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Maybe you can take advantage of falling condo prices in Tokyo and score better digs in a better neighborhood. This in from Japan Economy News and Blog:

Jiyugaoka is Tokyo’s most desirable neighborhood! According to the average result of surveys carried out over the past five years by Major 7, a website run by a consortium of real estate firms, Jiyugaoka has been voted the most desirable neighborhood within Tokyo’s 23 wards to live in, followed by Futakotamagawa and Ebisu.The rest of the ranking went like this:

  1. Jiyugaoka
  2. Futako Tamagawa
  3. Ebisu
  4. Hiroo
  5. Shinagawa
  6. Daikanyama
  7. Aoyama
  8. Meguro
  9. Denenchofu
  10. Nakameguro
  11. Kagurazaka
  12. Omotesando
  13. Shimokitazawa
  14. Ginza
  15. Shirokane
  16. Yoyogi Uehara
  17. Toyosu
  18. Mejiro
  19. Azabu
  20. Sangenjaya

First, it’s worth noting that once the survey is opened up to include areas outside the 23 wards (referred to as the “Metropolitan Area”), Kichijoji ranks very high, and actually beat out Jiyugaoka for the top spot in 2008. Yokohama ranked #3 in 2008, but that’s ranking a whole city against neighborhoods of Tokyo (although neighborhoods of Yokohama also appear on the list). Kamakura came in at #7 in 2008, while Tama Plaza ranked #17 – I believe Tama Plaza is in Kawasaki, which would give that city its only entry on the list. Minato Mirai, a neighborhood in Yokohama, ranks #18, and Shin Urayasu comes in at #19, giving Chiba its only entry.

Back to the Tokyo 23 wards list. Jiyugaoka and Futako Tamagawa have both been built up extensively over the past decade. I lived by Futako Tamagawa for some time, a little bit closer to Shibuya, but found the train line connecting it to Shibuya (the Denen Toshi Line) becoming more and more unbearable. The opening of the renovated Takashimaya department store gave the area a huge (PR) boost, as luxury brand outlets were now within walking distance of residential areas. That said, most of the high end shops were usually empty.

Shinagawa surprises me at #5, but I know that it is much nicer now than the image I have in my mind. Word on the street is that Denen Chofu is the most desirable place to live in Tokyo, but that seems to be slipping. I like Kagurazaka quite a bit for its smaller-town feeling. I actually went to look at a place there once, but there was an old lady on the third floor yelling at kids on the street to be quiet from her window. No need for neighbors like that.

Shimokitazawa is a great neighborhood, but frightfully inconvenient to downtown. Shirogane has great access to parks, and is a laid back oasis right downtown, but are there any supermarkets? Yoyogi Uehara is affectionately known as the “gaijin ghetto,” and it seems like a pretty nice place to me. Azabu has all you could need in terms of access, nightlife and dining out, but the price per square meter might have driven it a bit lower on the list. Finally, Sangenjaya is a great little town. Yes, it’s on the evil Denen Toshi line, but it’s only one express stop to Shibuya.

The absence of areas from the western part of Tokyo’s 23 wards is telling. Nowhere from Nerima, Nakano or Suginami appears on the list. Shinjuku’s absence is very understandable, but the other three wards seem to have fallen behind in terms of desirability. Neighborhoods such as Asagaya, Koenji and Ekoda might be immensely popular with university students, but that probably says something about why they’re not so popular overall. Adding to that lack of desirability, the stretch on the Chuo Line from Nakano, Koenji and Asagaya might be the most densely populated area in Japan. In other words, Nakano and Suginami are filled with millions of people wishing they could live elsewhere. Still, it’s better than Saitama.