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Where in Tokyo is best with kids under 5?

Japan With Kids - Forums: Moving to and Leaving Japan: Moving To Japan: Where in Tokyo is best with kids under 5?
By Susan Smith on Friday, May 28, 2004 - 6:51 am:

My family and I are moving to Tokyo this fall. We are thinking about living in Atago Green Hills. We have a preschooler so we need close access to a school. Does anyone have information about St. Alban's Preschool?

Also, are there other schools close by?

Would we be better off moving to Hiroo or Moto Azabu instead?

Any input greatly appreciated!

By Stefania Butler on Monday, June 21, 2004 - 1:51 pm:


My husband's company is relo'ing us
to Tokyo in the late summer. We
have a 2yo girl and a baby due in
September. We are from San
Francisco, CA.

We'd love to hear any tips to make
the transition as smooth as possible.

We'd love to meet other families! We
hope to settle in/near Hiroo. Any
advice is welcome.

Please tell me apartments come with
washers and dryers!! :-)

Stefania Butler

By Bethan Hutton on Tuesday, June 22, 2004 - 12:16 pm:

Yes, most apartments in the Hiroo area aimed at expats would include washers, dryers, fridges etc, though normal Japanese ones would not.

The children's playground area in Arisugawa Park, Hiroo, is a good place to meet other foreign families with small children - it is just up the hill from National Azabu Supermarket which specialises in (expensive) imported foods and other products.

If your husband's company happens to pay for you to join the Tokyo American Club (Azabu) you will find plenty of other families there; there are playgroups, childcare, and various classes for small children.

There is also a co-operative playgroup (run by the mothers) attached to the Franciscan Chapel in Roppongi (close to Hiroo).

Tokyo has lots of good indoor spaces for children like the Children's Castle and Children's Hall in Shibuya where you can meet other mothers with small kids.

Good luck with the move.

By Lea Watson on Wednesday, June 23, 2004 - 6:06 am:

Hi Stefania:

Have you tried a few of these sites? They'll give a good idea of what's available.

If your husband's company is paying try to get into the places that go for US $10,000 / month (that is not a typo). They are about as close to "normal" as you can get!!

You're going to love it here! It's an amazing adventure. I've been here 11 years and can not imagine leaving. Best of luck

Lea Watson

By Rachel Bee on Tuesday, January 11, 2005 - 9:14 pm:

we have been offered a job in Japan and were wondering where would be a good place to live. We would like to be fairly close to The Montessori School of Tokyo which is in Minato-ku, but don't know the city at all!

What is living accomodation like, is it all appartments or can you find houses with gardens as I have two very active boys.

The boys would attend the Montessori and I also have a daughter who will be around 7 months when we arrive, so would like playgroups or any other local facilities for mums and babes.

Any help would be really appreciated.


By Scott Hancock on Wednesday, January 12, 2005 - 12:58 am:

First, please read the thread "Cost of Living". There is a lot there.

You don't mention your budget. These days, there is a variety of packages being offered, so being aware of the costs is important.

Also, the note on value of having a "look-see" trip before committing, if possible applies.

In Minato-ku, there are houses, but in the area you're talking about they will be expensive. And "gardens" will be quite small, usually. Apartments in high-rises have become very popular with expats due to the services offered in these new buildings. Again, not cheap.

Do you know you can get a space at the school?

Another benefit of some packages that many find helpful is membership in Tokyo American Club. There are many families with small children there now and services/facilities are being added all the time.

Hope you will have a chance to visit before. If your company uses a relocation service, ask them to show you some typical housing. If you don't have that service, check in again here.

Let us know if you have any more questions after reading below.


