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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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Mori’s Toranomon Future


In a recent official press release, Mori Building unveils three redevelopment projects leading up to 2020 and beyond.

Tokyo, April 13, 2016 - Mori Building, a leading urban landscape developer, today announced an extensive slate of large-scale redevelopment projects involving the construction of three towers around the existing Toranomon Hills . The plans will transform the area into a more vibrant, globally accessible business hub that will entice individuals and enterprises from around the world to live, work and play in Toranomon.

Over the coming years, Mori Building will develop three new mixed-use towers tentatively called Toranomon Hills Business Tower, Toranomon Hills Residential Tower and Toranomon Hills Station Tower around the existing Toranomon Hills, which was opened in June 2014.

residentialtower1Upon completion, the total area of the Toranomon Hills complex will reach about 7.5 ha, including the four Toranomon Hills towers, new transport stations, roads and green space. There will be about 800,000m2 of total floor space, approximately equivalent to that of Roppongi Hills, including about 300,000m2 of office space and 26,000m2 of retail space. The site will also house a new subway station on the Hibiya Line and a new Bus Rapid Transit (BRT) station that will connect central Tokyo and the bay area.

Mori’s redevelopment projects in Toranomon have already brought tangible results to the area, an impact which is expected to accelerate with these new projects. Since the inauguration of existing Toranomon Hills, land prices have jumped by about 34.4 percent and the number of people using Toranomon Station has increased by 7 percent. At Toranomon Hills complex alone, the large-scale office space to be created in this development is expected to triple the number of people working in the complex to 30,000. Meanwhile, projects by Mori and other developers in the larger Toranomon area are forecast to add more new office space over the next 10 years than was added over the last 30 years.

The number of residents in the area is also expected to increase as Toranomon Residential Tower adds about 600 residential units. The project also includes the cultivation of extensive green spaces, more than doubling the current area of 6,000m2 to 15,000m2. This will form a network of greenery that connects Toranomon Hills to the adjacent Mt. Atago slope and the Atago Green Hills complex, creating a refreshing and an eco-friendly nature island.stationtower11

“The city and its people need to constantly evolve in order to bolster the city’s power to attract creative individuals and enterprises from around the world”, said Shingo Tsuji, CEO of Mori Building. “We believe that Toranomon Hills complex will continue to catalyze economic, cultural and environmental changes, establishing the area as a hub for international business that will enliven and strengthen Tokyo as a whole.”

Mori envisions this project as multiple structures forming a conceptually harmonious complex that is smoothly integrated with all transportation options, reshaping Toranomon into a gateway to Tokyo and hub for international business.

“We believe that people have the power to change the city. Based on our unique urban design concept of Vertical Garden Cities, which makes intelligent use of ultra-high-rise structures and underground space to enhance infrastructure efficiency and integrate diverse urban functions, we seek to reshape Toranomon Hills into not only a place for business but also as a community that connects and nurtures diverse people gathered here,” said Shingo Tsuji.

Toranomon Hills Business Tower will generate some 94,000m2 of office space by 2019. The 36-floor tower will house the Innovation Center, offering office space, salons and seminar venues for venture capitalists and top companies’ new business development divisions. To bring world-class sophistication to the design, Mori has tapped German architect Christoph Ingenhoven to direct the tower’s external design and leading Japanese interior designer Masamichi Katayama to undertake the interior design of retail facilities.

residentialtower11The tower will house the new BRT station connecting central Tokyo, the bay area and various venues for Tokyo 2020 Olympic and Paralympic Games, as well as a new Airport Limousine bus terminal that will connect Toranomon to Tokyo’s international airports. BRT will be able to carry some 3,000 people per hour and is expected to serve as an important mode of transportation during the Games, carrying international athletes and audiences alike.

