilient, trusting and loving relationship. Even then, in addition to love you need to research the facts & figures, such as living expenses and all the rest. What style of life do you have now vs what you can expect here? (Again see other discussions on this.)

This sounds like a big personal decision with many factors for you to balance. Tokyo, itself is a relatively support-ful place, I think. If you have the right relationship and your logistic ducks in order, it can be a great experience.

For what it's worth...

By Intotheblue on Wednesday, January 4, 2006 - 1:21 am:

... worth a lot thanks.

Much of my research is on cost of living and lifestyle differences, some of it easy to compare, much isn't. I have a fair idea on what to expect on that side of the decision. We have both visited Japan previously, and we live in a high cost city currently, which also helps.

As someone said in a PM to me, building a support network for my partner will be a key success factor, and this cannot be planned, just hoped for! Knowing there is good medical access for non-japanese speaking people, is also a key factor.

We are both expats here in Switzerland, so living abroad, dealing with language difficulties is not a problem in general. Just the baby factor throws up a new untried, but exciting challenge.

We are both flexible, so easing into life and a new job in Japan will come first, then the baby Ewith a touch of luck!

It's good not to hear any negative viewpoints so far, very encouraging.


By Wendy Chan on Wednesday, January 4, 2006 - 11:17 pm:

My family is moving to Tokyo in March. We have two girls (4 & 2). What criteria I should consider when doing the house hunting, besides the proximity to the international school (I want to put my bigger girl into ASIJ, if seats available)? My husband's office is in the Roppongi Hill. I am also thinking about the proximity of international/local supermarkets and grocery stores, etc. Any suggestions of a suitable area? Our budget will be around 1.4 million yen.

By Scott Hancock on Thursday, January 5, 2006 - 5:12 am:

After proximity to school & shopping, the rest is your personal taste. I suppose your employer is providing some assistance with real estate agents? Can be good to have more than one show you properties; there can be listings one has that another doesn't.

Sounds as if you should focus on the Moto-Azabu / Azabujuban / Hiroo area. These are all walking distance to Roppongi Hills. And if you get into the ASIJ ELC there, you're all set.

By Wendy Chan on Thursday, January 5, 2006 - 9:45 pm:

Scott, thanks for your info and also your other answers on my other questions (eg. sponsoring a helper) in other topics.

I've read through the previous discussion and was alert of the problem of smoking (by Steve B on 17 June 2005). Is smoking very common in Tokyo population? Do restuarants have non-smoking areas? (I just don't want my kids getting too much second-hand smoke). I will bring my kids to parks very often, do Japanese mothers (and/or other expat. mothers) usually smoke in parks?

By Wendy Chan on Thursday, January 5, 2006 - 9:55 pm:

Chi Park, Don't know if you are still reading this topic.

Have you finally got an answer as to where to meet mothers (local and western, or any nationality) with young children?

Does any one know any Clubs/support groups for expat. mommies? eg. morning tea club or luncheons (welcome the mommy to bring small kids with them, eg. 2 year old). Just can't find the answer from previous postings.

By Scott Hancock on Friday, January 6, 2006 - 5:04 pm:

Although things are MUCH better than they were 10-15 years ago, there is more smoking in public than in the U.S., for example.

Many restaurants have no-smoking sections, but many do not, still. You will want to choose your restaurants by that factor. You might find smoking moms in parks, but don't worry about that.

By Wendy Chan on Saturday, January 7, 2006 - 10:24 pm:

Does any one know where I can meet the Chinese community? While my bigger girl (4) is studying in international school and speaks some English, she speaks more Cantonese and Mandarin (my family speak these two language comparatively more at home) and my small girl (20 months) understands these two languages fully. I hope they can keep up with these two languages other than English and perhaps Japanese. I would like to meet Chinese mommies with small children, or even join their playdates. Any idea?

By Yuko Kubota on Sunday, January 8, 2006 - 6:39 pm:

Welcome to Japan Wendy,

If you're looking into living in Minato Ward area where Roppogi is, the area has one of the largest population of expats from all over the world, so I'm sure you won't have trouble finding Chinese friends or Chinese food.

