J.J. Abrams, director of Star Wars: The Force Awakens, was so taken with Takadanobaba that he named a (fictional) planet in the neighborhood’s honor: Takodana. If that’s not reason enough to visit, I don’t know what is.
For the Star Trek fans in need of more convincing, however, not to worry, the allures of Takadanobaba are not in short supply. Known locally as a student haunt, the area is bursting with cheap nomihodai (all-you-can-drink) deals and late-night hangouts, but there’s plenty to keep you entertained during daylight hours too. Take a stroll and discover the best of it with our Takadanobaba walking guide.
Connected to the Yamanote Line, Seibu-Shinjuku Line and the Tozai Line, Takadanobaba Station is a major transit hub, with the crowds that come with that. Compared to Shinjuku or Ikebukuro, it’s relatively small though, meaning you won’t struggle to find the exit.
Attached to the station is the prodigious and appropriately named Big Box. Filled with stores (mainly women’s clothing), cafes and restaurants, it’s got you covered on a lot of fronts. Not much different from malls you’ll find elsewhere, it’s hardly worth going out of your way to look around, however.
Mikado Vintage Arcade
In contrast, Mikado Vintage Arcade is very much a place to go out of your way for. And, so I’m told, many people do—pilgrimaging here for a shot of nostalgia-tinted fun. The arcade is stocked with a vast array of arcade games from the 80s and 90s, the like of which you don’t find in too many other places. Highlights include Tehkan World Cup, the original Street Fighter II and After Burner, but there’s plenty to choose from. Even the uninitiated won’t struggle to see what all the fuss is about.
Getting there is easy, just exit the station through the main entrance, walk left under the bridge and left again down the narrow road that runs parallel with the tracks. The arcade will soon appear on your right-hand side.
From the arcade, retrace your steps back to the station, back under the bridge and cross the road. Take the first left from the main road (Waseda Street) and keep going until, on your right, you see the unmistakable Celes Takadanobaba.
The very definition of postmodern architecture, this faux cathedral is an incongruous sight, even in a city saturated with bizarre buildings. Inside, there’s a mock medieval chapel and even a banquet hall, though it’s unlikely you’ll be let in to see them. It’s definitely worth a look from the outside though, plus it’s on the way to our next stop.
10 Degrees Cafe
Keep going past the cathedral and over the river you’ll see 10 Degrees Cafe. Admittedly, Tokyo isn’t short of cafes, but, in this writer’s humble opinion, this one is up there with the best of them. It’s got everything you’d expect drinks wise and a good selection of food, free wifi and a laid-back atmosphere. Importantly, at least for me, no one will bat an eyelid if you stay there all day, making it ideal for working or studying.
Head back the way you came and back onto the main road, Waseda Street, and turn left. This, Takadanobaba’s main strip, is constantly abuzz with life, studded with the usual chain stores, a good number of izakaya and restaurants, as well as a medley of karaoke joints and bars.
Homey’s, a diner straight out of 50s America, and the awkwardly named 16’s Stairing Steps Case, a bar specializing in Belgian brews, come particularly recommended. Record collectors should keep an eye out for TIME Records, a small store packed floor to ceiling with gold.
On Waseda Street, roughly ten minutes from the station, find Waseda Shochiku. A cinema of the old school variety, it’s a great little place, with just one screen but bags of charm. It will especially appeal to fans of arthouse films and regularly screens flicks suitable for an English speaking audience. Plus, they run a deal where one ticket qualifies you for two films on the same day. A solid rainy day destination.
For more on Waseda Shochiku and a rundown of some of Tokyo’s other independent cinemas, check out our guide.
Our last stop is located still further along Waseda Street, not far from Waseda Station. Walking down the road you’ll eventually get to an intersection, where, on the corner, you’ll spot a red torii gate and a police box. Round this corner and keep going until you see the green of Toyama Park.
The park is separated into two parts, the west side housing the Shinjuku Sports Center and always popular with students for some al fresco drinking, and the east side, a quieter patch of green featuring none other than the tallest hill inside the Yamanote loop. Scale the hill and have a rest, you’ve earned it.