For many students, Takadanobaba, or ‘Baba’, is a place where core memories are made. This neighborhood hosts a great amount of hang out spots, where students can catch up, celebrate, or release the stress that comes with university life.

Takadanobaba Station | Photo by Jack Matull

The best of Baba shopping

Just like every other neighborhood in central Tokyo, Baba is a good place to shop and is convenient for those looking for university essentials. Since the area is primarily filled with those attending Waseda, as well as students from Gakushuin, Tokyo International University, and Tokyo Fuji University, many of the shops here have student needs and budgets in mind. From department stores to cheap thrift shops, you are bound to find what you are after or something new. Here are some of the main shopping destinations that you should know about:

BigBox shopping plaza

Located right outside the station, BigBox is a department store filled with a range of reputable brands including UniQlo, Loft, and Jins. If you are looking for a specific brand of makeup or want to purchase the latest campus fashion trends, this is where to shop. It is also home to a bowling alley, fitness club, as well as a few different restaurants. You could easily spend the afternoon here if you have a free period or need a break from studying.

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Big Box Takadanobaba
Big Box Takadanobaba | Photo by Gregory Lane

Don Quijote

Don Quijote is a super department shop which sells all types of lifestyle goods. From cheap packs of snacks to tech accessories like USB sticks and headphones, Don Quijote is your one-stop shop as it stocks the majority of things you could ever need as a student. We highly recommend buying your toiletries, stationaery, and snacks from here as there is so much to choose from for a good price!

Don Quijote Takadanobaba
Photo by Gregory Lane

DAISO

Less than a 1 minute walk from the station, you’ll find DAISO. For those unfamiliar with DAISO, it’s a 100 yen shop where you can buy household goods, stationery, decorations, and much more useful stuff. It’s ideal for those looking for stationary, plant pots, kitchen accessories, and Japanese-style decorations for your dorm room.

Tanpopo House

Easily missed, Tanpopo House is a second-hand clothing store which sells good quality items for a bargain price. You will often find hugely discounted items at the front of the store and sometimes find clothing for around a couple of hundred yen. It is great for when you want to update your wardrobe but not drop a lot of money.

Tanpopo House, Takadanobaba | Photo by Jane Pipkin

Fuel yourself with caffeine

If you are bored of studying at home or on campus, why not head to one of the many cafes in the area. Many Waseda students work in cafes so it may even provide you with an opportunity to make new friends. You can find a mixture of chain coffee shops and independent cafes which offer free Wi-Fi, a good work space, and most importantly, reasonably priced coffee.

Starbucks

A classic and reliable choice, the Waseda-dori Starbucks is spacious, with wide tables in the downstairs seating area, ideal for long study days. After getting your drink, we recommend heading to this downstairs section as it tends to be much quieter. Notably, it also opens early at 7am and doesn’t close until 10:30pm meaning you can opt for a last-minute or late study session.

New Yorker’s Cafe

A one-minute walk from the East exit of the station, New Yorker’s Cafe has a good-sized seating area where you will find many students with their laptops out, studying. This cafe also has an excellent range of cold and hot drinks as well as lunch sets for around ¥1,000.

Lucas Farm Cafe

Similar to New Yorker’s Cafe, Lucas Farm Cafe is perfect for studying as it has a lot of seating as well as charging ports. In terms of food and drinks, this cafe has healthy lunch sets, sandwiches, and desserts on the menu. There is also a solid selection of different types of coffee to help you stay awake during your study time.

The best student cheap eats

You definitely won’t go hungry in Baba as there is an amazing choice of budget-friendly restaurants which you can visit by yourself or with friends. Whether you are in the mood for something traditionally Japanese or want to try another world cuisine, you will find something to satisfy your taste buds. Here are some of the top recommendations:

Japanese

If you want something quick and easy, head to Hamazushi. At this chain of kaiten sushi, you can eat fresh sushi for a reasonable price, with the majority of dishes being around ¥110. You can also find many go-to favorite places to eat such as Yoshinoya where you can get a filling meal from ¥498.