But the City of Yokohama has the largest China Town in Japan, and most of the people living there are related to China. There are 2 Chinese schools in China Town. One influenced by the Republic, and the other by Taiwan. Lots of Chinese vegetables, meat, spices and kitchenware are sold and there are loads of restaurants.

The Naka Ward where China Town is located also holds a large population of expats from around the globe. It takes less than an hour to commute from the area to Roppongi.

Here are the websites for China Town (to my surprise, only in Japanese though), Naka Ward and also for Minato Ward.

By crystal cabello on Thursday, January 12, 2006 - 8:01 am:

please can someone tell me what is a good school to attend in japan? i'm leaving soon and i need info on high schools in tokyo! thanx a bunch!

By Julie Hickey on Monday, April 24, 2006 - 10:05 am:

My husband, two children (2 and 4 yrs) are moving to Tokyo in 2 weeks. Aside from a quick three day visit I'm not familiar with the best areas to live. To make things more complicated, there seems to be quite a long wait list of pre-kindergarden schools. Can anyone advise a few general areas that's filled with internation schools, easy commute to Akasaka and kid friendly with park nearby? From the discussions above it sounds like Moto-azabu, Azabujaban and Hiroo areas are the most common. Thanks!

By Sari H. Krassin on Monday, April 24, 2006 - 4:26 pm:

The areas you mentioned above are filled with Expats. You'll find access to more English speaking people. All good schools have wait list. It's best to get on them b/c people come and go with little notice. Moto Azabu, Hiroo,& Roppongi are great. These areas are all close to everything even Asakusa. The only other areas I've been to with Expats was Shibuya which is very busy (crowded) but there were huge homes hidden there. Good luck.

By Kim Vickrey on Monday, April 24, 2006 - 4:27 pm:

We just moved here in March and I highly recommend hiroo, moto-azabu, or minimi-azabu. I hear Roppongi and Azabujuban are great too. We moved to minimi-azabu and love it. I have a 3 yr. old and a 1 yr old and it has been really easy to meet friends and get involved. There are several wonderful international schools very close. The park is right across the street and the National Azabu supermarket is right here. I have not been around long enough to know more areas but I hope this was helpful.

By Nathaniel Graddy on Thursday, June 22, 2006 - 10:45 pm:

Hi all,

Thanks for the great information. I have some questions about moving to Tokyo with two small kids (2 and 1/2 and 3 months) and would greatly appreciate any advice. Here's a little background:

- Non-expat package, so our apt. budget is to about 180,000 yen/month (200,000 tops)
- We'd like a 2LDK or bigger that is at least 70 m2 in size
- my wife is Japanese, I speak the language, and we want our kids to grow up in - to the extent possible - with both languages
- My office will be in Shinjuku, and I'd like to keep my commute to 45 minutes or less one-way (door to door), which might mean finding a commute with no tranfer (Keio line, Chuo line, etc.)

We're currently looking at the following areas and would appreciate any insight into how small kid-friendly they are (parks, etc.), how many other bilingual kids might be living nearby, how quick and easy the commute might be, and other relevant info. Also, any other areas that come to mind would be very welcome. Thanks in advance!

1. Ota-ku (esp. the Oomori or Kamata areas)
2. Shinagawa-ku
3. Mitaka-shi
4. Musashino-shi


By Caroline on Friday, June 23, 2006 - 4:10 pm:

I can strongly recommend Musashino-shi, where I have lived for nearly 10 years. Services for kids are GREAT and commute to Shinjuku is 15 min. Anywhere close to Kichijoji is particularly great, with tons of small discount shops, large dept. stores, cafes, huge parks, etc. Lost of bilingual and trilingual gaijins too. Just the best place!! (at least for us...) . E-mail me privately if you need specific details. Good luck!

By Taka Torimoto on Tuesday, September 21, 2004 - 1:34 am:

I'm a Japanese citizen currently living in the US with a greencard. I have a wife, who is American, and a 1-yo who is also US-born. I might possibly be moving to Japan (Tokyo/Shinjuku area) as an expat, if the price is right (with the company I am working with), for 1-2 years.

