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Life in Tokyo Archive

Kyodo News: Central Tokyo population expected to keep growing


Creative Commons: erikjohansson

KYODO: The population of three central Tokyo wards is projected to continue growing after 2025, when the overall number of citizens in the capital is estimated to take a downward turn, thanks to an apartment construction boom and convenient transport access. Chiyoda, Chuo and Minato wards have seen an influx of families with children and elderly people and the population growth there is expected to continue through 2040, but it could present municipal governments with challenges in providing adequate child and nursing care.

According to a Tokyo metropolitan government estimate, the population of the capital is expected to fall after hitting its peak of 13.98 million in 2025. But the three central wards are expected to rise further and reach a total of around 635,000 in 2040, up some 40 percent from January 2017. The three wards faced population drain to suburbs due to soaring land prices in the period of steep Japanese economic growth around the 1960s and 1970s and in the peak years of the bubble economy in the late 1980s.

However, the number of residents picked up in the late 1990s with Minato Ward’s population exceeding 250,000 in February for the first time in 54 years. Emiko Kanno, a 42-year-old office worker, lives in a Minato Ward apartment close to Tokyo Tower. “With the developed transportation system, the area is convenient for living and my husband’s commuting,” she said. A native of Hyogo in western Japan, Kanno used to live in Kanagawa Prefecture, southwest of Tokyo, but she moved to the area four years ago when she got married.

The international character of the area boasting many foreign embassies has been a draw and Kanno seems satisfied with the environment for raising her 1-year-old son. High-rise apartment buildings in the waterfront areas proved popular among families with small children and the total fertility rate, which shows the average number of children a woman will bear in her lifetime, stood at 1.44 in Minato in 2015, the highest among Tokyo’s 23 wards.

Chiyoda Ward, home of the national parliament and many government buildings, also saw its population surpass 60,000 for the first time since 1981. The population in Chuo Ward, where the Ginza shopping district and Tsukiji fish market are located, once fell below 80,000 but has recovered to 150,000.

A Tokyo metropolitan government official said, “We have seen a trend of people moving to city centers after the burst of the bubble economy. The three wards with many office buildings have also gone through redevelopment.”The official suggested the latest trend reflects more people opting to live close to their offices after the March 2011 earthquake and tsunami disrupted transportation systems and forced many to walk back home.

But the growing urban wards are not free from problems. The number of children who failed to secure slots in preschools in Minato Ward rose 2.5 times in April from a year earlier. A Minato Ward official said the municipal government is “overwhelmed with delight but a lack of enough childcare services has been the biggest challenge.”

Some elderly families have also been moving from detached houses in the suburbs to apartments in city centers as they are more convenient and well managed, the Tokyo metropolitan government official said. But with more senior citizens living alone or the elderly taking care of their even older parents, more social workers would be required to look after them. “It would be difficult for social workers to come to homes of the elderly in high-rise apartments that are automatically locked at their entrances. There would also be a need to assist people in such cases as elevators stop in disasters,” the official said.

While Tokyo continues to draw population, neighboring prefectures have seen serious population outflows of young people. Even in prefectural capitals of Maebashi in Gunma and Kofu in Yamanashi, populations have been declining. In the city of Shizuoka in central Japan, an estimated population as of April 1 fell below 700,000.


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Results are in for the Recruit Sumai Survey


The latest Recruit Sumai survey on favorite neighborhoods to live in the Kanto region has been published. The top five neighborhoods in the ranking are: Kichijoji, Ebisu, Yokohama, Meguro and Shinagawa. Last year, the top winner of this questionnaire was Ebisu, which toppled Kichijoji, a long-standing top contender from previous years. Other places in the top ten include Nakameguro, Shibuya and Tokyo station area. The popularity of the JR Yamanote train line is noticeable within the results.

The ranking, which takes place annually, is based on a survey conducted over the Internet for several days in January, and respondents pick their top three choices of where they would most like to live according to train stations. For the 2017 survey, a total of 3,996 people living in Tokyo, Kanagawa, Chiba and Ibaraki prefectures between the ages of 20-49 submitted their responses.

It seems Kichijoji is mainly blessed by attributes such as shopping streets, department stores and Inokashira Park. For results of the survey, follow this link for the pdf file (in Japanese): http://www.recruit-sumai.co.jp/press/upload/sumitaimachi_2017_kanto.pdf. Visit Higherground (http://higherground-rent.com/) for apartment listings in Ebisu, Meguro, Nakameguro, Shibuya, and Shinagawa.

