Cities in Kanto
Thinking of Tokyo as a collection of smaller towns makes it a more manageable place. Major hubs like Shinjuku and Shibuya are only 15 minutes from quieter areas like Nezu and Jiyugaoka, full of little shops and restaurants to while away an afternoon. Omotesando and Ginza are great for shopping, Roppongi has plenty of entertainment and nightlife, and Akihabara is where to go for all things electronic. Tokyo really has something for everyone.
Tokyo is known for being one of the world’s most expensive cities, but it can be surprisingly affordable – most instructors teaching steadily have no problem covering monthly expenses while still having enough money left over to pay down student loans, shop, sightsee, or take up a hobby. Keep in mind that like New York or London, the sky is the limit for luxury goods; it’s your lifestyle that determines whether Tokyo is affordable or not!
Just a half hour south of Tokyo, this port city has a very international flavor. Home to Japan’s largest Chinatown, there are great ethnic shops and restaurants. Visit the historic neighborhoods of Ishigaki-cho and Yamate. The Minatomirai district is the modern waterfront area.
Kamakura is an ancient capital just south of Yokohama. This cozy beachside community is worth regular visits, particularly in the summer!
Chiba & Saitama
The long peninsula that rims the east side of Tokyo Bay is all part of Chiba prefecture. Just a short commute from Tokyo proper, Chiba is a combination of bustling industry and more traditional Japanese culture. During the summer, many venture to the beaches along the Pacific coast for sun and some of Japan’s best surfing. Of course, we mustn’t forget Tokyo Disney Resort and Makuhari Messe, the venue where are all the biggest concerts are held!
Due north of Tokyo is Saitama prefecture. Like Chiba, it has a more relaxed feel compared to that of Tokyo while still being closely connected to the metropolis. With great access to the mountains and winter sports of Nagano and Niigata, it’s the best of both worlds. Applicants excited by the prospect of experiencing Tokyo but doing so on a more reasonable budget should consider either Chiba or Saitama!
Nestled in the southern part of Ibaraki prefecture, Tsukuba is a relatively new city that retains its more rural feel. Since development began in the 1960’s, Tsukuba has become a thriving economic area within Ibaraki. Over 250,000 people now call Tsukuba home with many choosing to reside in the area due to a quieter pace of life that still provides urban convenience.
Renowned for its academic heritage, the city boasts 3 universities alongside a plethora of research institutes and international. Japan’s space programme, JAXA (Japan Aerospace Exploration Agency), is based in Tsukuba while the city also hosts the National Institute of Advanced Industrial Science and Technology (AIST). This focus on education and learning means that Tsukuba is a magnet for museums and Japan’s leading minds.
At only an hour’s train ride from central Tokyo, Tsukuba’s location also allows residents to experience day trips and the hustle and bustle of Tokyo, while still enjoying the comforts of living in a much smaller and quieter location. Hikers and outdoor enthusiasts are also blessed with a variety of scenic spots, none more impressive that the looming Mount Tsukuba which allows idyllic views that stretch as far as Tokyo and Mount Fuji.
Getting Around Kanto
Smart Cards and Commuter Passes
Kanto has its own smart card system. A single card can be used for trains, subways/metro, buses, and even convenience stores. You can purchase a card at a ticket machine at any train station. Likewise, you can recharge the card at any point. For frequent trips between two stops like home and the Learning Studio, the card can be upgraded to serve as your commuter pass.
* Not all public transportation will accept the smart card. It is always best to carry some change in case the smart card is not accepted.