Many of us will remember Billy Corgan as the frontman of The Smashing Pumpkins, but Chicago natives know him as something else entirely: the proprietor of Madame ZuZu’s Teahouse.
More than just a teahouse, Madame ZuZu’s is also an art gallery. Corgan founded the teahouse in an effort to bring a more communal feel to the people of Chicago, and to this effect, last year, he implemented Monday BINGO NIGHT. Speaking to the Wall Street Journal, the experienced musician said, “I think stuff like this forces communality and I like that… I have so much experience… you realize the difference between real communal spirit and this kind of spirit.”
In the UK, where bingo has become so large that even Iceland Foods, a British supermarket chain, has entered the market with Iceland Bingo, the BBC has reported that it’s this communality that makes the game so appealing to its online patrons. “I get excitement and friendship,” says Nevison, who has been playing since she was 18. “You go into a bingo site and it’s like a little family, it’s so chatty,” she says, remarking that she’d love to meet the people she plays with, if only they weren’t from all over the country.
Madame ZuZu’s BINGO NIGHTS were hosted by various local celebrities, as well as Mr. Corgan himself, who even performed for the participants sometimes. And while the venture was short-lived, these BINGO NIGHTS led to a phenomenon that saw different cafes hosting their own bingo games. In Oakland, CA, actual cafe has gone so far as to create a bingo hopper out of a bicycle, with which they host bingo fundraiser nights. In Seattle, Coffee Shop Bingo, a game that has you entering a coffee shop and crossing out all the elements you encounter, has become quite popular too.
Bingo seems to be just another game that has become quite popular, especially in the crowd that enjoys visiting these coffee and tea shops. A game that’s simple enough to be played by newbies yet entertaining enough to last for hours, it’s certainly become a formidable addition to the menus of coffee shops across the world.
For those after true insight into the young Tokyo art scene, there really is no better place to look than the Design Festa complex, located just a minute’s walk from the main Harajuku shops.
Admission is completely free and the combinations of installations, paintings, drawings and sculptures really do show you a side of Japanese culture beyond the completely inaccurate French maid and businessman stereotypes.
Tucked away between the two Design Festa East and West galleries is the Design Festa Café & Bar which is entirely outside though does feature several tables protected by plastic curtains for protection during chilly weather.
The entire space has a lovely artistic vive, surrounded by mural-covered walls and the garden’s trees that really make you feel at home.
The coffee here won’t blow you away but is definitely some of the cheapest you will find in Tokyo, selling for just 190 yen a cup! The food is what you come here for though, with good serving sizes of taco rice, pasta and more for 550 to 650 yen. It really is excellent value and perfect for families or people on a budget.
They also have a rather impressive variety of non-Japanese beer available with well over 15 brands going from 500 to 900 yen a bottle. They even sell some organic beer! The combination of outdoor seating, food and beer makes Design Festa Café & Bar and fantastic location for summer evening get-togethers or for a nice place to chill before or after hitting the Harajuku shops.
Station: Harajuku, Meiji-jingumae and Omotesando Train Line: (Harajuku) Yamanote, (Meiji-jingumae) Chiyoda and Fukutoshin, (Omotesando) Ginza, Chiyoda and Hanzomon
Features: Outdoor Seating Menu Language: English, Japanese
Hours: 11:30am – 11pm
Address: 〒150-0001 東京都渋谷区神宮前3-20-18
3-20-18, Jingumae, Shibuya Ku, Tokyo 150-0001
Map: View on GoogleMaps
Directions: From Harajuku Station, walk completely through the famous shopping street, Takeshita Street to a large road called, Meiji Street. Cross this road and walk down the street directly in front of you that’s between the large KDDI building on your right and a sports store on your left. When you get to the Family Mart, turn left and walk down this small street. You should see a small sign for the Design Festa buildings on your left. Look for a small alley with creative paintings all over the walls.
If coming from Meiji Jingumae Station, take Exit 5 and walk along Meiji Street towards the end of Takeshita Street. Once at the entrance of Takeshita Street, cross Meiji Street to the KDDI building and follow the directions above.
When arriving from Omotesado Station, use Exit A2 and walk downhill on the right side of the road. When you see a police box, turn right and walk down CAT Street for a few minutes. After passing the Family Mart convenience store, look for the small alleyway entrance to Design Festa on your left.
Tokyo has seen a significant shift in recent years towards a better quality of living and healthier lifestyles. Large gym chains have started opening up in neighbourhoods that were previously office buildings, fast food restaurants and pachinko parlours, yoga classes are often packed to maximum capacity and a new breed of health themed restaurants and cafes focused on supporting and educating the public on health and fitness are gaining more and more cultural acceptance.
DNS Cafe, which is part of the DNS ZONE fitness store in the new Nakano Central Park complex just a few minutes walk from Nakano Station, is one such café. Obviously inspired by Western gyms and fitness bars, DNS Café offers a well-lit open space and everything a modern Tokyo city dweller could need.