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Enjoying Springtime in Tokyo


Toyohara Chikanobu (1838–1912)

There are two seasons that are truly wonderful in Tokyo: Spring and Autumn, and this blog focuses on the former. Spring is arguably one of the best times, and after an often miserable Winter with its dry air and lack of greenery, the warmer weather is a godsend (unless you are a heavy sufferer of Kafunsho (pollen allergies). The warmer weather, of course, also brings the cherry blossoms and the happy, joyful people under them.

Spring brings the Sakura


Flickr, Reginald Pentinio

Without a doubt, cherry blossom (Sakura) season is a major highlight in Japan. It is interesting to note that sakura trees grow extensively in the East Asian region, and exist in China, Korea and Taiwan. However, the way the trees are often presented in Japan is special. Hanami (cherry blossom viewing) is a well-loved tradition and custom where friends, family members and sometimes even coworkers go out to eat and drink all together under the trees to look at the gorgeous cherry blossoms. Click here for a previous blog about viewing the cherry blossoms here: http://livingtokyo.net/uncategorized/2015-03-25/cherry-blossom/ and visit this site for a few more listings: http://www.gotokyo.org/en/tourists/attractions/fourseasons/sakura.html.

Commons, Jun of Kanagawa

Creative Commons, Jun of Kanagawa

For Tokyo, on average, cherry blossoms start to bloom around the 25th of March and should be in full bloom by the first few days of April. It seems for this year, 2017, the blossoms may arrive a little earlier in Tokyo, and the latest (the fifth) forecast shows possible start date of March 19th. The blossoms usually last about a week. Warmer weather sooner will bring the blooms earlier, while colder weather will delay the blooms; but it is always hard to gauge especially for travellers who need to plan ahead. A good site for tracking the Sakura forecast for Japan is by the Japan Meteorological Corporation : https://n-kishou.com/corp/news-contents/sakura/news2017.html?lang=en#section01

Spring palate bamboo, greens and pink

Joi Ito from Inbamura

Creative Commons, Joi Ito from Inbamura

Spring brings an assortment of new greens to the kitchen table. In Japan, people enjoy bamboo shoots, spring cabbage, asparagus, wild greens from the mountains, as well as certain types of clams and seafood. Unlike other countries that associate strawberries as a summer fruit, strawberries are widely available and considered seasonal in Spring as well.

Young bamboo shoots are used in cooking during the spring and summer seasons. It is usually served with rice or seasoned with a sauce, or can be eaten boiled with a topping of bonito flakes. Another seasonal delight are new potatoes, which give a distant flavor compared to the old spud.

Creative Commons, Katorisi

Creative Commons, Katorisi

The red sea bream (tai) is also considered best in Spring, and is popular as sashimi (raw fish) or stewed. Squid, although available all year, also becomes sweeter in this season.

It won’t be Spring without seeing pink-colored sticky rice cakes (Sakura mochi)  for sale in stores. Do note that the pink hue does not come naturally from cherry blossoms, but is rather colored to celebrate the season. This extends to other Sakura-marketed products and even the Sakura frappuccinos at Starbucks. To the best of this author’s knowledge, the pink blossoms from the cherry trees really don’t have much of a scent or taste; and even if some species do, it would be weak at best (unlike jasmine blossoms, which give off a strong scent, for example).

Creative Commons, Katorisi

Creative Commons, Katorisi

Spring mountain vegetables are prevalent from the later part of winter onwards. Called Sansai, they are essentially wild, edible vegetable from the mountainous areas of Japan. For more details visit: https://gurunavi.com/en/japanfoodie/2016/03/sansai.html?__ngt__=TT0ce0dba30001ac1e4ac20aFjAUoGt4r8gMJP83v-BonA

Springtime festivals and events

There are countless festivals taking place in Spring time, many of which are centered around the cherry blossoms, and provide food and drink at the same time. One of the major ones occur along the Meguro river in the Nakameguro area, where neighboring restaurants and bars come out with a food and drink stand selling items like sakura champagne and gourmet sausages. There are, however, other festivals of interest and here are a few listed below.

firewalkingThe Firewalking festival at Mt Takao : At the festival on March 12th, believers first pray for the safety of family, traffic and body and then follow yamabushi (Shugendo practicing monks) to walk barefoot over the sacred goma fire that is smoldering and still partially burning. The sight of yamabushi monks bravely walking through the flame while chanting is the event’s highlight. Visitors may also participate in the barefoot walking after the fire has been put out, and by that time, the actual temperature of the path they would walk is only slightly warm. For more info: http://www.takaosan.or.jp/english/index.html

uenoparkhanamiThe Ueno Sakura Matsuri: Ueno Park, is the host of one of many sakura matsuri that take place at the end of March or beginning of April (when the blossoms bloom). Ueno Park is especially welcoming for hamami, as people take up spots by the sakura trees. For this festive occasion, expect plenty of food stalls but also huge crowds. Nevertheless, Ueno Park is one of the best places to take a stroll with the cherry blossom trees.