Toranomon Hills Residential Tower will supply 600 premium residential units by 2019, bringing the total number in the Toranomon Hills complex to about 800. Responding to the needs of long-term foreign visitors, the 56-floor tower will offer large-scale residential units and serviced apartments with Western-style en-suite bathrooms, a spa and fitness center, childcare facilities and a 24-hour bilingual concierge on site. The interior will be designed by Tony Chi, the NY-based designer responsible for the Grand Hyatt Tokyo and Andaz Tokyo. Christoph Ingenhoven will design the exterior of this tower as well to ensure a harmonious balance with the adjacent Toranomon Hills Business Tower and the existing Toranomon Hills.

Toranomon Hills Station Tower will be a unique redevelopment collaboration combining a multi-use high-rise constructed by Mori with a new subway station created by Urban Renaissance Agency. The tower will incorporate the new Hibiya Line subway station scheduled to begin partial service in 2020 and an elevated open deck with greenery connecting the tower to the rest of the complex via existing Toranomon Hills. Mori Building’s signature style of integrated development will provide a soothing greenery-filled environment that also facilitates the movement of visitors, workers, and residents around the complex and through the city. The project will be designed by OMA principal Shohei Shigematsu in collaboration with founding principal Rem Koolhaas. The specs for Toranomon Hills Station Tower are still being finalized, but it is scheduled to open in 2022.

For ground transport, Toranomon Hills will continue to provide smooth access to Loop Road No. 2, a key trunk route that will stretch from Shimbashi to Toyosu when the final section is completed towards 2020, connecting the facility directly to Tokyo’s fast-developing bay area.

Moving forward, Mori Building will undertake a total of ten large-scale redevelopment projects in Toranomon and surrounding areas, with these three towers at the nexus. For more details: http://www.mori.co.jp/en/img/article/160413_1.pdf Press Release and Photos sourced from Mori Building

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Plum Blossom Viewing in Tokyo

Photo by Kanegen via Creative Commons

Photo by Kanegen via Creative Commons

Plum (ume) blossoms usually bloom in late February to signal the start of spring. While hanami revellers focus on cherry blossoms, which tend to overshadow the former, plum blossom blooms should not be overlooked. Plum blossoms have red, pink, or white flowers and remain in bloom until early March and because they can start to bloom in the early part of Feb, sometimes they can be seen surrounded by snowfall. Given the timing, they provide a colorful and cheerful backdrop to the drabness of winter. The peak of the bloom usually starts from middle or late February until the beginning of March.

The main difference between plum and cherry blossoms is that a cluster of cherry blossoms bloom from one single bud and have a long stem, while there’s only one plum blossom per bud. Much like cherry blossoms, plum blossoms dot the city and can be found almost anywhere around town. Click here for a previous blog entry on cherry blossoms. In this article, we showcase five places where the plum blossoms are in concentration and where festivals may also be held celebrating them in Tokyo.

korakuenKoishikawa Korakuen Garden

One of Tokyo’s oldest landscape gardens, Koishikawa Korakuen Garden was founded in 1629 and located in a downtown part of Tokyo near Tokyo Dome. This charming private garden has a small grove of plum trees beautifully planted around the gardens that feature a pond. This garden features a central pond and hills, making it perfect for a stroll. Under the terms of the Law for Preservation of Cultural Assets, Koishikawa Korakuen has been designated an important historical asset and site of special historical significance. This garden impresses all year round.

Photo by Guilhem Vellut via Creative Commons

Photo by Guilhem Vellut via Creative Commons

Kyu Shiba Rikyu and Hamarikyu Gardens

With a modern city backdrop, Kyu Shiba Rikyu and Hamarikyu are great city parks. Kyu Shiba Rikyu is by Hamamatsucho station, while Hamarikyu Garden is located near Shinbashi and Shiodome stations. The two parks are within close range to one another. At Kyu Shiba Rikyu, plum trees spread out on the grounds amidst an attractive pond. Hamarikyu Garden, which has a plum tree grove on its premises sits by the waterfront and a pier with boats heading to Asakusa is beside it.

