Being in a foreign country presents many difficulties: weather can be difficult to adjust to, food can frustrate as much as liberate, cultural conventions can baffle, and the language barrier can make the ease of social contact one takes for granted in one’s home country seem very far away. As such, it is easy to suddenly find yourself feeling alienated and at a loss. For anyone who finds themselves in situations similar to this, attending a conversation club can be a highly valuable and rewarding experience…and Mickey House in Takadanobaba is one of the finest and most well-established for those seeking fresh, friendly faces and social contact.
Mickey House is conveniently located in the heart of Tokyo, with easy access from Shinjuku via the Yamanote line and Seibu Shinjuku line, and also access from the Tozai line. Situated on the 4th floor of the Yashiro building, the cafe is just a few minutes' walk from Takadanobaba’s Waseda exit down the left side of Waseda-dori. Mickey House opens every weekday from 6pm to 11pm, as well as midday until 6pm on weekends. English, understandably, dominates and is spoken every day, but Russian, French, German, Spanish, Italian, Korean and Chinese are refreshingly also offered on different days. A nominal fee (¥500 for foreigners) at the door permits entry into the cosy bar space where tables are allocated to the languages du jour. Friendly native Japanese speakers welcome newcomers and guide the conversation (on any and all topics, from the mundane to the profound) through a combination of their own contributions and by encouraging the participation of the attendees. The picture is completed with a bar where reasonably priced drinks and snacks can be purchased and which can help lower any remaining inhibitions and foster the pleasant atmosphere.
Mickey House has been operating for 30 years and has built up a stable of both Japanese and foreign regulars. Japanese attendees outnumber foreign ones and typically constitute two-thirds of the group. However, even when breakaway groups of Japanese nationals form, an effort is still made to keep the spirit and speak English (or the language of choice). As for the foreign regulars, the range includes those living and working in Japan, to students studying here, travelers just passing through who heard about Mickey House through Lonely Planet, and even people who regularly attend once a year during their holidays!
All told, Mickey House’s cordial and relaxed atmosphere, and the diverse range of ages and interests of both native and foreigner alike, makes it the perfect place to exchange stories, laughs, and facebook addresses. Even if you don’t become a frequent patron, dropping by any evening will certainly have the effect of washing away any creeping feeling of alienation imparted by the sprawling, impersonal metropolis. Mickey House embodies the vibrant cultural exchange that Tokyo has the potential to be.