1. Where can I find apartment listings in/around the Tokyo area? Websites in english?

2. Any suggestions of nice (nice enough) areas around Shinjuku (within 30-minute train/subway ride) that is also affordable? (I was told to look at Akabane; I currently go to Ogikubo or Shinjuku when I come to Japan for work) How much is a 2LDK or 3LDK that is 80m^2 or larger in these areas?

3. Myself being Japanese, but with a green card in the US, any ideas on what my limitations/rules are, of working in Japan as an expat, without losing my green card (so I can also get back to the US within 1-3 years and still have it valid)?

By Ramu on Tuesday, January 17, 2012 - 12:38 am:

Hi All,

I am an Indian, planning to move to TOKYO in another 2 months for a project commitment. But my wife is pregnant(5 months) and i cannot leave her in INDIA alone at this time. So planning to take her along with me and also have the delivery in Japan. I am not sure of the expenses associated with the delivery. Is it possible get an Insurance as soon as I reach there (she will be in her 8th month)? Could anyone please help me in knowing the process. Please note I will be paid 500,000 Yen/month including tax by my employer. Please advice me if this is sufficient and also the difficulties in giving birth in Tokyo, Japan. An immediate response is highly appreciated.

By Sraboni on Tuesday, January 17, 2012 - 7:56 am:


I am an Indian living in Tokyo for the last 15 yrs. I have 2 kids and both of them were born here. Based on my experience, I would suggest that either you come alone leaving your pregnant wife there in India or you try to negotiate with your employer and find out if they are ready to wait for you .
Bringing your 8th month pregnant wife to a foreign country like Tokyo is quite a risky proposition and not at all advisable. You will struggle with everything - finding an English speaking Doctor in a reputed hospital where the midwife and the other staff members speak understandable English and are willing to accept someone in the final trimester would be a real big challenge.
I understand it is a difficult situation for you and your wife but I feel that planning to take her along is not practical. I am not even going into the financial aspects.
Hope it helps.

By Thekubos on Tuesday, January 17, 2012 - 11:26 am:

If you're leaving in 2 months, Ramu, your wife will be 7-8 months pregnant. Perhaps the airline will not let her board the plane. My wife is a flight attendant and she says this is unlikely unless her doctor says it's OK. That said, perhaps your wife's doctor can in fact say it is not OK for her to fly in two months. Medical reasons generally trump other reasons ;-) Good luck.

By Ramu on Tuesday, January 17, 2012 - 1:36 pm:

Hi All,

Thanks a lot for the response. But it is a very critical situation that I have to travel and after negotiation they(employer) has asked me to travel bit earlier most likely by mid of next month. In that case could you please let me know how to go forward.


By Thekubos on Tuesday, January 17, 2012 - 2:24 pm:

Hi Ramu,

Let me give you a phone number of an English- speaking midwife: (from India) +81 466-25-8709
(from Japan) 0466-25-8709

Her name is Imoto san (pronounced "e-mow-tow sawn")
and she will be able to help you.

She recently opened a new clinic, so her number may have changed. If you do not get an answer, please post another comment.

She is located 50km south of Tokyo, in a town called Kamakura. Where will you be living when you call Tokyo your home? Imoto san will ask you this question in helping you find an appropriate midwife or hospital.

Also, because your primary concern is your pregnant wife, you should post your concerns on Health Forum on this site (if you have not already.)

I hope this helps.

By Pmartbrown on Tuesday, September 30, 2014 - 7:54 am:

We are looking to move to Shoto (1 chome) and I'm curious what the area is like for children. We are concerned it's an area that will "require" a level of quiet that makes it hard for kids to play outside like normal children. Anyone with experience in the Shoto area? Thanks!

By Pmartbrown on Tuesday, September 30, 2014 - 8:00 am:

We are looking to move to Shoto (1 chome) and I'm curious what the area is like for children. We are concerned it's an area that will "require" a level of quiet that makes it hard for kids to play outside like normal children. Anyone with experience in the Shoto area? Thanks!

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