84 Hashi
Image: Tokyo Game Life / Nintendo Life

There’s no shortage of fascinating Nintendo-related places to visit in Tokyo.

You could explore shops for boxed Famicom games, sit down and eat a Kirby burger, or play Punch-Out!! in its original cabinet at a retro arcade. Yet one attraction was hidden from Nintendo diehards for years. A cafe run by a former Nintendo employee where the world’s most iconic game developers meet to eat and drink surrounded by priceless memorabilia that fans would give anything to own.

Once only a rumor whispered amongst Japanese game fans, the haven for Nintendo hardcores named '84' is now open to the public. Often stylized as ”84 hashi” but just pronounced “hashi,” it refers to the final level of the original Super Mario Bros. (eight-four) and the owner’s name, Toru Hashimoto.

While the cafe was only reserved for people in the gaming industry, Hashimoto has recently opened it up to tourists. Fans can reserve their spot in the 84tour, allowing them to step inside a truly unique time capsule of Nintendo history.

From Members Only Club to Tourist Hotspot

Opened in 2015, 84 was originally a members-only cafe for those who worked in the gaming industry. It‘s not a place one could stumble into. Even now, you won’t be able to find it on any map, and those who do know its address are sworn to secrecy. Hashimoto created the 84tour, where tourists can visit, eat, and chat in the cafe for 90 minutes. Reservations are required, and the whole experience costs 9999 yen (just under £60 / $75 USD).

Opening up 84 to anyone risked completely changing the aura and atmosphere, but Hashimoto feels the change was worthwhile. “I was a little worried, but I wanted people from around the world to see it,” he tells us. “I had the idea of opening it up to the public, but due to COVID I had to wait three years.” 84 finally started taking reservations for the public, allowing hundreds of overseas travelers to experience what it has to offer.

84 feels more like a living room than a cafe. The large sofas, photos of the owner with his former coworkers, and small square footage is a far cry from many of Tokyo’s trendier eateries. Yet the humble aesthetic of the cafe is in sharp contrast to its treasures. The standout being dozens of art pieces and signatures from some of the most important people in the Japanese gaming industry and Nintendo veterans. Signed artwork of Link eating rice from Eiji Aonuma, handwritten sheet music from Koji Kondo, and a framed copy of Ocarina of Time with Shigeru Miyamoto’s signature is just a sampling of the one-of-a-kind items on display in the cafe.

“Guests seem most interested in the Mario piece from Miyamoto,” said Hashimoto. He’s referring to the artwork of Mario sitting down with a meal adorned by Miyamoto’s signature with “Super Mario 84” across the top in colorful block lettering.

84 Hashi
Image: Tokyo Game Life / Nintendo Life

Fans are immediately overwhelmed by the cafe’s collection of gaming history. “I was surprised at how deeply moved many of the customers were once they entered the cafe. Some even lost their breath,” he says.

Not every signature is from a Nintendo employee. Guests will find signed copies of Ico, Shadow of the Colossus, and The Last Guardian by Fumito Ueda, who is also from Hashimoto’s home prefecture of Hyogo. Signatures from Yuji Horii, Keiji Inafune, and many from Game Freak including Junichi Masuda also can be discovered. All include hand-drawn artwork you won’t find anywhere else. What about the owner’s signature? “I don’t think my signature would be allowed here,” joked Hashimoto.

Across from the seating area and the autographs is a cabinet containing many other interesting oddities and rare items.

“My favorite is probably the Panasonic Q,” said Hashimoto, referring to the Japan-exclusive DVD/GameCube combo housed in a chrome case. “It’s so dazzling.” The rarest item? “The Earthbound jacket or the lighter,” said Hashimoto, referencing a Nintendo 64 branded lighter that was given out at E3. “After that, probably the cart sticker for the Super Mario Bros.”

The cabinet indeed has a pristinely preserved sticker yet to be put onto a yellow Famicom case of the original Super Mario Bros. title. The cabinet also included dozens of rare figures and souvenirs collected over the years including autographed Pokémon cards. Across from this treasure trove is a small shelf filled with photos of Hashimoto with many of his collaborators over the years. Not many can say they have photos with Miyamoto, Aonuma, and Shigesato Itoi sitting on the same shelf.

In the back of the cafe is the bar area, including a gigantic TV running retro gaming ads. Here you can also peruse a catalog of some cafe-exclusive goods, including an 84 stamp book resembling a Japanese passport. If you need to make a quick toilet run, the bathroom hides dozens more luminary signatures. Likewise, not many can say their bathrooms have art from Zelda manga artist Akira Himekawa adorned on their walls.

84 Hashi
Image: Tokyo Game Life / Nintendo Life

Though the incredible items on display are the draw of the cafe, perhaps the greatest benefit of the 84tour is the opportunity to speak with the owner.

Toru Hashimoto, A Vital Part of Nintendo’s History

84 Hashi
Image: Tokyo Game Life / Nintendo Life

Toru Hashimoto, also known as “Chokan,” may be unknown to many Nintendo fans. Yet he shouldn’t be as Hashimoto contributed to some of the most iconic Nintendo games of all time including Yoshi’s Island, Pokémon Red and Green, EarthBound, and many others.

After joining Nintendo in 1984, he worked with Super Mario Club, Nintendo’s internal debugging team. Hashimoto collaborated with many notable developers within Nintendo and also other companies. After leaving Nintendo, he became president of SARUGAKUCHO, a company focusing on debugging and game balance. Here he worked on many non-Nintendo games including Culdcept for PlayStation.

With such a long tenure at Nintendo, Hashimoto has plenty of memories. “Nintendo didn’t have the culture of going out to drink,” he says. “However, I was very close with the people who worked with me. People like Tezuka and Kondo. Once a month, we would typically go out together and have fun drinking.” Who has the biggest appetite at Nintendo? “I think it’s me.”

84 Hashi
Image: Tokyo Game Life / Nintendo Life

Given the task of describing some of his collaborators in one phrase, Hashimoto’s answers shone a light on his relationship with his peers. Takashi Tezuka? “Close friend”. Eiji Aonuma? “Drinking buddy.” Junichi Masuda? “Kindred spirit.” Shigeru Miyamoto? “My great senior.” Shigesato Itoi? “I’m indebted to him.”

Hashimoto also has plenty of stories about beloved Nintendo titles. “The hardest game I worked on while at Super Mario Club was Kirby’s Block Ball. It’s similar to pinball, so you have to be accurate in aiming the ball and debugging where it will hit. That part was particularly difficult.”

Yet since Super Mario Club was credited by that name as a singular entity in most games, Hashimoto’s name does not often appear in the credits. “As long as Super Mario Club is credited, then I’m happy,” he says. You can find his name in the credits of several notable titles, however.

Bringing Cultures Together Through Games

Hashimoto hopes the cafe tour experience will help bring people together through their passion for video games.

“People talking about games they love is a communication tool that can cross different languages,” he says. “I hope through the tour, people can share their love of games with each other.”

84 certainly has no shortage of talking points and conversation starters. Tokyo alone is home to dozens of fascinating gaming-related places, but 84 stands alone as a truly unique experience for the Nintendo faithful.

Many thanks to Chokan for hosting us. If you're in Tokyo (or going to be), you can visit the hashi website to reserve your own 84tour.