Free unlocked Wi-Fi internet? No problem. Charging stations for your electronic devices? Sure. Completely smoke free interior and outdoor seating? It’s got that too. How about legitimately healthy and affordable food? DNS Café has you covered there as well. For just 600 yen, customers can get a large protein smoothie and the Power Plate lunch set which contains your choice of white or multigrain rice, meat (chicken breast, roast beef, steamed pork or smoked salmon) and a serving of steamed broccoli and cherry tomatoes. Numerous upgrade options are available, allowing anyone to add as much extra meat or vegetables as they like.
Fancy a coffee? DNS Cafe sells a medium sized organic coffee for a paltry 200 yen which has to be the cheapest organic coffee in Tokyo.
Due to its energetic atmosphere, DNS Café probably isn’t the best place for a romantic date but with its variety of seating options it is more than suitable for a lunch with friends, people watching or getting a little work done and with an opening time of 7am (truly exceptional in Tokyo), it is an ideal location for a healthy breakfast.
Station: Nakano Train Line: Chuo and Sobu Lines Features: 100% smoke free, outdoor seating, free Wi-Fi, organic coffee. Menu Language: Japanese Hours: 7am – 9pm Address: 〒164-0001 東京都中野区中野4-10-2 中野セントラルパーク サウス1F
1F Nakano Central Park, 4-10-2 Nakano, Nakano, Tokyo 164-0001
Phone Number: 03-5942-5435 Website:www.DNSCafe.jp (Japanese) Map:View on GoogleMaps Directions: Once out of the North Exit of Nakano Station, turn left and walk to the rather busy road that goes under the train tracks. Cross this road and turn right (so the tracks are behind you) and walk up towards the intersection. You should see a big building called Nakano Sun Plaze opposite you. Cross the road to this building and turn left. Walk along this road so you walk past Sun Plaza and the Nakano Ward Office on your right. Cross the road to the Lawson convenience store which is just at the entrance of Nakano Central Park (or Nakano Shiki no Mori Park in Japanese). DNS Power Café is in the Nakano Central Park South building on the ground floor.
Having opened in March 2014, this gorgeous bubble tea lounge is the third branch of the popular Taiwanese chain, Chun Shui Tang to open outside of its homeland, Taiwan.
As soon as you enter through the uniquely designed wooden door with its horizontally aligned timber, you’re greeted with an open, well lit space accentuated by a modern interpretation of classical Taiwanese music playing through the speakers.
While many Western travellers may associate bubble tea with cheap Chinatown desserts, Chun Shui Tang takes it to another, much more sophisticated level. Like its music, Chun Shui Tang has taken something quite commonplace and made it a whole experience by modernising the experience with current design aesthetics and culinary expectations.
I have had bubble tea before but nothing has come close to the Tabioka Jasmine bubble tea that looked stunning and tasted just as fresh and distinctive. Each layer of the drink was arranged perfectly and impressed me so much, I had to double check how much it cost (only 450 yen!).
To complement my main drink, I also ordered a very cool dish called, Tekanon Anin Tofu which featured sweet pudding in a bowl covered with fresh azuki (Japanese sweet beans) and a small cup of concentrated tea which, as instructed by my waitress, was poured over the tofu and beans after waiting three minutes, infusing all the ingredients with the tea flavour. For me, this dish was such a revelation that I immediately made plans with several friends to return here the following week with them to share the experience.
Chun Shui Tang is a great place to meet friends, perfect for a date and with the free Wi-Fi (ask the staff for the password) even a pretty good place to get some work done. With its accessibility and quality Chun Shui Tang is bound to impress both bubble tea fanatics as well as first timers.
Station: Harajuku, Meiji-jingumae and Omotesando Train Line: (Harajuku) Yamanote, (Meiji-jingumae) Chiyoda and Fukutoshin, (Omotesando) Ginza, Chiyoda and Hanzomon
Features: 100% no smoking, free wi-fi internet Menu Language: English, Japanese and Mandarin Chinese
Hours: 9am – 9pm
Address: 〒150-0001 東京都渋谷区神宮前4-28-11
4-28-11 Jingumae, Shibuya-ku, Tokyo 150-0001
Map:View on GoogleMaps Directions: From Harajuku Station, take the Omotesando Exit and cross the road to the GAP building. Turn right and walk to the intersection then turn left and walk down this hill on the left side of the road until you get to another intersection. Cross the road to the shopping complex on the corner with the bizzare mirror covered escalators. Walk past it, continuing to walk down the hill for two blocks. At the end of the second block, turn left and walk down this much smaller street. Chun Shui Tang should be on your left after the second street on your left.
From Meiji-jingumae Station, take the elevator to the street level. This elevator doesn’t have an exit name but it is near Exits 5 and 6. Once on the street level and facing out from the elevator, walk two blocks ahead and turn left. Chun Shui Tang should be on your left after the second street on your left.
