Expats moving to Tokyo will find themselves in a crowded metropolis overflowing with opportunities and activities. The greater Tokyo area is the largest metropolitan area in the world and contains close to 38 million inhabitants. Expats will find it hard to escape the crowds, with traffic and long queues everywhere.
Since Tokyo was razed during the fire bombings of World War II, the small, traditional Japanese façades have almost entirely been replaced by a modern concrete jungle – there are hardly any buildings consisting of less than three storeys. Still, despite the frenetic pace of this cosmopolitan hub, there are still backstreets even in the heart of the city that can be eerily quiet and tranquil. These areas provide charming accommodation.
There are very few road names as Tokyo is divided into numerical areas, so clear directions and maps are very important for new expats trying to find their way. The city has a well-run integrated public transport system consisting of underground trains (subways), over-ground trains, buses, trams and, of course, taxis. Compared to many European destinations, public transport is relatively inexpensive, safe, extremely reliable and efficient, making the city extraordinarily accessible, even to newly arrived expats.
Shopping is a primary Japanese pastime and there's no better place to indulge in this than Tokyo. Shopping malls are relatively foreign to the city – expats will most likely find themselves in a high-rise department store, with shop assistants shouting their welcomes. The city also boasts many art galleries and museums, and has a very rich live music scene. There are various summer concert festivals held around Tokyo and live concerts throughout the year.
Since the FIFA World Cup was co-hosted by Japan in 2002, the city has become more foreigner-friendly, with signs in Japanese, English and Korean. Expats will find that most locals are very welcoming and proud of their city, and are invested in helping newcomers have a positive experience in their city. Expats moving to Tokyo will find themselves in a bustling city, alive with activities and events, ensuring that there is something for everyone.
"Tokyo is one of the world’s truly international cities akin to New York or London." Read more of Jonathan's thoughs on living in Tokyo.
Are you an expat living in Tokyo?
Expat Arrivals is looking for locals to contribute to this guide, and answer forum questions from others planning their move to Tokyo. Please contact us if you'd like to contribute.
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