Prime Expat Properties
Azabu, Hiroo, and Shirokane are prominent cosmopolitan areas right in the heart of Tokyo’s Minato ward. Here you will also find pedestrian-friendly smaller streets lined with boutiques, restaurants, and upscale apartments, which are some of Tokyo’s prime expat properties. The Hiroo and Azabu areas have historically been home to many diplomats, senior executives, and expats who want a more convenient western lifestyle in the center of Tokyo’s foreign community. Access to just about anywhere in central Tokyo couldn’t be better via the Hibiya, Namboku, and Oedo Subway lines.
A Brief History
Azabu Hiroo and Shirokane
From the 17th -19th centuries feudal nobles built huge estates that remain today as the premises for some of the many embassies in the area. Naturally, diplomats and foreigners associated with these embassies made their homes in the Azabu and Shirokane areas establishing some of Tokyo’s first upscale suburbs.
The town of Azabu Juban became a particularly active area more than 300 years ago in the middle of the Edo period after two major events that shaped the development of the area. The first event was a big fire in 1657, after which, the Tokugawa government cleared the Furukawa river to improve water transport making Azabu Juban more accessible. When the riding grounds in Shiba were moved to Ichinohashi, a short time later, a new residential area was opened up allowing people to live in and visit Azabu Juban more readily.
Shopping and Recreation
Azabu and Hiroo could be described as a self-contained community where residents can shop, dine, dance, worship, work out and study. Especially along Azabu-Juban shopping street and in neighboring Roppongi Hills, the area offers the best selection of foreign food shops and restaurants. The smaller back streets of Azabu and Hiroo are great for an evening stroll, or a morning jog. Arisugawa Memorial Park offers a plush green space for getting away. Azabu is right n the middle of some of Tokyo’s most exciting communities. Roppongi, Nishi-Azabu, and Aoyama are hotspots for clubbing, dining, or shopping. The international neighborhoods around Hiroo Station feature outdoor cafes, boutiques and the National Azabu – one of Tokyo’s best foreign food supermarkets.
The Residential Neighborhoods
Azabu is the hub of the expatriate community and has been a prestigious residential neighborhood for generations, Azabu is made up of 5 areas – Azabu-Juban, Nishi-Azabu, Minami-Azabu, Higashi-Azabu, and Moto-Azabu. It lies between Tokyo Tower, Aoyama, Hiroo, and Roppongi in the center of Minato Ward. Three subway lines serve the Azabu area – the Hibiya, Namboku and Oedo lines – adding convenience to the list of reasons to live here. Despite its central location, surprisingly, the Azabu area has many quiet residential areas. The Moto-Azabu area is in the center of the 5 Azabu areas between Azabu Juban, Hiroo, and Roppongi Hills. This location has become one of the most desired residential neighborhoods. It is home to the tree-shaped landmark Motoazabu Hills residential high-rise building, and the Nishimachi International School. Azabu Juban is very suburban yet also has a Japanese traditional downtown atmosphere with various traditional Japanese shops selling items such as soba and Japanese sweets. The Azabu Juban shopping district has become much more accessible and lively since the development of nearby Roppongi Hills, and the connection of the Nanboku and Oedo lines at Azabu-Juban station (opened in 2000).
Although the area is situated in Shibuya ward, Hiroo is just west and almost a part of the Azabu area. The area has been popular for its’ clean charming neighborhoods with tree-lined streets, and many western-style apartments. The area directly around Hiroo station is convenient for shopping with National Azabu Supermarket as well a several smaller shopping streets, which have a nice selection boutiques, cafes, restaurants, and bars – yet it is very quiet after the last train around midnight. Arisugawa park provides a great getaway to enjoy a little nature on weekends. The Hiroo and Red Cross Hospitals are both located here and well-equipped to treat foreign residents. The International School of the Sacred Heart is within a few minutes walk of Hiroo station and Nichimachi International School is nearby in Moto-Azabu. All in all, with Arisugawa park, the National Azabu supermarket and a lot of international schools and amenities, this area is perhaps the most popular, and expensive residential area. It is an ideal environment for families, couples, or singles, who are looking for a somewhat lively central location with a truly semi-suburban lifestyle.
Shirokane is an “old money” neighborhood just one block south of Minami-Azabu but boasts a much quieter residential experience with smaller neighborhoods and plenty of greenery. The area has become much more popular since Shiroganedai station, (Namboku line), opened in 2000. There are several shopping streets between Shirogane 1-Chome and 3-Chome and a nearby Marusho supermarket. The Nature Study park, in Shirogane 5-Chome, is one of the city’s most tranquil getaways. The “Platinum” shopping street offers small trendy boutiques and nice restaurants. The Shirogane area is a popular alternative to the Azabu, and Hiroo area – it is still very central and convenient, but also a place where you can sometimes find houses with gardens.