From Omotesando Station, use Exit 2 and walk down this hill until you get to the Omotesando Hills shopping complex on your right. Walk past Omotesando Hills and turn right down the third street on your right. Chun Shui Tang should be on your left after the second street on your left.
There was a time when Tokyo cafes were all windowless and smoky experiences but with its modern timber and steel interior design and open space, the Harajuku Barista Pro Shop branch of Streamer Coffee Company very much represents the new look of the city’s café scene.
Located down a side street just a minute’s walk from the popular Takeshita Street shopping area in Harajuku, the street level Streamers Coffee Company storefront, minimally staffed by a single barista, offers fast convenient access to some of the best espresso based beverages you’ll find in Tokyo that you can quickly grab on your way elsewhere in Harajuku or take upstairs to chill in the fresh seating area.
There are several things I really enjoy about the upstairs space. In addition to its cool design, the café provides window seats for the passive customer, work spaces (with power sockets!) for those that need to get work done as well as super comfortable lounge chairs for groups of friends looking for a place to sit down and chat over coffee or have a business meeting with a client.
Despite its rather central location, Streamer Coffee Company is often fairly quiet, which is a nice change from the line-ups which often manifest at other Harajuku cafes and restaurants. It’s also very affordable with the average sized cuppa going for around five hundred yen. Be warned though that with the exception of a few cookies, there is no food on the menu, so those looking for a substantial sized bite to eat will have to look elsewhere.
If you’re just after a coffee though, the Harajuku branch of Streamers Coffee Company is highly recommended.
Station: Harajuku and Meiji-jingumae Train Line: (Harajuku) Yamanote, (Meiji-jingumae) Chiyoda and Fukutoshin
Features: 100% no smoking, free wi-fi internet Menu Language: English & Japanese
Map:View on GoogleMaps Directions: From Harajuku Station, take Takeshita Exit, cross the road to walk down Takeshita Dori which is quite a popular tourist destination for shopping and people watching. While walking down Takeshita Dori, take the second left and walk up the stairs to your right. Turn right and follow this path downhill. You should walk past a rather large temple on your left followed by a pond. Once you exit this area via a large Japanese archway you should be at a busy road. Turn left and walk along this road until you get to an intersection. Cross the road and walk down the street to the right. After you pass the second small street on your right you should see Streamer Coffee Company on your right opposite a Freshness Burger.
If coming from Meiji-jingumae, use Exit 5, face downhill and walk to the nearby intersection. Turn left and walk down this road for about five minutes. Once you get to the large Japanese archway on your left, follow the same directions as above. The complete walk from either station should take no more than ten minutes.
When visiting Tokyo during the last week of March and the first week of April, the one thing that visitors absolutely have to do is experience the natural beauty of the city’s numerous cherry blossom trees (or “sakura” in Japanese) which are in full bloom during this period.
While Yoyogi Park and Shinjuku Gyoen are ideal places for picnics with a large group of people, one of the most rewarding locations, especially for those strapped for time, would have to be along Sumida River which, in addition to being lined with cherry blossom trees, is just a few minutes walk from the popular site seeing spot, Asakusa and provides one of the best views of Tokyo’s tallest building, Tokyo Sky Tree.
Located on the river in a section called, Sumida Park are two cafes called Café W.E and Tully’s Coffee.
Both prove to be quite the exception for Tokyo cafes by featuring lovely outdoor seating options with amazing views while also being completely smoke free. Where they differ though is in their food and drink options.
Café W.E (The “W.E” stands for “Wall for Everyone”) really focuses more on its food options, making it an ideal café to go to for lunch. They offer both eat in and take away options and feature a good choice of food such as fish and chips, smoked salmon, fried chicken, a variety of sandwiches and a few salads, all of which go for around 600 yen each. The food won’t have you writing home about it but it definitely isn’t bad either.
The coffee at Café W.E leaves a lot to be desired though. I ordered a café mocha for 400 yen and was given a very small paper cup of milk that looked more like a chocolate milk bubble bath than a well steamed milk and espresso shot. Thankfully Tully’s Coffee was right next door so having finished my fish and chips at Café W.E, I abandoned my café mocha and ordered a tall size café latte (also 400 yen), which was twice the size of the café mocha and was sitting outside Tully’s Coffee under a cherry blossom tree enjoying this much better coffee in under a minute.
While I usually avoid writing about large café chains like Starbucks and Tully’s in favour of much more interesting smaller or niche cafes, I find this Tully’s Coffee is worth including due to its unique location (just look at that view!) and how well it complements Café W.E. If you’re after a real lunch, check out Café W.E but if you’re after coffee and a smaller snack (Tully’s also offers a good variety of cakes, desserts and sandwiches of its own) check out Tully’s.
