Asagaya Pearl Centre shopping street shotengai Amber Eyes Blog

Moving to Tokyo: our little apartment and neighbourhood

September 27, 2015

by — Posted in Travel & Lifestyle

When we were looking at moving to Tokyo, we had no idea where we’d be working so we didn’t know where to start looking for accommodation. Eventually we narrowed it down to a few key areas – West of Shinjuku, Setagaya and Meguro. Those 3 all seemed like nice residential areas; close to the hubs of Shinjuku and Shibuya. 

We browsed Sakura House monthly rentals and found that most of them were full around the time of our arrival. We had a few options and eventually chose a small studio in a little house-like apartment in Asagaya. Asagaya is in an area of West Tokyo, called Suginami. Suginami has four main areas: Koenji, Asagaya, Ogikubo, Nishi-Ogikubo. There’s also Eifukucho and … in the South. We liked that Asagaya was just a 10 minute subway or train trip from Shinjuku; where you can connect to many other lines. 

shinto matsuri asagaya, tokyo amber eyes blog
Small Shinto matsuri (festival) near our apartment in Asagaya

Our apartment

We loved the look of our tiny apartment from the photos, so we didn’t mind paying a bit more than usual. The pale blue exterior and house-like design just looked so cozy and cute! 

There are 8 teeny tiny 16sqm studios in our ‘mansion’ (small apartment block or a family home) – 4 on each floor. Ours has a small loft  area which is very useful for storing our travel bags, Rob’s futon and anything we don’t use often. 

our studio apartment, asagaya, suginami, tokyo, amber eyes blog, sakura house
Our tiny little 16sqm studio, from the loft

Things we like:

  • It looks and feels modern-ish
  • It’s fully furnished including aircon
  • The rent includes all utilities 
  • It’s super quick to clean
  • It’s easy to keep cool or warm
  • It’s in a quiet area
  • The neighbours are quiet
  • We love the area
  • Sakura House is easy to deal with and they give you free coupons for things and fix anything that’s broken

our apartment sakura house asagaya tokyo. Amber Eyes Blog

The exterior of our lovely little ‘mansion’ (small apartment buildings are called mansions in Japan)

Things we don’t like:

All the things we don’t like basically come down to the apartment being too small for 2 people. For 1 person it would be great!

  • It’s sooo small and has no dividing walls (which are necessary for happy relationships!)
  • There’s only a single bed so Rob has to sleep on the floor
  • Cooking is extremely frustrating. There’s only 1 burner so if we cook a dish that has separate components, it takes hours. Also there’s nowhere to prepare anything so I usually chop vegetables on my bed or desk
  • The free internet is ridiculously slow so we had to rent our own pocket wifi
  • Our wardrobe is one of those metal and plastic standing ones – it’s ok except it’s too small for both our clothes and it likes to fall down all the time.
  • There’s nowhere to dry laundry if it’s raining. We usually peg it to the bars in the loft for a few days. It’s our ‘ghetto laundry’ solution!
our tiny kitchen Amber Eyes Blog asagaya suginami tokyo japan apartment
Trying to cook in our tiny kitchen

Our neighbourhood: Asagaya

Our apartment is a 10 minute walk from the Minami Asagaya station where we catch the Marunouchi subway line. We both catch the Marunouchi line straight to work which is really lucky!

We live in Minami (South) Asagaya, which is a quiet residential neighbourhood. We’re close to the beautiful Zenpukuji river which is great for evening walks or some wild cat spotting! There are two supermarkets and two convenience stores within a 5 minute walk of our apartment, so we never run out of food. 

Asagaya Pearl Centre shopping street shotengai Amber Eyes Blog
Pearl Centre Shotengai (covered shopping street), in Asagaya

Asagaya is a part of Suginami which is one of the ’23 special wards in Tokyo’. The wards are like little cities within Tokyo city. Suginami has roughly 500,000 residents which makes it about the same size as Wellington. Suginami sits between Nakano and Musashi in West Tokyo. It’s a popular district because it’s not too expensive, has some great food and shops and has a lot of quiet residential areas with plenty of nature. Asagaya is known for its Jazz clubs, famous writers, food and bars. We love living in Asagaya because it’s very peaceful but still has some more crowded and exciting areas. The hub around Asagaya JR station is packed full of little bars, Izakayas and foreign food restaurants. We also enjoy walking up and down the Pearl Centre shopping arcade which is filled with traditional stores and restaurants, as well as cafes, flower shops, and little clothing boutiques. 

Japanese restaurant Asagaya, Tokyo. Amber Eyes Blog


The three other main areas in Suginami are each known for different things; Koenji is known for its hundreds of trendy second-hand clothing stores, restaurants, bars, and the lively underground music scene which began decades ago. Apparently it’s a popular spot for creative people. Ogikubo seems to be the biggest area, with a few department stores. It’s known for classical music and lots of ramen shops. Nishi-Ogikubo is known for its hippy population back in the day, and is famous for its huge concentration of antique stores. 

shinto shrine, Asagaya, Tokyo, Japan. Amber Eyes Blog
A peaceful shrine in Asagaya

Next steps:

I thought we’d only be in our little studio for about 3 months but I definitely underestimated how much it costs to rent a normal apartment here! We’ll have to save around NZD$6000 just to move in and that doesn’t include furniture or any kitchen appliances (we even have to buy our own stove top and fridge!) We’re hoping to move into a bigger place at the end of December but we won’t have money for furniture so it’ll be uncomfortable for a while! We want to stay in Suginami because we love it so much – either in Koenji or Asagaya. So I’m trying to get into saving mode but it’s so hard in this exciting city. Wish us luck…

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