hanegi-parkHanegi Park

Hanegi Park is considered one of the best plum blossom spots nationwide. Located in Meidaimae, Setagaya Ward, the large park houses a playground, baseball field, tennis courts and a traditional tea house. The park holds an annual festival during the plum blossom bloom period, which features various musical performances, haiku classes, and outdoor tea ceremonies. The festival also has refreshment booths, horticulture and potted plant markets, and sales of plum-related foods.

yushimatemple2Yushima Seido Temple

The plum blossoms of Yushima Tenjin feature about 300 trees of 20 different varieties. Located in Bunkyo Ward, the Yushima Seido Temple holds a series of events such as taiko performances when the plum blossoms are in season. It is a Shinto shrine established in 458 A.D. to worship Ameno-tajikaraono-mikoto, one of deities that appears in Japanese myth.

kinutaKinuta Park

Kinuta Park is a large grassy park in Setagaya Ward, and the land  was a golf course before 1957. About 40 Japanese apricot trees relocated here in 1984 to form a dense plum tree forest, located near the athletic field and children’s forest. It is also a popular Hanami spot in Tokyo with over 900 cherry blossom trees on site.

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Tokyo 23-ward average rental cost continue to climb

Just a quick update on Tokyo’s rental market. Recently, Tokyo Kantei has released its data for rents for 2015. In 2015, the average monthly rent for an apartment in Tokyo’s 23 wards reached JPY 3,265 yen/square meter, which represents a year-on-year (YoY) increase of 2.5%. According to the Kantei press release, this is also the third consecutive year that rents have grown in “downtown” Tokyo.

The rise in rents can mainly be attributed to the real estate construction boom that has been happening in Tokyo — while one would think the gluttony of addition supply would dampen prices — contrary to this — newly-built, snazzy residences command a price premium when released into the market, thus costing a lot more to rent — which in turn, pushes up rental averages. According to Tokyo Kantei, in 2012, newly constructed apartments made up a mere 3% of the Tokyo 23-ward rental market, and this number has risen to almost 8% in 2015.

For the press release (in Japanese): http://www.kantei.ne.jp/release/PDFs/T2015.pdf


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Tokyo 23-Ward secondhand house prices continue to climb


Source: Left & Center images: e-architect.co.uk; Right image: urdesign.it

Further to our article on the July data of second-hand home sales published back in August 2015, the average asking price of a detached, resale house in Tokyo’s 23 wards reached JPY107.51 million in December 2015, according to Tokyo Kantei. This was an increase of 3.2% compared to the November average (JPY104.2 million) and an increase of 6.8% compared with the October figure (JPY100.66 million). Back in the summer, we reported that the second-hand detached house within Tokyo’s 23 wards was JPY100.04 million for July 2015.

The survey covers wooden detached houses between 100 sq meters and 300 sq meters in size. In Tokyo’s 23 wards, the average land area for a detached, second-hand house on the market in December was 142.0 sq meters, while the constructed area was 132.5 sq meters, and the average age of was 22.5 years.

The Tokyo Kantei press release also notes that Minato, Shinagawa and Meguro wards in particular were top sellers with properties listing for over JPY100 million.

Click here for the press release: http://www.kantei.ne.jp/release/PDFs/kodatecyuko201512.pdf

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Flat 35 & 50 Mortgage Rates Lowered

According to Suumo, for the first time in two months, the Japan Housing Finance Agency (JHFA) has announced lower official January rates for its Flat 35 and Flat 50 home mortgage loans. Click here for the Suumo article (in Japanese): http://suumo.jp/journal/2016/01/05/103756/ The Flat 35 are fixed interest loans with terms of 35 years, which are offered by Japanese banks and securitized by the JHFA. Further to the Flat 35, the Flat 50 loans are for a loan term of between 36 and 50 years. See table below for summary.