Tully’s Coffee also offers numerous power outlets on the scenic window seats for recharging your electronic devices and its outdoor seating provides a good view of the nearby children’s playground, giving caregivers an opportunity to relax and their children a chance to let loose a bit.
Station: Asakusa Train Line: Tobu Sky Tree, Toei Asakusa, Tokyo Metro Ginza
Features: 100% no smoking, outdoor seating Menu Language: English & Japanese
Hours:Cafe W.E 9am – 9pm, Tullys Coffee Sumida Park Store 9am – 9pm
Address: 〒111-0033 東京都台東区花川戸1-1-31 隅田公園内
Tokyo, Taito Ku, 1-1-31 Hanakawado, Sumida Park 111-0033
Phone Number:Cafe W.E 03-5830-3687 Tullys Coffee Sumida Park Store 03-5246-4320 Website:Cafe W.Ewww.cafe-we.com (Japanese) Tullys Coffee Sumida Park Storewww.tullys.co.jp (Japanese)
Map:View on GoogleMaps Directions: If coming from either the Toei Asakusa or Tokyo Metro Ginza lines, head out of Exit A5, turn left and walk until you get to a large intersection. Cross this intersection and immediately turn right and cross over a small street. You should see the entrance to Sumida Park on your left which runs parallel to Sumida River. Walk along this park for about 4 minutes.
Should you be coming from the Tokyo Sky Tree line, use Exit 7 and cross the road. Turn left and then right again down a small street on your right. Sumida Park should be right in front of you. Walk along it for a few minutes until you see Cafe W.E and Tullys Coffee.
Located within the large outlet store area called Grandberry Mall, Saryo offers a nice escape from the numerous Western businesses with its rather impressive selection of Asian and Asian inspired foods and drinks that easily satisfies more than the Starbucks across the road and you won’t have to fight for a table to sit at with its rather large indoor dining area and outdoor seating area to choose from.
The main lunch dishes are all cooked in house and offer something for most tastes with several different udon (Japanese noodle) options, two donburi (Japanese rice, vegetable and meat bowl), two curries, a beef stew and a meat and vegetabe dish to choose from.
I chose the Hoji Tea Pork Spicy Curry which was thankfully spicier than I was expecting from a curry in Japan though will most likely disappoint those who like their curry to be at tounge destroying spicy level. The pork which had been prepared in hoji tea (which is more brown and has an earthier taste than the more popular green tea) was very tender and complemented the curry very well. I just wish there had been more of it!
All of the lunch dishes price around the 900 – 1000 yen and can be upgraded to a Drink Set for 350 yen which gives you a limited selection of drinks such as a basic black coffee or juice.
If you really want to try something different, forego the upgrade and pay extra for a drink from their absolutely massive selection of teas from Japan, China and Taiwan. There really is a tea for all tastes.
The coffee is also good and I was really impressed with it’s presentation, served in a Japanese style tea cup as opposed to the more traditional and occassionally boring coffee mug.
To complement my coffee, I ordered a tea monte blanc tart (520 yen) which was one of many unique cakes on their menu. It wasn’t bad at all and I recommend it if you want to try something different.
Those with kids will be happy to know that Saryo has several baby chairs for use and has three differet Japanese style kids sets that come with a lunch dish, dessert and drink all for 680 yen. They’re also completely dog-friendly and with it’s total no smoking policy, Saryo is a great place for entire families and singles alike.
Station: Minami Machida Train Line: Denentoshin
Features: 100% no smoking, outdoor seating, dogs allowed Menu Language: Japanese and English Hours: 11am – 10pm
Map:View on GoogleMaps Directions: Take the South Exit from the station. Walk through the first section of Grandberry Mall past the Kaldi Coffee Farm and Buffet Grand China and cross the road via the walkway on the left. After walking down the steps from the walkway, walk past Cafe Comme Ca on your right and a GAP and Starbucks on your left. Cross the road and you should see Saryo immediately on your right just next to the road you crossed.
Ever since Haneda Airport was upgraded I had been wanting to check it out. A lot of my friends had been telling me how much better it was than the previous version and everyone seemed to be in agreement that it was vastly superior to it’s rival, Narita Airport which has long held a reputation for being outdated and extremely inconvenient and expensive to get to.
The new Haneda Airport has a much fresher design than Narita and features a strong emphasis on marketing the two most stereotypical views of Japan held by international tourists to visitors through the “Edo Hall” which tries to be a replica of a traditional Japanese shopping street (though the illusion is hampered a bit by the fact it’s visibly under a massive airport ceiling) and the “Tokyo Pop Town” which as you can probably guess, is focused on the pop culture aspects of Japanese culture such as Hello Kitty, One Piece, Doraemon, Pokemon and other popular franchises.
Within this area lies the Planetarium Starry Cafe which very much falls into the category of “Gimmick Cafe” along with all the cat, goat and French maid cafes by featuring a 360 projection upon the cafe’s ceiling.
