Home to 38.3 million people, the Greater Tokyo Area is one of the most populous metropolitan regions in the world. At its core lie 23 wards, autonomous municipalities that when taken together make up the magnificent whole of Japan's inimitable capital.
No stranger to exclusivity, Tokyo boasts a number of desirable addresses, but few are more so than those found in Azabu, an in-demand district in the famed Minato ward.
Located in the beating heart of the city, Azabu retains an undeniably Japanese feel. Even as the skyscrapers that define Tokyo's skyline tower above it, the distinctive character of the neighborhood contained within boasts an attractive low-rise profile and unexpected historic touches. And Azabu enjoys relative quiet, despite its proximity to mixed-used luxury district Roppongi Hills, the iconic Tokyo Tower, various embassies, and green spaces. It comes as little surprise that some of Tokyo's most coveted real estate can be found here.
RARE, DETACHED HOMES
The district's affluence is never flashy. Instead, discretion is de rigueur, with stand-alone properties and understated apartment buildings tucked away along Azabu's crooked, narrow slopes, recalling old Tokyo through Edo-period appeal.
Housing in Azabu is notable within Central Tokyo because it counts detached properties among those available, although these don't come on the market very often. Instead, the majority of units available are apartments, many in full-service buildings with gyms, concierge desks, and other amenities.
The average price per square foot depends on the type and age of the property, says Yukiko Takano, manager of international services at List Sotheby's International Realty Japan. “There are not many single-family homes on the market in Azabu, since it is considered one of the city's prime and preferred residential areas.” People living there “are often reluctant to move or sell,” she says. “However, the average price per square meter in the area is anecdotally around 2.1 million Japanese yen [about US$18,660]. As for apartments, the highest price buyers can expect to pay [per square meter] is JPY3 million.”
“Younger generations prefer to live near work and entertainment districts, and Azabu is one of the most popular areas,” Takano continues. “Azabu is also a prominent expat housing area, so rental demand is high. It is a very promising area to invest in.”
WHAT MAKES IT UNIQUE
Populated by diplomats, executives, celebrities, and expat families, Azabu prides itself on its tradition of community spirit, which is perhaps best expressed during the annual Azabu-Juban Noryo Matsuri in August. One of Tokyo's favorite festivals, it attracts as many as 150,000 who come over its two days to witness live music and dancing, as well as sample a number of Japanese delicacies and crafts, many supplied by local businesses.
Culture and custom also live on at Take no Yu, a small onsen, or natural-spring bathhouse, that has been in operation since 1913 and counts among its unique features mineral-rich black waters, supposedly good for healing bruises and digestive disorders. Tokyo's second-oldest temple, Zenpuku-Ji, is also found in the neighborhood, as are many art galleries, the most famous being Mori Art Museum.
As is to be expected in a country whose cuisine is recognized on UNESCO's Intangible Cultural Heritage list, Azabu is also well-served by excellent restaurants, both Japanese and international. Standouts include Cossott'e SP, which specializes in yakiniku (thinly sliced meat cooked on a griddle) and dedicates itself to serving only the highest quality A5 wagyu and to cooking every part of the animal for its menu.
Sushi lovers will also find their palates sated at the two-Michelin-starred Higashi-Azabu Amamoto and the 33-seat Ozaki, which has one star.
Clean, simple, Italian eatery Gianicolo Giochi is also highly regarded; while at the other end of the spectrum, the area is known for taiyaki, or carp-shaped snacks, which are believed to have originated in Azabu.
Expats and Japanese alike flock to Nissin World Delicatessen, an international supermarket that caters to all tastes.
Also in the vicinity are a number of excellent schools, including Tokyo International School, which contains a pre-, middle, and elementary school and follows the International Baccalaureate curriculum system; Willowbrook International School for children 15 months through 5 years old; and The Montessori School of Tokyo, which teaches students ages 2 to 14 according to the Montessori principles of learning through activity and play.
Luxury development Roppongi Hills is a short stroll away, providing the modern counterpart to Azabu's traditional and time-honored allure.