90% or less financing % Change MoM Industry Average Above 90% financing % Change MoM Industry Average
Flat 35 1.540-2.090 -0.01 1.540 1.670-2.220 0.01 1.670
Flat 50 2.010-2.510 -0.05 2.260 2.140-2.640 -0.050 2.390
20 years and below 1.270-1.890 -0.05 1.270 1.270-1.400 -0.05 1.400
Source: January 5, 2016 announcement, Suumo News

Foreign residents do qualify for mortgages in Japan, provided certain criterias are met. Please come talk to Higherground’s property consultants if you are interested in purchasing a home in Japan with financing.

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Uniquely Tokyo: The 1.8-Meter Width House


We share an article recently published in DeZeen Magazine that fits into our “Uniquely Tokyo” series that showcases out-of-the-box design in architecture. Dezeen is a leading architecture and design magazine that brings an edited selection of the best architecture, design and interiors projects from around the world. This particular article shows a Runway-Style detached city home, aptly named the 1.8 Meter Width House. Click here for the full article: http://www.dezeen.com/2015/08/18/yuua-architects-tokyo-house-japan-skinny-rooms-less-than-two-metres-wide/.

Published by DeZeen Magazine: Japanese studio YUUA Architects & Associates has slotted a house into a 2.5-metre-wide space between two existing buildings in Tokyo. The rooms of the four-storey-high residence have a width of just 1.8 metres, hence its name: 1.8m Width House. This forced Madoka Aihara and Toshiyuki Yamazaki – the two principals of YUUA Architects and Associates– to plan the interior very carefully.

catwalk-house41Their response was to use split-level floors to create natural partitions between different spaces. This reduced the need for walls inside the house, helping to make small rooms feel more generous.

“In this project, we have considered the house as an aggregation of small ‘places’ and designed a space where such ‘places’ expanded in various floor levels,” explained the pair. “Floating floors in long and narrow space generate the spatial expanse.”

The house accommodates a single resident and a cat in Toshima Ward, the densest municipality in central Tokyo. Like the central areas of many Japanese cities, the lack of space has resulted in an increase in narrow houses – referred to as eel’s beds or nests.

The biggest issue with these kinds of properties is ensuring plenty of light penetrates the interior, which is why architects often include double-height living spaces and high-level windows in their designs. Recent examples include a 3.4-metre-wide house in Osaka and a 2.7-metre-wide house in Shiga.catwalk-house51

“This small and narrow piece of land is a typical ‘eel’s bed’ site, where one can reach his or her arm from the left wall to the right wall, as buildings stand very tight and compact next to one another,” said the architects.

“We have tried to reserve as much space as possible as well as to provide psychological openness for the resident. Light and fresh air, which has been taken in from openings in the frontage and upper side of the building, flows into every corner of the house, utilising the floor difference.”

There are four main storeys inside the building, each divided into two floors. A staircase at the back connects the three uppermost levels, while small sets of stairs in the centre of the building create routes between the lower floors.

catwalk-house6Both staircases comprise steel treads without supporting risers, which allow light to filter through. Slender handrails run down alongside.

Instead of using a light colour scheme, the internal walls were painted dark to “give a sense of depth” to the space, while floors and ceilings were covered in scaffolding boards to offer texture.

This adds emphasis to the window wall that fronts the building – it becomes the focal point on every storey.

The occupant shares the house with a cat. The main living space is on the second floor, where a kitchen counter extends out to create a dining table. It also provides a platform for a ladder leading up to terraces on the level above and the roof.

A loft room, a washroom and a bathroom are also located above the living room. The bedroom and a study space can be found on the level below, and the lowest floor functions as a storage area.

The house has a steel frame, but there are few traces of this within the building.

“The structural design was developed by fully considering the singularity of the building shape,” said Aihara and Yamazaki. “Columns and beams were limited to maximise the interior space.”