The films range from surreal animated music videos, educational star constellation projections and even Japanese animated shorts voiced in English (though spoken by Japanese voice actors).
When you get to the cafe you might be mistaken, as I was, in thinking that the seats and tables near the entrance are the main cafe and begin to wonder where the planetarium is. In actuality this is a separate cafe that shares the same name but is completely separate from the planetarium section and even has it’s own menu that can be ordered from the main counter to the right of the entrance.
To get into the planetarium cafe you need to buy a ticket from the ticket booth opposite the counter for 500 yen per adult. You can also order any food and drinks you like here but be warned that even though some items correspond exactly to items on the other cafe’s menu, the majority of them are strangely more expensive. I guess the logic is that you’re paying for the experience to eat and watch the projections at the same time but it is very unusual especially when the food is exactly the same as it would be if you ate outside.
The staff seem to be aware of how strange their system is though and to their credit actually tried to talk me out of ordering food for the planetarium.
Determined to have the full experience, I ordered an eggplant pasta set and a lemon tea which together with the cost of admission set me back 1,740 yen. The food wasn’t bad by any means but as with most gimmick cafes, you are very much paying a premium for the unusual experience rather than culinary excellence.
I was surprised by how relaxing the planetarium was. It’s naturally very dimly lit to support the projections on the ceiling but each table had an individual lamp that provided a nice ambiance and quickly made me forget for a second that I was in an airport. The films shown were interesting and I noticed the several children that were present with their families at other tables seemed completely mesmerised by what was being shown above. If you want a place for your children to relax before a flight, this is definitely the place to be.
After a while I decided to simply enjoy the atmosphere and relegated the projections to background music. Other customers had appeared to do the same with a few reading books and others just enjoying their meal and talking with friends.
Planetarium Starry Cafe is definitely a different experience and worth checking out if you’ve got some time to kill at Haneda though I’m hesitant to recommend making a trip to Haneda solely to check it out. Kids will love it though and it’s a nice way to escape the hustle and bustle while waiting for check-in.
Station: Haneda Airport International Terminal Train Line: Keikyu Line and Tokyo Monorail.
Features: 100% smoke free Menu Language: Japanese Hours: 11am – 5pm
Address: 〒144-0041 東京都大田区3-3-2羽田空港国際線ターミナル5F TOKYO POP TOWN
5F Tokyo Pop Town, Haneda Airport International Terminal, 3-3-2 Ota Ku, Tokyo 144-0041
Map:View on GoogleMaps Directions: After entering the terminal from either the Tokyo Monorail or Keikyu Line walk right through the centre of the complex towards the Edo Hall on the fourth floor which is heavily inspired by old Japan and is very hard to miss. Go up the escalators to the Tokyo Pop Town on the fifth floor and turn right. Walk along this hallway and you should see the Planetarium Starry Cafe at the end.
Located within the trendy Urban Research store on the third floor of the East Yard under Tokyo Sky Tree, Cafe Green Bar complements the main store’s focus on modern contemporary fashion by presenting customers with several examples of how to implement it’s brand’s design values beyond the wardrobe, reinforcing Urban Research as more of a lifestyle than simply a fashion label.
Like the rest of the store, the cafe has a very fresh design with a good eye for well lit open spaces which create the odd sense of being stimulating yet comfortable and welcoming at the same time.
The cafe design seems very conscious of the environment as seen by the use of natural light, the inclusion of real bonsai inspired potted plants on the main table and of course the the name of the cafe, Cafe Green Bar.
This awareness continues in the cafe menu with all of the coffee drinks being made with one hundred percent organic coffee beans. This is really impressive for a cafe in Tokyo as most cafes don’t use organic coffee beans at all and if they do they only use them for black drip/filter coffees and never for espresso based drinks like lattes and cafe mochas as they do here.
It’s great to see a cafe fully follow through with their organic promise.
Unfortunately while the drinks are impressive, the food options (or lack thereof) leave a lot to be desired with cookies and bagels being your only options with zero toppings offered for the bagels (at least they toast them for you though).
This is really disappointing as so much of Cafe Green Bar has potential but is severely let down by this oversight which more than likely explains the almost complete lack of other customers.
The coffee is great though and and the seating refreshing, making Cafe Green Bar an ideal place to sit down and relax away from the Sky Tree crowds and while the immediate food options are quite bare, the cafe has it’s own small store that supplies organic groceries such as honey, peanut butter and teas, etc that can make your stay in Tokyo much more comfortable and environmentally conscious.
