As a vibrant metropolis, Tokyo offers an engaging lifestyle, teeming with nightlife hotspots, world-class restaurants, museums, entertainment venues and shopping centres. For the expat community, Tokyo presents a dynamic, unique and sociable lifestyle, enriched with a multitude of exciting annual events, must-see attractions and top entertainment venues.
Shopping in Tokyo
The bustling consumer culture makes shopping in Tokyo an essential cultural experience for expats and one of the best retail experiences globally. Tokyo, leading in fashion, design and electronics, boasts districts like Akihabara – an anime, manga and tech paradise – ensuring the city remains at the forefront of these industries.
Shopping malls are a significant part of the urban landscape. Shinjuku Station is surrounded by multi-level malls retailing every item imaginable. Major chains like Keio and Isetan can be reached directly from the station.
For expats seeking traditional Japanese gifts for loved ones back home, Tokyo offers a wide range of items, including Daruma dolls, ceramics and chopsticks. Kimonos are another good option, although quality garments are expensive.
Eating out in Tokyo
Tokyo is the city with the most Michelin-starred restaurants in the world. Needless to say, the dining experience in Tokyo surpasses expectations at every turn, making it a gastronomic paradise for foodies and casual diners alike. The city's food scene reflects the deep-rooted culinary traditions of Japan, intermingled with global influences. Exquisite sushi, tempura, ramen and hearty izakaya (Japanese pub) fare are just the start of the culinary journey.
The famous Tsukiji Outer Fish Market is an absolute must-visit for seafood lovers, where one can sample the freshest sushi and sashimi for breakfast. The tiny sushi bars surrounding the market offer a memorable dining experience.
For a quick and inexpensive meal, heading over to one of the numerous ramen shops scattered around the city is recommended. From the thick, flavourful broth of tonkotsu ramen to the soy-based shoyu variety, there's a ramen for every palate.
Catering to global tastes, Tokyo's dining scene presents a wide array of ethnic cuisines, making it an international food capital for expats and food lovers. From Italian to French, Indian, Mexican and everything in between, the international restaurant scene is very vibrant. The city also hosts a variety of vegan and vegetarian restaurants, catering to the increasing demand for plant-based foods.
For those looking to splurge on an upscale dining experience, Tokyo's Ginza district is home to several high-end restaurants offering exquisite kaiseki (traditional multi-course meal) experiences.
Nightlife in Tokyo
After sunset, Tokyo transforms into a dazzling metropolis of neon lights, offering a plethora of nightlife activities, making the city's nightlife scene a must-experience aspect of living in here as an expat. From lively bars and clubs to quiet jazz cafés and from traditional Japanese izakayas to futuristic robot shows, there's something for everyone.
We recommend expats start their evening with a visit to a nomiya (a small Japanese bar) or an izakaya, where they can indulge in various small plates paired with sake or beer. The famous Shinjuku Golden Gai with its numerous winding alleys is home to a collection of tiny shanty-style bars. Some bars may have a 'seat charge', a cover fee for sitting in the establishment.
Roppongi, a favourite spot among Tokyo's expat community, is renowned for its high-energy nightclubs, upscale bars and international restaurants, highlighting the vibrant Tokyo nightlife scene. It's an ideal location for those looking to party all night, with venues such as 1Oak Tokyo and V2 Tokyo leading the clubbing scene.
For cocktail connoisseurs, Tokyo's mixology scene is world-class. Renowned bars like Bar High Five in Ginza and The SG Club in Shibuya are recognised globally for their innovative concoctions.
Finally, no true Tokyo nightlife experience would be complete without a karaoke session. This quintessential Japanese pastime is available at a number of karaoke boxes around the city, where karaoke fiends can rent a private room and sing their hearts out with friends.
Making friends and meeting people as an expat in Tokyo
Moving to a new city like Tokyo can be an exciting yet challenging experience. The city's vibrant expat community can help ease the transition, providing an opportunity to create new social networks and friendships. Tokyo offers a variety of platforms, both online and offline, that facilitate integration into the city's social scene and meeting new people.
The Tokyo Intercultural Portal Site introduces local international social groups and associations in Tokyo. This platform is an excellent starting point for those looking to connect with the local community and other expats.
Founded in 1928, the Tokyo American Club is one of the largest private clubs in Tokyo and provides a comfortable environment for individuals from all nations to meet and socialise. With over 3,500 members, it offers a variety of scheduled activities, making it an excellent place to forge new connections and friendships.
Otonari-san is designed to help foreign families who have recently moved to Japan. Connecting new arrivals with local residents and other expats, the programme facilitates a smoother integration into the local community and helps establish new friendships.
The Roppongi Hills Club is a members club located on the 51st floor of Roppongi Hills Mori Tower. With panoramic views of Tokyo, the club offers a comfortable, luxurious environment for expats to meet and network. It regularly hosts events like wine tastings, themed dinners and holiday parties.
Established in 1908, The Japan-British Society is one of the oldest and most respected international organisations in Japan. It aims to promote mutual understanding and goodwill between the Japanese and British people, making it an ideal avenue for British expats to network in Japan.
►Check out Getting Around in Tokyo to learn about transport in the city
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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