By Heide Ferguson on Wednesday, January 12, 2005 - 2:11 am:

Hi Tia,
I lived in Tokyo about 2 years ago with my husband and yes four children all under the age of 7yrs. As what Scott said, it is not cheap to live there. However, my husbands company's relocation services "helped" us with the housing, car, school, and cost of living expenses. I would assume that you have this option. We had a big house with a big garden in Oyamadai in Setagaya-ku. Having little children a big car is a MUST I would not dare to ride in the train with my little ones esp during rush hour. My oldest daughter went to Seisen Int'l School, it is a school for the girls but they have a co-ed montessory program for kindergarten/pre school children which is by the way the best in Tokyo and the school have a very nice big school bus that stops right by the corner of our neighborhood,100meters from our house.My son went to Greg Int'l School the teachers there are topnotch but the admin is a pits, no school bus service. This school is one station away from my house. Saint Mary's Int'l School a boys school is OK but you need to see if you can get a placement for your children way in advance, they are very particular on how long your going to stay in Tokyo. St.Mary's and Seisen shares the school bus system. Basically, Oyamadai, Setagaya-ku area are pretty much the place to go with children. We have a big park near by and the train station is just right around the corner. There is also a med ical clinic there near by Seisen Int'l School that the doctors speaks English. This is very important.
The hospital that takes emergency and the doctors speaks good English is in Ginza area, St. Luke Int'l Hospital they are good. Also a family like yours needs a nanny/housekeeper. Having one is a necessity. I do not know how I survived with out one. Our realtor helped us a lot finding a suitable home. Tokyo American Club membership is a good thing to have. All these things do not come cheap.
There are plenty of books you can read about life in Japan/Tokyo. I wish you all the best. Take care. I am just an e-mail away.

By Scott Hancock on Wednesday, January 12, 2005 - 8:29 am:


Just to add a few more thoughts on top of Heide's comments, which are helpful -

Since it sounds as if this might be your first overseas posting, you should be clear that the relocation companies help you find things like schools and cars and housing, they don't pay for it. You have to get clear from the employer what they will pay and what not. There are also usually tax ramifications depending on the company and home country, so be sure to look at the whole "package".

I'm glad to hear Heide was very happy at Seisen's pre-school. There are so many choices these days for pre-schools, be sure to visit a few and get your own direct impression. This can be a very personal choice.

Heide raises a good point that living out of the central area is more friendly to family life. However, it can mean more time in the car if you use TAC or the non-Japanese oriented food markets.

4 kids on the train would be pretty wild. However, you say you have two which is not impossible. Many people do it. Another personal choice that you have to check out for yourself and match with your circumstances. (I'm also a driver, but my wife is not.)

There are other medical service options with English speakers, though not a huge number. It's a long way from Setagaya to Ginza! The more day-to-day kinds of medical treatment are available in small clinics in English in the main "gaijin" (foreigner) neighborhoods. Again, cost is a factor because they tend not to take National Medical Insurance. Another point to be clear on with the employer.

Hope we're not pushing too much at you. It's not as complicated as it may sound at first. You'll have a great experience.


By Ana Mickle on Wednesday, January 12, 2005 - 9:22 am:

Hi Tia,

Here's some food for thought - I have a 6 year old and a 3 year old...

1. If you don't want to drive long distances (Setagaya would be about 30 to 40 minutes from the Montessori you mention), you are better off staying close by - in Minato-ku

2. Check space availability at the school of your choice and have a few backup schools. The international schools tend to have waiting lists, but this is application/screening season at most of them so now is a good time for school hunting. All the international schools are very good and as one parent said to me when I was doing this a few years ago, it really comes down to the feel of the school. If you can come out for a visit, it would be the best way for you to figure out if it is the right fit for you and your kids. Also, keep in mind that some schools start out co-ed and then become all girls or all boys schools

3. The Azabu area (I think the Montessori you are referring to is in Moto Azabu or Minami Azabu) is very convenient for those new to Tokyo. You can walk everywhere, there is a big park (Arisugawa Park), lots of foreigners who are usually good about helping people who look a little confused,a great pediatrician and there is a good supermarket (National Azabu). That said, it is pricey. But if you take the time to really look, you can get pretty lucky.