Station: Tokyo Sky Tree and Oshiage Train Line: (Tokyo Sky Tree Station) Isesaki, (Oshiage Station) Keisei Oshiage, Tobu Isesaki, Toei Asakusa and Tokyo Metro Hanzomon
Features: 100% no smoking, organic coffee, outdoor seating Menu Language: English & Japanese Hours: 10am – 9pm
Address: 〒131-0045 東京都墨田区押上1-1-2 東京スカイツリータウン・ソラマチ 3F
3F, Solamachi Tokyo Sky Tree Town, 1-1-2 Oshiage, Tokyo 131-0024
Map:View on GoogleMaps Directions: Cafe Green Bar located within the Urban Research store on the third floor of the East Yard section of the Tokyo Sky Tree Solamachi shopping complex. This part of the complex is directly above Oshiage Station. If you’re arriving at the Tokyo Sky Tree Station you’ll have about a five minute walk to get to this side of the complex from the other.
A few weeks ago I was contacted by NHK World and asked if I would be interested in being the resident “Cafe Specialist” on a special Tokyo cafes episode of their travel show, Tokyo Eye.
Turns out they had been looking for someone who knew a lot about cafes in Tokyo and had been impressed with my stint on several episodes of the Tokyo Podcast podcast. We quickly organised an interview (in a cafe of course) and hammered out the details.
I was actually surprised to hear that the filming would happen over the span of several days but be edited together to create the illusion that we had visited them all on the one day. Naturally this makes perfect sense and definitely explains all those restaurant hopping shows you see on Japanese TV with hosts eating entire menus of several restaurants all seemingly within the span of a few hours.
While the staff had already decided on which cafes they wanted to feature, I was happy to see that one of my real personal favourites, Pure Cafe was among them.
The other three cafes we visited were all rather distinct. There was the Falconers Cafe in Kichijoji which was definitely a memorable experience. Not every day you get to sit in a cafe with owls and eagles. Due to it being a smoking cafe though I’m not sure if I’ll write a feature about it here on 25 Cafes but I definitely will for the Starry Cafe in Haneda Airport which features movies projected on the ceiling and the Fab Cafe in Shibuya that let me both drink coffee and try out 3D printing for the first time!
The whole experience was excellent fun and something I look forward to doing again. It was definitely interesting comparing the differences between writing about cafes and talking about them on camera and it was absolutely exciting to see 25 Cafes itself shown on TV around the world.
I’ve definitely noticed a big spike in traffic to the site since the airing of the episode so a big welcome to all my new readers!
You may noticed that cafe reviews seemed to have slowed down recently. This was unfortunately due to my heavy offline workload that completely took up all of my writing time but I’ve gotten back into the cafe hopping spirit and have a number of new cafe articles coming in the next few days, weeks and months ahead on a much more regular basis.
I’ve also begun work on the 25 Cafes in Tokyo, Japan book which should hopefully see release this month and have lined up a few cool interviews on some Japan related podcasts that should be super fun to record.
Don’t forget you can stay up to date by following me on Twitter @25Cafes, liking 25 Cafes on Facebook and following me on my new 25 Cafes Pinterest account where I’ll be curating loads of different cafe and coffee related photos, articles and other media.
Thanks for all the support and have a nice coffee for me.
If you’ve ever spent any time clothes shopping in Japan, you no doubt would have come across the incredibly popular Japanese fashion chain COMME CA ISM.
As the name implies, Cafe Comme Ca is a spin-off of the main brand that focuses entirely on being a cafe though does retain the aesthetics of the original clothing stores (think white, lots of white) in an attempt to evolve the company name from purely a fashion label to more of an entire lifestyle brand.
While there are several salad and pasta sets, the main focus at Cafe Comme Ca is definitely the cakes and tarts with an absolute huge selection to choose from. The entire menu is entirely in Japanese and can be quite confusing to understand even if you bring a Japanese person along with you to help ordering.
Despite the menu presenting entire cakes, your order thankfully contains just a slice of your selection and while it doesn’t exactly mention it in the menu, most of the drinks in the sets entitle you to as many free refills as you would like, you simply need to ask one of the waitresses when you feel like another cup.
The cakes we tried were an impressive serving size, tasted great and were surprisingly a great topic of conversation due to their complexity and originality. The coffee and tea on the other hand were rather ordinary though by no means bad, and hey, it’s hard to feel disappointed with unlimited free refills.
Something that was a bit of a let down though was the atmosphere. While I can see the appeal of using white and smooth surfaces in a clothes store, I’m not entirely sure that that same design choice is well suited to a cafe as it creates more of a cold, sterile vibe instead of the warm, cosy feeling that most people prefer in a cafe, especially if you’re after a place to wind down and relax in.
Station: Minami Machida Train Line: Denentoshin
Features: 100% no smoking Menu Language: Japanese Hours: 10am – 8pm
Map:View on GoogleMaps Directions: Take the South Exit from the station. Walk through the first section of Grandberry Mall past the Kaldi Coffee Farm and Buffet Grand China and cross the road via the walkway on the left. After walking down the steps from the walkway, you should see Cafe Comme Ca immediately on your right.
