The Little TGV is a train-themed izakaya in Akihabara that also feels somewhat like a maid cafe. A haven for 鉄道オタク [tetsudo otaku] aka railway enthusiasts, kids will also likely enjoy the novelty. For others though, it may be a bit of an overly geeky experience.
The Little TGV vibe
The Little TGV izakaya is located on the fourth floor of a non-descript building, near the bright red facade of a Turkish restaurant called Deniz. There is a signboard at the foot of the building so you can’t miss it.
After riding a retro elevator, you arrive at the glass door of the izakaya. The moment you pull open the door, waitresses dressed in station attendant uniforms will greet you with “Welcome aboard!” You are given a 550 yen “train ticket” to the New Akiba Electric Railway, which is essentially the per person table charge.
A waitress will then lead you through a narrow corridor to the heart of the izakaya, adorned with railway-related paraphernalia and train seats that look like they have seen better days. In fact, the entire establishment looks a little shabby, like you have wandered into some 90s otaku spot.
On the day we went, this vibe was further reinforced by the fact that every other customer was male. And the type that you see a lot of in Akihabara. Many of them seemed to be regulars, and were chatting with waitresses in a way reminiscent of maid cafes.
Neither my friend nor I are train geeks, so while we enjoyed the novelty, the significance of certain items on display perhaps escaped us. And we definitely didn’t need the maid-like service.
While you can take photos, you are not allowed to include the waitresses or other customers in your shots.
The dining experience
The menu itself was extremely creative, and we were especially amused by railway map motif modelled after JR Yamanote and other Tokyo train lines. And as with train fares, the further you get away from the center, the pricier it gets.
The Little TGV offers standard izakaya food, but some dishes are train-themed and come with “entertainment” when served to your table.
We ordered a “three-carriage” tamagoyaki (rolled omelette) and when the waitress brought it our table, she made train noises when “connecting” the carriages together on the plate. The railway tracks were made of seaweed.
The maid cafe-like service also extended to some non-train themed dishes, like a Caesar salad we ordered. The waitress told us to say 停車 [teisha] (the word used when vehicles stop) to let her know amount of the dressing to squeeze over our salad.
The drink menu was also geekily fun, although for the uninitiated or non-Japanese speakers it may be a kanji nightmare. All cocktails and mocktails are named after a railway line in Japan. As an extra cool touch, the names aren’t arbitrary either, but based on the color block of each line. For example, the Ginza Line is cassis orange, while the Chiyoda Line is green apple syrup and ginger ale.
There are even drinks named after limited edition express trains like the JR 185 series “Odoriko,” which my friend ordered. The drink is melon syrup and milk, resembling the green and white body of the train. Unfortunately, I forgot to take photos of our drinks.
A waitress will come to your table partway through the meal to “check” your tickets, in a fashion similar to the real train riding experience.
The prices are fairly reasonable, and on par with your average izakaya. Drinks were generally around 500 yen – 700 yen, with most food also in the same price range. Each customer must order at least one drink and one dish. Adding the table charge, a visit will likely set you back at least 1,500 yen – 2,000 yen. This is not inclusive of photo ops or any other add-ons.
Getting to the Little TGV
The Little TGV is a 5-minute walk from JR Akihabara Station, or a 3-minute walk from Suehirocho Station on the Ginza metro line.
4F Isamiya No. 3 Bldg, Sotokanda 3-10-5, Chiyoda-ku, Tokyo
Business hours seem to vary slightly every month, so make sure you check the official website before going. As of October 2022, it is open from 6pm to 10pm on Tuesdays, Wednesdays and Fridays, 12pm to 10pm on Saturdays and holidays, and 12pm to 9pm on Sundays. It is closed on Mondays and Thursdays.
If you’re looking for more interesting themed establishments, particularly in Tokyo, check out the full list of my reviews.