I just moved recently from Roppongi to Nishi Azabu (5 minutes away from each other!). We lived in what I think is the last remaining compound with houses and gardens etc. in Roppongi which is now going to be torn down supposedly by our friendly neighborhood billionaire developer. I had to really compromise and decide what I wanted: house or location. Unfortunately, it's hard to get both if you're set on being in the Minato-ku area. So my compromise was to move to an apartment close to a park. We got lucky and found one of those two floor deals with a big balcony and a 1 minute walk to the park. If you really need the backyard, Setagaya is better, but I suggest you look at different schools. Another option is a compound called Evergreen Homes in Daikanyama - they have different sized houses in a range of prices with lots of shared green space and a community pool. Unfortunately, it supposedly will only be standing for 2 more years. But if your assignment is a short term one, it might be an option for you. Daikanyama is about a 10 - 15 minute drive from the Arisugawa park and National azabu Supermarket.

One last note on the house - many people who insist on a house don't realize that if the house is the stand alone kind with no compound/community around it, it can be more isolating than if you live in a building. I have friends who lived in a nice house with two low-rise buildings on either side of it who said later on that they thought they might have liked it better to live in a building so their kids could play with neighbors' kids in the hallways or in each other's apartment on rainy days.

4. If the Tokyo American Club is an option, it is a great resource. There are classes for both adults and children and they can help with everything from helping you figure out tours to helping make reservations at restaurants. And the pool in the summer is awesome!

Please email if you need more info. I would be happy to answer any questions.

Good luck and though all this can be very daunting, Tokyo is a great place to live and we are really happy here. I'm sure you will be too.


By Nancy on Wednesday, January 12, 2005 - 9:23 pm:


You did not mention where the job offered is located but I just wanted to add my two cents worth....We live in Yokohama which offers a very different lifestyle than Tokyo. Many families prefer Yokohama to Tokyo for a variety of reasons. Depending on where the job is located, it can be relatively easy to commute from Yokohama.

By Tese on Saturday, August 20, 2005 - 6:51 am:

Hi...we are moving to Tokyo in about a month from the states. We have an 8 month old son and are looking to live in the Kichijoji area. Is anyone familiar with this area? Is it a pretty family-oriented area? If not, can suggestions be made about family-oriented residential areas near Kichijoji? we will be attending language school at Kichijoji Language School and are hoping to find living quarters and childcare near there. Thanks in advance for any information you can provide.

New Mommy, New Country

By Yuko Kubota on Sunday, August 21, 2005 - 2:31 pm:


I used to live in Kichijoji during 87-90 with my husband and still visit there once in a while, and everyone says that it's a great place to live.

I didn't have a child then, but there were many children in our apartment and neighborhood. There even lived a popular writer who wrote a series of essays on the fun aspects of raising her '92 born son in the town.

Kichijoji is a unique town which has the conveniences of 5 department stores, 5 movie theaters and a big shopping archade as well as small shops and restaurants that range from sophisticated to casual to artistic, and at the same time have peaceful places like the huge Inokashira Park with its big boat lake and small zoo. The town also has Keisei University, which at the time we lived had a tiny horse stable where I was free to talk to a horse or two.

The area is flat and very accessible by bicycle to a cheap public pool and cozy libraries (not just one).

The only downside was probably the increasing cost of housing, and the fact that they don't have the sea and the mountains (which actually isn't too far on long distance trains).

I hope someone can up-date this info.

By Tese on Sunday, August 21, 2005 - 2:57 pm:


Thank you for the wonderful information. We are so excited about the move and the experience that we are about to embark upon. I've heard a lot of great things about Inokashira Park. Well, thanks again for the was quite helpful.


By Ggk.Nair on Monday, August 22, 2005 - 12:29 pm:

Hello Tese,

We live in musashino city about 10 to 15 minutes by bus from mitaka or kichioji station from the north exit. There is a very good residential area near the musashino city ward office(shiyakusho). It is called green park town. Accessible by bus to kichioji, mitaka and musashi sakai stations. The kodan is really very very big (not usual in japanese standards) and full of greenary. Due to the close proximity to the ward office and the sports complex (swimming pool etc..) it is really an ideal place for kids to grow up.

Hope it is useful..


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