Chinese

There are many great Chinese restaurants in the area including Sekkomon, PANDA Street and Gyoza-sou Muro. At all these places you can enjoy authentic dishes, at either lunch or dinner time, for anywhere between ¥999 to ¥1,999.

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Thai

The many Thai restaurants in the area offer great lunch deals. For example, at Thai Restaurant Boss and Tawan Thai you can get rice, noodles, or other popular dishes for under ¥1,000 during the day.

Vietnamese

If Vietnamese food is your favorite, you are in luck. Baba is also filled with a number of cheap and cheerful Vietnamese restaurants such as Non La where you can get a lunch set from ¥982 and Banh Mi places like Banh Mi Ngon Ngon where you can grab a sandwich for around ¥800.

Italian

For all you pasta and pizza lovers, don’t worry, there is something for you as well. From the unpretentious Ristorante Takadanobaba Bunryūa to the elegant Cafe Cotton Club where you can enjoy a night of jazz, the Italian restaurants in Baba are a good choice for a more special occasion as you can expect to pay anywhere from ¥1,110 for a classic bowl of pasta. That said, Cafe Cotton Club does offer a lunch time deal for ¥1,300 where you get a main dish, salad, soup, dessert, and drink.

The list of types of cuisines you can find in Takadanobaba goes on and on.

Bars and izakaya to start the night

Baba wouldn’t be a student hub if there wasn’t a array of bars and izakaya at which to drink the night away. As soon as you exit the station and start heading towards the Waseda campus, you will come across a number of bars, izakaya, and even the British-style pub, HUB.

When you need an izakaya that will accommodate a big group of you, your best options are the reputable chains such as Torikizoku , Chiba-chan and HUB. At all three, you can get alcoholic drinks and a quick-bite to eat for less than ¥500, and since they are all close together, you can go between them. It’s good to keep in mind however if you are going with a university club, it’s best to book in advance as tables get snatched up quickly, especially on a Friday.

However, if you are truly wanting to take the drinking to the next level, you definitely have to choose Soreyuke izakaya. Here you can get a pretty reasonably highball for ¥50 and a cocktail for ¥99 as well as experience a wild atmosphere with people taking shots and singing drunkenly altogether. You can tell that this is the number one place to go when you see the posters on the wall encouraging you to use a trolley to take your drunk friends home.

Soreyuke izakaya | Photo by Jane Pipkin

Find out more about Izakaya Culture here.

More nighttime fun

After you have had a few drinks, you’ll want to head somewhere else. To continue the fun, why not head to one of the many cheap karaoke bars in the area. You’ll find the major karaoke chains scattered around including
Big Echo and KaraokeKan. Sing to your heart’s content with all your friends for around ¥600 per hour. It is good to note that each chain has a different rate depending on the day, time and whether you opt for all you can drink (飲み放題). We recommend doing a little bit of research ahead of time to find out where you can get the best deal.

If you want something a bit more laid-back, you can always head to Game Center Mikado. Full of nostalgia, the arcade has retro fighting games, driving simulators, and puzzle games from big names such as SEGA, Namco and Capcom. The price to play these games starts from around ¥50 , meaning that you can play a couple of different games and spend a while here.

Video game machines at Mikado game center
There are only vintage games here | Photo by Gregory Lane

For something more relaxing, you could always stop by the small independent cinema, Waseda Shochiku. Shochiku prides itself on showcasing some of the finest independent films from all around the world for a reasonable price. Although you may not recognize some of the film titles, it is a good opportunity to discover something new. Amazingly, this cinema also offers a student discount price of ¥1,100. SHochiku is the ideal evening, or daytime, activity for those who are a little more introverted or who want to immerse themselves in culture and the arts.

Waseda Shochiku
Waseda Shochiku | Photo by Gregory Lane

Want to learn more about life as an international student? Read this article to find out more

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