My Tokyo Neighborhood: Nishikata

shawn

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Hi there ArchBoston - I've been living in Tokyo since 2002, and 4 years ago my wife and I bought some land and had a house built in the Bunkyu-ku (ward) neighborhood of Nishikata. It's close to Tokyo Dome, Tokyo University, and three metro stations: Hakusan Station, Kasuga Station, and Todai-mae Station. I thought some of you might like seeing what typical residential neighborhoods in central Tokyo look like. Seeing as how I visit this site daily to keep my Boston homesickness at bay, and seeing as how I just got a new camera, it's only fair I try to contribute.

All of the following pics were taken in Nishikata and are within a 10 minute walk from my front door. The neighborhood is built at the base of and on a steep southwest-facing hill.

_DSC0019 F by Shawn Finn, on Flickr
View from my roof

_DSC0004 F by Shawn Finn, on Flickr
Looking north east up the Nishikata hill

_DSC0039 F by Shawn Finn, on Flickr
Lots of Minis in this neighborhood

_DSC0062 F by Shawn Finn, on Flickr

_DSC0081 F by Shawn Finn, on Flickr
The Hakusan-dori / Kasuga-dori intersection: Nishikata's retail strip

_DSC0094 F by Shawn Finn, on Flickr

_DSC0112 F by Shawn Finn, on Flickr

_DSC0135 F by Shawn Finn, on Flickr

_DSC0125 F by Shawn Finn, on Flickr

_DSC0143 F by Shawn Finn, on Flickr
This whole neighborhood (and most of Bunkyu-ku) was once just a few noble estates; there's plenty of remnants of this era today

_DSC0148 F by Shawn Finn, on Flickr
Lots of cool, unique houses around here; despite the weathered wood look, this one is entirely concrete

_DSC0150 F by Shawn Finn, on Flickr

_DSC0157 F by Shawn Finn, on Flickr
I love this street

_DSC0169 F by Shawn Finn, on Flickr
The tower on the left is the Bunkyo-ku Ward Office, with its free 240-ish degree observatory on the top floor

_DSC0179 F by Shawn Finn, on Flickr

_DSC0442 F by Shawn Finn, on Flickr

_DSC0486 F by Shawn Finn, on Flickr

_DSC0495 F by Shawn Finn, on Flickr

_DSC0507 F by Shawn Finn, on Flickr
 

shawn

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Part Two . . .

_DSC0515 F by Shawn Finn, on Flickr
Our Japanese maple, gotta try to fit in somehow...

_DSC0521 F by Shawn Finn, on Flickr

_DSC0558 F by Shawn Finn, on Flickr

_DSC0568 F by Shawn Finn, on Flickr

_DSC0580 F by Shawn Finn, on Flickr

_DSC0588 F by Shawn Finn, on Flickr

_DSC0591 F by Shawn Finn, on Flickr

_DSC0595 F by Shawn Finn, on Flickr
The hill is steep enough to be terraced throughout

_DSC0159 F by Shawn Finn, on Flickr

_DSC0492 F by Shawn Finn, on Flickr

_DSC0597 F by Shawn Finn, on Flickr
Almost no roads connect the lower hill with the upper hill, but there are plenty of these pedestrian / bike staircases

_DSC0608 F by Shawn Finn, on Flickr
Hakusan Station is at the bottom of this hill

_DSC0800 F by Shawn Finn, on Flickr
. . . lots of Minis . . .

_DSC0806 F by Shawn Finn, on Flickr
The Rugby World Cup was awesome. Our US team didn't win a game, but we nearly beat France. Every game was a 70,000 sellout.

_DSC1350 F by Shawn Finn, on Flickr
This is from our roof - whenever those monsters are really moving, the house shakes like a small quake

_DSC0198 F by Shawn Finn, on Flickr
Looking south from our roof, Tokyo Dome Hotel and the Tokyo Dome City amusement park

_DSC1358 F by Shawn Finn, on Flickr

_DSC1368 F by Shawn Finn, on Flickr

_DSC1484 F by Shawn Finn, on Flickr

I'll follow up soon with pics from the neighborhood directly west of Nishikata: Koishikawa, which is also built on and around a steep hill.
 

Arenacale

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That just looks so pleasant. I'd love to go to Japan at some point, unfortunately my wife wants nothing to do with it because of the reactor thing a few years ago. But it looks like an amazing place to explore.
 

BeeLine

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Shawn, fantastic photo sets. Very glad you got a new camera and are thoughtful enough to share your photos with us on aB. A little surprized at the small-ish size of the homes/buildings, A lot of what look like single family homes. My impression of Tokyo was that it was a mass of tower blocks. Thanks for the correction to myopic view of the world. Thanks again.
 