yabusameYabusame at Asakusa: Yabusame is a type of horse-mounted archery in traditional Japanese archery. An archer shoots three special “turnip-headed” arrows at three wooden targets, while riding on a sprinting horse. This style of archery has its origins at the beginning of the Kamakura period. Taking place on April 15th, 2017, the free event lasts one hour from 11am. It is best to arrive early to grab a good viewing spot.

azaleaBunkyo Azalea Festival (Tsutsuji Matsuri): Located at Nezu Shrine, Bunkyo Ward, azaleas bloom for about a month. Home to about 3,000 azalea plants, the shrine will have Taiko drum and folk dance performances, usually around Golden Week. For more details (in Japanese): http://www.nedujinja.or.jp/main/k4.html

sanjaThe “Yakuza” Festival (Sanja Matsuri): Held in May, centered around the Sensoji Temple and Asakusa Shrine area (5-min walk from Asakusa station), the Sanja Matsuri is considered Tokyo’s biggest festival. It has a reputation for being somewhat wild and lively displaying many elaborate portable shrines (mikoshi). The festival lasts three days and attracts over 2 million visitors. Festivals featuring mikoshi tend to have an energetic intensity about them, as they’re essentially about feats of strength and endurance; and the Sanja Matsuri is considered one of the major ones in this respect.

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Hand-Drip Green Tea has arrived

Source: http://www.tokyosaryo.jp/

Further to the string of green tea chain shops around town that serve up delights such as matcha tea lattes and accompanying red-bean sweets, a new style of tea shop has arrived. Recently, Tokyoites are being offered a hand-drip green tea shop (slated to be the world’s first).

Source: http://www.tokyosaryo.jp/

Located in Sangenjaya, Tokyo Saryo recently opened at the beginning of January 2017. At the shop, detailed attention is given to the brewing temperature and brewing time, to provide, according to Tokyo Saryo, the best balance in aroma and flavor for a proper tea experience. According to the company, packaged green tea drinks and instant types fall short in maximizing the aroma and depth that can be derived from the tea leaves; and by this method operated by the shop, the richness and complexity of the tea leaves can be enjoyed.

The menu is simple, offering a two-tea sample along with accompanying sweets ideal for pairing with the tea at a cost of JPY1,300 (including sales tax). And similar to the high-end coffee brewing experiences found at some high-end coffee chains (or high-end Starbucks), the teas are meant for discussion and contemplation. For more information, visit: http://www.tokyosaryo.jp/

Source: http://www.tokyosaryo.jp/

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New Bakery in Ebisu: Crossroad Bakery


In the last couple of years, we have seen many high-quality bakery cafes open up in Tokyo. With the TV-show famous City Bakery (Sex and the City) adding to the already sophisticated french-style versions and popular mall types (such as Aux Bacchanales), there just seems to be a fancy sit-down style bakery in almost every part of Tokyo.

At the foothill of Daikanyama, in Ebisu, a swanky new bakery has opened. Crossroad Bakery (http://crossroadbakery.com/) offers all-day breakfast as well as other carb-loaded delights. The new shop is located just a few shops from the popular Blacows burger restaurant, and is a few minutes walk from Ebisu station. An eat-in section accompanies the bakery, which offers a wide variety of bakery items for takeaway.

img_20160928_114446Items on the menu include: the usual burgers and sandwiches, but also offers other items not so commonly seen in Tokyo — the Philly Cheese Steak and various stews and fondue served in fresh bread bowls. There is also a dinner menu with main dishes, and appetizers that include guacamole, chili and popcorn shrimp.

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Photo Log: Brick End Stand Yokocho Opens


Here is a photo log on the recent opening of Brick End Stand Yokocho at Ebisu Garden Place. Brick End consists of a small cluster of eateries at one end of Ebisu Garden Place. Right beside the Tokyo Photographic Art Museum, it faces the museum’s modern cafe, Maison Ichi. Here is a collection of photos highlighting this new commercial nook.


Located at the opposite end from the Sky Walk in Ebisu Garden Place, the businesses located in Brick End lies in a small and narrow lane that leads pedestrians towards the Meguro direction. Situated right beside the photography museum, customers are likely to be nomikai (afterwork drinking) patrons from the adjoining office building or from the museum. There are already a selection of restaurants and bars at Ebisu Garden Place, on its ground floor, basement floor as well as the top floors of its office building, but Brick End makes a welcome addition.

