Takadanobaba often gets overlooked in favor of glitzy Shinjuku or nearby Koreatown, Shin Okubo. Dubbed “Baba” for short, the neighborhood has nevertheless been a mainstay for generations of university students. Most significant are the kids from Waseda University, to whom the walk from campus to Takadanobaba is known as “Baba-aruki” (Baba-walk).
Before becoming a student town, Takadanobaba was the birthplace of Astroboy, Tezuka Osamu’s android creation. As a testament to the manga artist’s legacy, two large murals featuring his iconic characters stand outside the station exit, welcoming all visitors.
1. Go on a multicultural food trip
Want the spiciest Szechuan hot pot, Burmese curry, classic French cuisine and perhaps even a meal consisting of wild game? There’s no need to look very far — they’re all here in Baba. For a hit of spice enough to blow your socks off, Xian He Zhuang serves up the most fragrant, tongue-numbing hot pot in town.
If that’s not adventurous enough for you, Burmese restaurant Nong Inlay has insects and grubs on the menu.
One of the best French restaurants in Tokyo is unassumingly tucked in a small, residential alley. Expect huge, delicious portions at an affordable price. L’Amitié is nearly always fully booked, so call quick and call early!
2. Catch a double feature at Waseda Shochiku
For cinephiles, the Waseda Shochiku cinema is a rare gem. This single-screen cinema has been putting on double features for over 50 years and retains its retro charm. Perfect for those hot summer afternoons or rainy days, a ticket costs just ¥1,300 and you’ll be set for half a day’s worth of movie magic.
There’s usually a good selection of both foreign and Japanese films on screen, though all are subtitled in Japanese. Movie showings change weekly, so check their website for the latest updates.
3. Gorge on ramen
The staple college student’s diet: booze and ramen, of course. In Takadanobaba, there’s no need to fall back on the instant kind — there’s excellent ramen at (nearly) every corner. There’s certainly your typical shoyu (soy sauce) and tonkotsu (pork bone broth) ramen, but while in Baba, one simply must munch on ramen of the crispy variety — Yakijii does fried abura soba (dry, soup-less noodles), while Tsurugi serves up a yummy, thick soup with a block of crisp noodles dunked in (get it with an egg, sunny side up!).
Other honorable mentions: Menya Musashi Takatora has generous portions of tsukemen (dipping noodles), while Kageyamarou serves a lighter chicken broth packed with flavor. Ramen aficionados who won’t mind a longer walk should try Ramen Yamaguchi’s fragrant shoyu ramen, famous for being on the Michelin Guide.
- Yakijii (Google maps)
- Tsurugi (Google maps)
- Menya Musashi Takatora (Google maps)
- Kageyamarou (Google maps)
- Ramen Yamaguchi (Google maps)
4. Try retro arcade games
Mikado is every retro gamer’s dream. The smallish shop is full of every vintage game you can imagine: Street Fighter, pinball and classic racing games. A well-loved establishment, the arcade owes its post-pandemic survival to fans who donated to its crowdfunding campaign, so gamers are sure to find it well worth the trip!
For newer games and a sizable Gashapon collection, Taito Station is a popular arcade franchise located inside Big Box, a landmark of Takadanobaba.
5. Study or chill at a cafe
In a neighborhood so populated with students, cafes can be found just about everywhere in Takadanobaba, so a cup of caffeine is never too far away. Some cafes are very work-friendly — Lucas Farm Cafe is a quieter hangout for students and remote workers, and so is LDK+C, which has large windows offering a view of the Waseda Shochiku cinema.
If you’re in Takadanobaba for a relaxing weekend, get brunch at Omotenashamoji, a beautiful, cozy cafe with dishes that harken to healthy home cooking and delicious desserts.
Fans of all things matcha and Japanese tea and sweets will find an extensive menu at Chacha Kobo, a homely cafe tucked away from the main street; while Cha no Tsutaya is a historic tea-shop-slash-cafe closer to the station that’s been a mainstay of Takadanobaba since the 1920s, and the perfect place to pick up some tea-making tools and souvenirs.
- LDK+C (Google maps)
- Lucas Farm Cafe (Google maps)
- Omotenashamoji (Google maps)
- Chacha Koboo (Google maps)
- Cha no Tsutaya (Google maps)
Have you been to Takadanobaba? Let us know your top spots in the comments section below!