Taiken Japan

Autumn Leaves 2016

Exploring Takadanobaba

Photo: Jeff Laitila on Flickr

Exploring Takadanobaba

Jia Hui

The JR Yamanote Line is the most convenient and important train line in Tokyo. Stopping at major interchanges such as Shinjuku, Shibuya, Ueno, Shinbashi, it connects many key stations and makes commuting more convenient and accessible.


Takadanobaba (高田馬場) is a station on the JR Yamanote line and also home to two other popular train lines: the Seibu-Shinjuku Line and the Tozai Line. In peak hours, it is crowded as many commuters use this station as a transfer station to and fro from the west of Tokyo. Takadanobaba, or in short, Baba, is also known as a college area because of the neighboring Waseda University and Gakushuin University. As such, to cater to the large student population, prices of both food and clothes can be quite cheap as compared to other places on the JR Yamanote Line.


Exiting Takadanobaba Station, you will be greeted with many large neon signs from the nearby buildings, reading カラオケ (Karaoke). There are many karaoke joints at Takadanobaba, such as Big Echo and Karaoke Kan (カラオケ館). Due to the huge congregation of Karaoke joints, prices can be rather competitive and similar.

Near to the station, there is a shopping mall called Big Box. Shopping, arcade, Karaoke, Sports Gym and any other leisure activities that are synonymous with college students can be found in the mall. Well-known brands such as Uniqlo, Earth Music and Ecology etc have outlets in the mall too.


If you are looking for food, Takadanobaba is the place to be. You will be greeted to a wholesome variety of food as you make your way down the Waseda-dori. Along Waseda-dori and amidst the small alleys are many Izakayas and Ramen joints that are normally crowded with college students at night. There are also many stores that offer student specials.

Also popular is Abura Soba(油そば), a type of ramen(ラメーン) / tsukemen (つけ麺) that is served without soup and downed with oil (as its name suggests). Though it may sound very unhealthy, Abura Soba is apparently healthier than its counterpart, ramen. It has lesser amount of salt and fats. Many of the Abura Soba stalls are located near Waseda University as most students have them for lunch.

A particular store that I would like to recommend is this Tonkatsu (とんかつ) shop called成蔵 (ナリクラ). Before 11a.m., a queue was already formed even though the shop opens at 11a.m., indicating the popularity of this shop.


The Tonkatsu was fried to perfection. It was crispy and golden brown, without being too dry and oily. The meat retained it juiciness and it was marbled with fats in the right proportion. The set meal came with a very appetizing potato salad and a bowl of miso-soup chockfull of ingredients at only 1100 yen.


Takadanobaba is a typical college area and it gets very lively on a Friday night, especially near the station. A visit to Takadanobaba will let you reminisce the old days of being a student.