Review: Sha-doll Studio

Walking into Sha-doll Studio is like walking into someone’s home. Slippers await at the door, the reception area is filled with tables and snacks, and you can help yourself to teas and coffees as you please. However, aside from the warm ambiance, there is something else rarely found in Tokyo that perhaps only Sha-doll can provide.

“We created this space as it never before existed,” explains the manager of the shop, gazing at the dolls who also staff the studio.

Debuting in the fall of last year, Sha-doll has been providing dynamic photo spaces in the form of a rental studio for people and dolls of all types. With reasonable prices, in addition to excellent props and lighting, professional photographers, casual get togethers, and even doll clubs are lured into indulge themselves in lengthy photo sessions.

Given the popularity of ball joint dolls, it is surprising that most photo opportunities are currently dictated by Volks’s invitation only events and limited to Volks’s dolls. However, with the creation of Sha-doll Studio, owners and dolls can participate without discrimination. Though most props and displays are arranged with SD or MSD sized dolls in mind, any and everyone is welcome.

The three photo rooms available for rent change monthly, and have in the past hosted such themes as Christmas, New Years, Valentines Day, Back to School (with lots of cherry blossoms), and summer festival. Currently in the depths of October, hints of fall and Halloween adorn shop, with miniature Jack-o-lanterns handed out to patrons as they leave. Room themes included “Dracula’s Castle,” “Pumpkin Tea Party,” and “Fall Alice.” Despite seasonal changes, one room keeps elements of the story Alice in Wonderland year round to due its mimetic popularity with doll owners. There is also a photo space in the lounge area that can be used freely, made with smaller dolls in mind.

In addition to the photo spaces, supplementary props such as doll sized foods and tea sets are available for rent, starting 100 yen per piece. Cute MSD and SD sized clothes are available for purchase, as well as beautifully crafted 1/8 sized doll furnishings. The lounge area was well stocked with popular and current doll magazines, such as Dolly Dolly, in case visitors want to catch up on doll couture.

Aside from the human staff, two doll staff members look over the shop, one acting as owner and the other as manager. They were all kind enough to show us through the shop, as well as pose for photos on our visit. Indeed, the shop’s playful spirit really came out through the dolls, especially as the “manager” escorted us out. “Be sure not to forget anything, and we look forward to seeing you again!” she said cheerfully, passing on some doll sized parting gifts.

Sha-doll is located in Ikebukuro, about 5 minutes walking from the East Exit of JR Ikebukuro Station. It occupies a 10th floor suite of the Union Building, sandwiched between the Ark Hotel and Ikebukuro Hospital. Hours of operation are Monday/Tuesday/Thursday/Friday 12pm-8pm, Saturday 11am-9:30pm, and Sundays and holidays 11am-8:30pm. Reservations should be made in advance through the Sha-doll website, or by telephone. Time slots can be reserved in 30, 60, 90, and 120 minute increments. First time guests are asked to make a members card, with a one time fee of 300 yen, but repeat visits earn points toward discounts and free merchandise.

*****

Name: Sha-doll Studio

Address: 170-0013; Tokyo-to Toshima-ku Higashi Ikebukuro 3-5-7; Union Building 10F, St. 1002

Map: http://syadoll.web.fc2.com/map.htm

Email: syadoll@nifty.com

Phone: 03-6661-3130

Hours: M/T/Th/F 12pm-8pm; Sat 11am-9:30pm; Sun/Holiday 11am-8:30pm

Reservations: Reservations are required and can be made via the Sha-doll site here, or by phone. Reservations by phone are taken up to 20 min prior the desired time slot, but all are recommended to be at least a day in advance.

System: Small rooms start at 500 yen for 30 minutes and go up to 1,700 yen for 120 minutes. For the same respective time slots, the large room ranges from 650 – 2,300 yen. More detailed system pricing can be found here: http://syadoll.web.fc2.com/sisutemu.htm.

Japanese: None of the staff at Sha-doll Studio speak English, and ask that guests be able to speak at least basic conversational Japanese (or bring someone who can) to ensure that they can enjoy their photo experience. As all of the pricing as well as the online reservation system is in Japanese, please use these as a metric to gauge your ability.

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