Tucked away within the first floor of the giant Mitsukoshi shopping complex, Denmark The Royal Cafe offers a quiet escape from the numerous shoppers that swamp Ginza on a daily basis though you may find that a lot of those shoppers also have the same urge for escape that you do when you visit which could result in a wait time ranging from five to fifteen minutes depending on the day.
The entire cafe has a very modern design though despite the cafe’s name, has very little to do with Denmark and appears more like the average Tokyo cafe that’s chosen to focus on a light theme rather than an authentic cultural and culinary experience.
This isn’t to say Denmark The Royal cafe is necessarily bad. It just has a different focus than one might expect at first glance.
The menu has a very Japanese vibe in spite of the small Danish influence with the majority of the food items geared towards the average Japanese customer. Some are particularly more Japanese such as the original creation, “sumushi” which combines several meats and vegetables and serves them as you would sushi rolls. The result is basically a plate of appetisers that I’m not really sure achieves the level of cultural fusion that the creators desired though they do make for a good conversation piece due to the uniqueness of the presentation and ingredients which can be quite difficult to guess.
The sumushi lunch set costs 1575 yen and comes with a salad, soup, a drink of your choice and a cake for dessert. Other lunch choices include mini sandwiches and a larger salad all of which are good though contain fish which could be an issue for some people.
Overall I found Denmark The Royal Cafe to be a wonderful find. Its no smoking interior and outdoor seating make it an ideal place to relax in Ginza though your enjoyment may depend on how much you like their menu.
Map:View on GoogleMaps Directions: From Ginza Station, take the A6 Exit which should bring you right to a large intersection with the big Mitsukoshi shopping centre on your corner. The Denmark The Royal Cafe is not in this Mitsukoshi building on the corner but in the second one next to it just a bit further down Harumi Dori on the first floor.
If you’re coming from Higashi Ginza Station (also called Kabukiza Mae Station if you’re on the Hibiya Line), take the A2 Exit. Facing the road, turn right and walk down Harumi Dori, crossing the road twice. The Denmark The Royal Cafe is on the first floor of the first Mitsukoshi building on your right hand side.
Conanoca Cafe is a lovely little cafe hidden within the rather large Roppongi Hills complex. In fact it’s so well hidden that in the eight or so years that I’ve regularly been visiting Roppongi Hills I was completely unaware of it’s existence until I recently discovered it on the Roppongi Hills website while searching for a new smoke free cafe to check out.
It’s secluded location really is unfortunate as it sells by far some of the best tasting scones I’ve ever eaten in Japan, or elsewhere for that matter. All the scones, which are Conanoco Cafe’s speciality, are freshly bakes on location with over fifteen different varieties to choose from ranging from vanilla to salmon and cream cheese.
Each scone is quite small (a bit smaller than an Oreo) and priced between 100 and 200 yen each which may sound quite expensive at first but believe me when I say these scones are worth every yen and are something you won’t regret at all. Something that may rub you the wrong way however is the cream and jam that you have to fork over an extra 100 yen each in addition to the cost of the scones. Cream and jam are are something that I firmly believe should be included in the cost of a main order and it’s very disappointing that they expect customers to pay extra for something that should be a general service by default and not a luxury item.
I begrudgingly paid the 200 yen extra for the jam and cream to go with my honey and lemon, green tea, caramel and banana, and ham and cheese scones (all of which were delicious) as well as 450 yen (550 yen if bought without scones) for a mocha which was quite good. All of this set me back 1.270 yen which is pretty much the average for a food and drink set at other cafes in Tokyo though the quality overall was much higher.
The cafe itself is very fresh and modern with both inside and outside seating and the staff were super friendly. The menu is only in Japanese though if you have a basic knowledge of the language you shouldn’t find navigating too difficult.
Well worth checking out, especially if you’re just after a quiet place to meet friends before hitting the Roppongi Hills shops or see a movie.
Map:View on GoogleMaps Directions: Conanoco Cafe is located on the first floor of the “Hillside” section of Roppongi Hills just under the circular museum tower and entrance to the excellent Virgin Toho Cinemas. If you’re coming on the Hibiya Line take Exit 1C to get to Roppongi Hills or if you’re travelling on the Oedo Line, come out of Exit 3.
Le Cafe Mamie is a quaint cafe in Meguro (itself a really nice area full of interesting shops and restaurants) that claims to be heavily inspired by French culture and cuisine, though to be honest I wouldn’t have guessed it was French themed had I not noticed some of the French movie posters and artworks on the wall.
The menu consists of your typical Tokyo cafe food choices such as pasta, salads, sandwiches and even a Thai curry with the only real French food on the menu being the ratatouille and croissant. The dessert and drink menus follow a similar pattern with the occasional French addition but for the most part quite standard selection.
This isn’t to say anything on the menu is bad, it’s just that if you’re after some authentic French culinary experiences you may be disappointed.
During my visit I ended up choosing the carbonara (900 yen) and followed it up with the “gateau au chocolat” (500 yen) and “hot coffee” (500 yen).