HenryAlan

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Fantastic picture set, thank you so much for sharing these, Shawn. I would love to see some of this kind of density in Boston's outer neighborhoods.
 

shawn

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Thanks, guys! Appreciate the feedback.

That just looks so pleasant. I'd love to go to Japan at some point, unfortunately my wife wants nothing to do with it because of the reactor thing a few years ago. But it looks like an amazing place to explore.
We try not to think about that. No point now. I do avoid seafood labeled as caught in waters anywhere near it though.

Shawn, fantastic photo sets. Very glad you got a new camera and are thoughtful enough to share your photos with us on aB. A little surprized at the small-ish size of the homes/buildings, A lot of what look like single family homes. My impression of Tokyo was that it was a mass of tower blocks. Thanks for the correction to myopic view of the world. Thanks again.
Yeah, I figured most people's view of Tokyo is that we're all in tower blocks. I get to travel to lots of the APAC mega cities for work, and your image is in-line for all the Chinese and Korean cities, but the majority of housing stock in Japanese cities is single family homes. They have small footprints but the interior space isn't that bad; we have just over 2000 sq feet plus a full roof deck. It's just forced into a 50'x50' plot. Lots of 3-4 story homes around here.

Fantastic picture set, thank you so much for sharing these, Shawn. I would love to see some of this kind of density in Boston's outer neighborhoods.
My census tract-equivalent is just over 40,000 pp sq mile, which is pretty dense for single family lots. It works because of all the different subway stations within a 10 minute walk. You'll see most people still have a car. We have a garage, but no car. I'm 38 years old and the last time I owned a car was in 2001.
 

AdamBC

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With how established the area is, how was there unbuilt land for your new house? Was it designed to be more 'western' - can people tell that it was built for an expat or does it blend in?
 

shawn

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With how established the area is, how was there unbuilt land for your new house? Was it designed to be more 'western' - can people tell that it was built for an expat or does it blend in?
Japan is a totally different real estate environment. Houses basically don't have any value after 15 years or so; they depreciate like cars do back home. Land, however, retains or gains value. Due to this, and due to strong cultural preferences for new, it's common to buy a plot of land with an "older" house on it (in my area, this is usually in the 20-35 years-old range), demo the existing house, and build a new one from scratch. In our case, we were able to negotiate with the previous owner to have them cover all the costs and logistics of the demo. We had a bit of a nasty surprise though: one corner of the property, about 30 feet below the surface, needed to be reinforced to meet current earthquake mitigation standards. That was not covered by the previous owner, and was an unexpected out-of-pocket expense. We worked with an architect to design a house which fits fine stylistically with any other Tokyo small-lot house built in the past decade, but inside we went with higher-than-standard ceilings, doors, counter-tops etc. (I'm 6 feet tall, not that tall by American standards but definitely tall enough to HATE cooking in a standard height Japanese kitchen). The only time the house stands out is when we put up a lot more Halloween and Christmas stuff than the neighbors (who do actually still put up decorations for both, Halloween has become a huge hit here), and the Pats / Sox flags I'll fly out front from time to time.

You can some lots where an older house has recently been torn down and the property is prepping for a new house in pic DSC0179 F in my first post. The mini backhoe is typical.
 

AdamBC

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Japan is a totally different real estate environment. Houses basically don't have any value after 15 years or so; they depreciate like cars do back home. Land, however, retains or gains value. Due to this, and due to strong cultural preferences for new, it's common to buy a plot of land with an "older" house on it (in my area, this is usually in the 20-35 years-old range), demo the existing house, and build a new one from scratch. In our case, we were able to negotiate with the previous owner to have them cover all the costs and logistics of the demo. We had a bit of a nasty surprise though: one corner of the property, about 30 feet below the surface, needed to be reinforced to meet current earthquake mitigation standards. That was not covered by the previous owner, and was an unexpected out-of-pocket expense. We worked with an architect to design a house which fits fine stylistically with any other Tokyo small-lot house built in the past decade, but inside we went with higher-than-standard ceilings, doors, counter-tops etc. (I'm 6 feet tall, not that tall by American standards but definitely tall enough to HATE cooking in a standard height Japanese kitchen). The only time the house stands out is when we put up a lot more Halloween and Christmas stuff than the neighbors (who do actually still put up decorations for both, Halloween has become a huge hit here), and the Pats / Sox flags I'll fly out front from time to time.

You can some lots where an older house has recently been torn down and the property is prepping for a new house in pic DSC0179 F in my first post. The mini backhoe is typical.
TIL. Thanks! I wonder if the closest thing in America is when a suburb goes 'upscale' and 1960s houses are bulldozed for larger 'new' houses on the same lot.
 

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