There are five different establishments: Aalaap Lene Waala,  KakuUchi, The Great Burger Stand, Music Bar Berkana and Moze No Yorimichi. The list includes a curry eatery, burger joint, Japanese eatery, music bar with craft beer and cocktails, and another drinking and snack place. The individual places are pretty small and cozy given the narrow surroundings.

For more information: http://gardenplace.jp/special/brickend/


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Cool Tokyo: The 100 Views of Tokyo By Shinji Tsuchimochi


Today we highlight an interesting artist that has drawn one hundred hip illustrations of modern Tokyo.

The Tokyo 100 Views project was created by Shinji Tsuchimochi, a Japanese artist. The illustrations depict life in modern Tokyo revealing a surrealistic calm and tenderness with the hustle and bustle of city life, coupled with elements that are unique to Tokyo and Japanese culture.

Inspired by Edo-period Ukiyoe artwork, particularly Hiroshige’s One Hundred Famous Views of Edo, Tsuchimochi began illustrating the 100 views of Tokyo a few years ago, and has recently completed the 100th illustration.

Follow this link to see the artist’s website that showcases all the illustrations: https://www.behance.net/shinjitsuchimochi


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Shibuya Station area undergoing once in a century makeover


The Shibuyagawa river flows behind the wall to the left in the area above the ceiling of a new east exit underground plaza under construction at Tokyo’s Shibuya Station. (Kenji Tsuji)

We share a recent article from the Asahi Shimbun about the current massive development in Shibuya. Written by Kenji Tsuji, Asahi Shimbun Staff Writer, the article describes the scale of the construction of the underground plaza.

An excerpt: The area around Shibuya Station, one of the busiest rail hubs in Japan, is undergoing a major makeover on a scale that occurs only once in 100 years, according to the railway operator. The new east exit underground plaza will measure about 1,600 square meters. It will be located beneath the Shibuyagawa river, which flows one level underground. The course of the river was redirected last summer as part of the project. Below the plaza and 25 meters below ground level, a huge water tank is also being installed. The tank measures 22 meters by 45 meters and is 7 meters deep, a capacity that can hold up to 4,000 tons of rainwater, equivalent to the volume of eight 25-meter-long swimming pools. Because Shibuya Station is surrounded by hills, the water tank is designed to help prevent flooding of the station and neighboring areas during rainstorms. Click here for complete article: Shibuya Station area undergoing once in a century makeover

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News around town: Tokyo’s Toranomon poised to become trendy area

Today, we share an interesting article published in the English section of the Japan News by Yomiuri Shimbun.

Source: Yomiuri Shimbun

Shintora-dori avenue, which connects the Tokyo districts of Shinbashi and Toranomon, is set to be transformed into a fashionable area lined with open-air cafes in time for the 2020 Tokyo Olympics and Paralympics. The Tokyo metropolitan government is expected to complete the first stage of the work, reconstructing the sidewalk, by the end of this month. The Toranomon Hills high-rise complex nearby opened two years ago, but development of the area between Shinbashi and Toranomon had been neglected. Long-established stores and other local businesses have high hopes about the area’s redevelopment.

Shingo Tsuji, the president of Mori Building Co., which manages Toranomon Hills, announced at a press conference on April 13 that the company would build three more high rises in the area. “Our aim is to make this one of the most important business hubs in the world, as well as a gateway to Tokyo,” he told reporters.

Click here for the article: English version of Yomiuri Shimbun, The Japan News

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The Recent Unveiling of Atre’s West Building in Ebisu


Oh My, from the recent launch of snazzy new Tokyu Plaza in Ginza and Lumine’s NEWoMan Complex in the new south exit of Shinjuku station (right by the Takashimaya Times Square) to the recent unveiling of a new shopping annex in Ebisu, Tokyo is brimming with new commercial outlets.

ebisuatrewesthallThe latest unveiling of Atre’s West Building in Ebisu station adds a plethora of modern shops, chic eateries and lounge space to the area. This new building is connected by a pedestrian bridge with the original Atre main building, and features nine floors of retail space, including the basement with a The Garden supermarket. The top floor features a pleasant outdoor public seating space set in a charming garden scene.

With a total floor space of 9,700 sq. meters, the building showcases over two dozen commercial outlets.

A popular addition to Ebisu via this new complex is the Shake Shack hamburger eatery, which has drawn long lines waiting to taste its New York-style burgers, hot dogs, crinkle-cut fries and desserts.ebisuatrewesthall2

Much like the original Atre in Ebisu, the lineup will draw mainly women consumers with its healthy, salad-type eateries and crepe cafe, and fashion and beauty shops such as Cosme Kitchen. The Muji which used to be in the main building has expanded to occupy two floors and now includes a kids clothing section. ebisuatrewesthall4

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