Skinny houses have also become increasingly popular outside Japan, with recently completed projects including a three-metre-wide house in Germany and a 2.3 metre-wide house in London.


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Free Christmas Concerts in Tokyo


There are a number of special events being held in Tokyo to celebrate Christmas. Among them, you can find some choir group performances and orchestra concerts. Below is a selection of some of the free events happening around town.

roppongihillskrajaRoppongi Hills

The annual Roppongi Hills FREE Christmas concert is being held from December 23rd to 25th.

On December 23rd are KRAJA, a Swedish choir group, and LITTLE CAROL, a Japanese choir group are performing.

On the 24th and 25th there will be two performances by KRAJA.

For more information: http://www.roppongihills.com/christmas/2015/event/concert/

newotanihotelHotel New Otani

On December 23rd the hotel will host two charity concerts of Christmas carols at the Atrium Chapel.

The first performance is at 5pm and the second session is at 7pm.

Both last about 40 minutes.

For more information: http://www.newotani.co.jp/tokyo/xmas/events/05_charity.html

megawebMegaweb, Daiba

Marunouchi Symphony orchestra will perform a live free Christmas Concert at Megaweb in Tokyo Teleport area on the afternoon of December 23rd at 1pm and 3:30pm.

There is also a Christmas illumination display at Megaweb.

For more information: http://www.megaweb.gr.jp/article/xmas_concert/

midtownMidtown Christmas Live

Each weekend leading up to Christmas, there will be a live Christmas concert of classical music held at the Galleria at Tokyo Midtown.

There will be three performances between 3pm and 8pm. The concerts last about half an hour each.

For more information: http://www.tokyo-midtown.com/en/events_news/detail.php?id=632

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Uniquely Tokyo: The Garden House


Shared by Richenda Elledge

We showcase an article published by DeZeen Magazine, highlighting one of architect Ryue Nishizawa’s unique works. The Garden and House is already a few years old, but nevertheless an important reminder that we all need some green in our urban lives. It also highlights a creative way to make full use of any plot of land no matter the size or any other compromised attributes, such as being in a dark spot.

Here is an excerpt, click here for the complete article and more photos.

greenglass-home2The Garden House

This Tokyo five-storey townhouse by Japanese architect Ryue Nishizawa is fronted by a stack of gardens. Located in a dense commercial district, the building provides a combined home and workplace for two writers. The site was just four metres wide, so Nishizawa designed a building that has only glass walls to avoid narrowing the interior spaces even further.

Gardens are interspersed with rooms on each of the four floors of the building, creating a screen of plants that mask the facade from the eyes of passing strangers. Glazed walls beyond protect the interior from the elements.

greenglass-home3Nishizawa states that “the entirety is a wall-less transparent building designed to provide an environment with maximum sunlight despite the dark site conditions. Every room, whether it is the living room, private room or the bathroom, has a garden of its own so that the residents may go outside to feel the breeze, read a book or cool off in the evening and enjoy an open environment in their daily life.”

Staircases spiral up through the building, passing through circular openings in the thick concrete floor plates. A similar opening cuts through the roof, allowing taller plants to stretch through to the upper terrace. Bedrooms are located on the first and third floors and are separated from meeting and study areas with glass screens and curtains.greenglass-home-plan1

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Latest Feedback from a Client

dt1I just wanted to share our experiences regarding our Tokyo home search. We have been looking for properties for the past one year and a half and have dealt with several different real estate agents over the course of our search. In the end, we were very grateful to have discovered Higherground.

Other real estate agents we dealt with were at times somewhat pushy and did not instill the level of trust and professionalism that we received from Higherground. Only this agency gave us the comfort and confidence we needed to buy our first home. They were open and transparent about every single fee, accommodated our requirements and budget, and ensured the transaction went smoothly.

It’s been really life changing to finally buy our own home, which gives us a feeling of security and belonging. We highly recommend Higherground.


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