All were pretty good quality though a bit expensive when all put together.
The coffee was also quite generic though as strange as it sounds, the coffee isn’t the focus of the cafe, it’s the pastries and sweets which apparently have earned Le Cafe Mamie a bit of a reputation in Tokyo foodie publications as well as their customisable cookie service and different cooking and French language workshops.
Le Cafe Mamie is definitely a curiosity worth checking out if you’re in the area.
It’s craft cottage interior makes for a very comfortable visit as does it’s 100% no smoking policy though I wouldn’t necessarily plan a day trip around checking it out.
Station: Meguro Train Line: Yamanote, Meguro, Namboku and Toei Mita Lines.
Map:View on GoogleMaps Directions: On foot, Le Cafe Mamie can be about a 15 – 20 minute walk from Meguro Station and is actually quite a nice walk especially if the weather’s fine. Simply take Exit 1 out of the West side of the station and walk along Meguro Dori on the left side. This rather large road should bend to the left almost immediately and take you across a river. After five minutes or so you should reach an intersection with the busy Yamate Dori. Cross this intersection and continue down Meguro Dori. When you get to the large school on your left, keep walking and you’ll find Le Cafe Mamie also on your left just two more blocks down the road.
If you don’t feel like walking, simply catch a 1, 3, 6 or 98 bus from Meguro Station and make sure to get off at the “Motokeibajyomae” stop (the third stop). Continue walking up the hill for a minute and you’ll see the cafe on your left.
This rather nice chocolate themed cafe is one of many Lindt outlets both worldwide and in Japan. The focus is of course on chocolate based drinks and upselling their own brand of chocolates which of course can be purchased in store but there are also coffee and cakes available too.
We ordered an iced chocolate and a hot coffee and while the iced chocolate was rather impressive the coffee disappointed due to the fact that it was made via a push button machine and tasted like it had come from one.
The cakes on the other hand were superb though a little on the rich side.
Having said that though, we more than happily finished our selections and were very tempted to get seconds.
The drink and cake set us back around 1000 yen each and the quality was rather good when it came to the chocolate but if you’re after a good cup of coffee I would highly recommend going to another nearby cafe such as the Devadeva Cafe which is just around the corner and also serves a larger range of food if you’re hungry and want something substantial.
The great chocolate and cakes as well as the clean and well designed interior makes Lindt Chocolate Cafe and ideal place for dessert after eating elsewhere though.
Station: Kichijoji Train Line: Chuo, Sobu and Inokashira Lines.
Features: 100% Smoke Free. Menu Language: English and Japanese. Hours: 9am – 10pm
Address: 〒180-0004, 東京都武蔵野市吉祥寺本町2-13-14
2-13-14 Kichijoji Honcho, Musashino, Tokyo 180-0004
Map:View on GoogleMaps Directions: Once you arrive at the surprisingly complex Kichijoji Station, head out of the North Exit and turn left. Walk with the station on your left until you get to a major road called Kichijoji Dori. Cross this road and turn right. Walk down Kichijoji Dori for three blocks. You should walk past a Tsutaya DVD rental store on your left. After the Tsutaya you should see a large tree in front of a building on a corner. Turn left and walk down this street and then take the first right. You should be in a rather open shopping space with a GAP, Zara and Starbucks. Lindt Chocolate Cafe is on the left.
I accidentally stumbled across Hatake Mame Hico Taipei while searching for it’s sister cafe, Cafe Mame Hico Shibuya which is actually located just around the corner.
While Cafe Mame Hico Shibuya is very much a cafe heavily influenced by Western aesthetics, Hatake Mame Hico Taipei on the other hand is inspired by both Japanese and Chinese cultures with a little quirky modern twist.
The entire space is very warm and intimate and made all the more intriguing due to the design choice of hanging completely naked light bulbs from the ceiling which create an almost magical atmosphere.
Be careful though as some of these bulbs hang at head level and could also easily become a distraction for any children present.
There is a huge selection of Japanese and Chinese dishes on offer as well as a good selection of coffees, teas and alcoholic beverages.
The entire menu is in fairly advanced Japanese though so be prepared to put your language skills to the test or bring a Japanese speaking friend with you.
The prices vary greatly depending on how adventurous you feel with desserts falling within the 1000 yen range and full meals starting at around 1200 yen.
Map:View on GoogleMaps Directions: Take the famous Hachiko Exit from Shibuya Station and cross the Shibuya Crossing to the Starbucks / Tsutaya building. Walk up the road so that Starbucks and Tsutaya are on your left. When you get to the first traffic lights, turn left. You should now be on a busy road called Inokashira Dori. Walk down this road for a minute until it forks. Walk up the right side road and then turn down the third street on your left (you should see a Lawson convenience store). Hatake Mame Hico Taipei is on the third floor of a building at the end of this short street. Look for the red Chinese lanterns.