Top 5 Cafes to Try in Tokyo
Forget Sutaba, these five spots offer an all-round introduction to Tokyo's distinctive cafe culture.
It’s virtually impossible to create an exhaustive list of all the cafes to explore in Tokyo but we’ve compiled a brief guide for first-timers to the scene. From only-in-Japan wacky establishments, uber functional urban spaces and trendy international imports (usually with a long queue attached), the following five cafes will give you a quick and comprehensive introduction to the capital’s constantly evolving cafe-scape.
1. The New York Import
Dominique Ansel Bakery
Cresting the wave of recent New York imports to the city, the Dominique Ansel Bakery opened up its Japanese branch in the swanky Omotesando district just next to Harajuku. While Ansel-San (can we call him that?) is famous for his creation of the Cronut, Frozen S’more, and the Cookie Shot – all of which are on the menu – the bakery here also features some exclusive regional eats. Undo that money belt for a taste of the Monaka Cookie and Paris Tokyo, which both feature matcha, and the Mr. Roboto; essentially a sweet bun filled to the brim with hojicha (roasted green tea) cream and black sugar.
When: Open everyday from 10 a.m. to 7 p.m..
Where: Jingumae, Shibuya-ku, 5-7-14. Get out at Omotesando Station exit A1 and walk down the slope for about 5 minutes to reach the bakery.
2. The Animal-Themed
Yokohama Subtropical Teahouse
We all know that Japan is famous for its cat cafes but how about really trekking off the beaten path (to neighbouring Yokohama) for a cup of coffee with reptiles in a rainforest? Not to worry – most of them will be reclining in the comforts of their own cage though there are tortoises and lizards available for petting. You’ll feel like a Bond villain.
When: Open daily except for Tuesdays and Wednesdays from 11 a.m. to 9 p.m. (last order: 8 p.m.).
Where: Naka-ku, Yokohama, Chojamachi 8-133, 2F. It’s an 8-minute walk from Kannai Station in the direction of the river.
3. The Hybrid
Mahika Mano Hammock Cafe
After experiencing all the hustle and bustle of the city, why not spend a lazy set time period at a hammock cafe? Mahika Mano is one type of many increasingly fashionable hybrid cafes where you can enjoy food and drink while chilling on a swinging hammock. Don’t get too comfy though as there’s a limit of 90 to 120 minutes imposed on every customer. Fair enough – without it we’d probably be there all week.
When: Open from 12 p.m. to 10 p.m. Monday to Saturday (until 8 p.m. on Sundays). Last order is an hour before closing time.
Where: Kichijoji, Minami-Cho, 2-8-1. About a 4-minute walk from Kichijoji Station South exit.
4. The Secret Garden
Aoyama Flower Market Teahouse
Surrounded by the smell of flowers and lush green plants, this picturesque cafe is heaven for those looking for a pocket of natural beauty in the world’s biggest metropolis. Inspired by the concept of the Aoyama Flower Market (a chain flower shop) of which there are many across the city, this is one of only three locations that features a little teahouse as well. The scent and sights combined are gorgeous.
When: Open Mondays to Saturdays from 11 a.m. to 8 p.m. and on Sundays from 11 a.m. to 7 p.m. with last orders half an hour before closing.
Where: Minato-ku, Minamiaoyama, 5 Chome−1−2, 1F. The closest station is Omotesando, from where it’s a 4-minute walk to reach the teahouse. Take exit A5.
5. The Wacky Japan
This wouldn’t be a top numbered listicle of places to eat in Tokyo without mentioning the infamous Robot Restaurant in Shinjuku. A lesson in the power of gaudy advertising, we’re still unsure whether or not this is really a food establishment but there’s no denying its uniqueness. Completely decked out in a smorgasbord of neon lights, you’ll be greeted by a “robot” and lead to your table, where they’ll serve you a bargain bento box. You’ll have to remind yourself to eat it during the two hour onslaught. Seeing is barely believing at this tourist fave.
When: Open everyday from 4 p.m. to 11 p.m..
Where: Shinjuku-ku, 1-7-1 Kabukicho, B2F. The nearest station is Shinjuku. Come out at the Kabukicho exit and walk 8 minutes down towards TOHO Cinemas.