Buzzing with life and commercial activity, Tokyo is one of the world's great cities offering an urban environment that many find simultaneously exciting and alienating. However, among the high-rise, neon-clad commercial and residential properties, the city still has pockets where Japan's traditions are celebrated – temples, tea houses and gardens still play a large role in Japanese culture. For many years Tokyo was the most expensive city in which to own property and it still remains near the top of the rankings, despite having seen such a long recession.
The city is broken down into nine districts, each encompassing several distinct areas. The Shinjuku district is popular for its excellent transport links, large public gardens and areas that offer a more traditional feel. On the border of the Shinjuku and Chiyoda districts are Yotsuya, Ichigaya, Iidabashi, all locations that Western residents aim for, due to the foreign language schools.
Other areas with overseas schools include residential Meguru and Minato, one of the most expensive and sought-after central areas to own property. Minato is home to a cosmopolitan mix of shops, businesses and leisure facilities, many of the latter in the notorious Rappongi district where hotels and bars jostle for space with new apartment developments aimed at a young population.
Within the Meguru district are the fashionable suburbs of Daikanyama, Ebisu and Nakameguro, places that appear to be attracting a hip, young population. The more established suburbs of Shinagawa and Osaki may offer good prospects for those seeking more affordable property with good transport connections and amenities such as parks, schools and low-key shopping areas that appeal to families. Similarly, the district of Western Setagaya is also somewhere families seek out for access to larger, more family-sized property with easy access to the city.
The second largest city in Japan, Osaka is a busy commercial and industrial hub. The city was recently listed as the eighth most expensive in which to live. All commercial sectors in Osaka, including retail and industrial property, was earmarked as offering potential, while residential property was something to buy and hold for the long-term.
This is partly due to a huge decrease in the price of commercial land during the crash, which saw a drop of around 79%, with residential land prices falling by 55%. Prices still have not climbed back to their former level and overseas investment institutions have moved in, buying up large areas and sparking a boom in development. The falling prices have also attracted people back to the city in search of more affordable accommodation. A relaxation in building restrictions on residential property has also increased the amount of apartments now available.
Japan has 650 ski resorts with a long snow season lasting from November until early May. Snow is reliable and often deep and attracts tourists from a large catchment area including China, Taiwan, South Korea and Australia. The best known area is Hokkaido where a large number of resorts are undergoing regeneration. Property in this region is a mix of old chalets in need of restoration and new-build property, mainly apartments.