Kicking Back at Kissatens

Tokyo, Urayasu, Musashino

Long before the capital’s surge of third-wave cafes, Tokyoites sipped their favorite brews at kissatens (喫茶店, literally meaning “tea-drinking shop”) around the city. The traditional Japanese-style tea rooms double as coffee shops, which became popular during the Showa Era (“The Period of Enlightened Peace,” between 1926 to 1989). A kissaten is considered a rare find these days, as most of Tokyo has been taken over by westernized cafes. Fortunately, some of the greatest ones around the city are still standing! Take note that smoking is generally allowed inside kissatens, so expect a lot of fog as you enter. It’s also best to bring cash with you because prices are usually steeper than your usual cup of joe. Now, you’re ready to get your caffeine fix in these legendary shops!

Updated a year ago

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Chatei Hatou

Tokyo, Japan • Recommendation • 12 July 2018

Join locals taking refuge from the hustle of Shibuya at Chatei Hatou. Sit atop a bar stool, and watch the formally dressed staff masterfully pour top quality hand drip beverages. The Hatou Blend (a bitter-sour brew) goes well with any of Chatei Hatou’s desserts, so don’t miss out on trying this pairing. Savor each sip and relish every bite as you listen to classical music playing softly in the background.


1-15-19 Shibuya, Shibuya-ku, Tokyo, Japan

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Cafe de l'Ambre


Tokyo, Japan • Recommendation • 12 July 2018

Heed Cafe de l’Ambre’s “coffee only” sign, and prepare to taste over 30 single origin varieties! This kissaten brews their coffee with the “nel drip” method, a traditional pour over technique that uses a sock as a filter (so excuse the washing machine by the counter). Sit back and bask in the outlet’s charm—it’s always abuzz with the chatter of patrons!


8-10-15 Ginza, Chuo-ku, Tokyo, Japan

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Tokyo, Japan • Recommendation • 12 July 2018

Galant flaunts the ostentation of 1980s Japan (a period of economic boom) through retro decor, swanky tiles, and sparkly chandeliers. The place is a mix between a kissaten and an American diner, which explains the kid-friendly Cream Soda (melon soda float topped with a cherry) on the menu. Caffeine selections here are basic, but Galant whips up delicious Blue Mountain coffee that will delight any java connoisseur.


6-14-4, Ueno, Taito-ku, Tokyo, Japan

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Urayasu, Japan • Recommendation • 12 July 2018

Escape the crowd of tourists in Asakusa at Angelus, a coffee shop formerly frequented by artists and aristocrats in the 1940s. Take your cue from the regulars, and indulge in a true Showa experience of hand drip coffee, best paired with a slice of Angelus—the shop’s eponymous version of Buche de Noel (European yuletide log cake).


1-17-6 Asakusa, Taito-ku, Tokyo, Japan

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Cafe Trois Chambres


Tokyo, Japan • Recommendation • 12 July 2018

Cafe Trois Chambres’ relaxed ambiance stands in striking contrast to the rapid urbanization of Shimokitazawa. While here, observe nostalgic locals sipping from delicate antique cups and taking bites from a heavenly slice of rare or baked cheesecake. Snag the corner table, which is an ideal spot to curl up with a good book!


Second Floor, Yuasa Building, 5-36-14 Daizawa, Setagaya-ku, Tokyo, Japan

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Kayaba Coffee


Tokyo, Japan • Recommendation • 12 July 2018

Kayaba Coffee is a Yanaka icon, so much so that the community worked to have it reopened after it closed in 2006. The original exterior (including the signage) remains intact, but wander inside to reveal interiors that marry tradition and modern design. Proceed to the second floor where a zashiki (座敷, Japanese-style tatami mat seating) awaits you—the best way to enjoy Kayaba’s honest cup of coffee and famous egg sandwich!


6 Chome-1-29 Yanaka, Taito-ku, Tokyo, Japan

〒110-0001 東京都台東区谷中6-1-29

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Cafe Bach

Urayasu, Japan • Recommendation • 12 July 2018

Plop down on a brown leather chair, and immerse yourself in the music of Johann Sebastian Bach while relishing an excellent cup of joe! A testament to kissatens’ incredible blends, Cafe Bach was given the honor to supply java to leaders attending the G8 Summit (an annual meeting between France, Germany, Italy, the United Kingdom, Japan, the United States, Canada, and Russia) in 2000. Coffee beans are also roasted on-site each day. It’s no wonder their brews are good!


1-23-9 Nihonzutsumi, Taito-ku, Tokyo, Japan

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Coffee Tram


Tokyo, Japan • Recommendation • 12 July 2018

Helmed by Tatsuya Furuya, a former employee of legendary kissaten Daibo, Coffee Tram dishes out impressive in-house roasted brews. Here, the coffee is flavorful, served comfortably warm to give you a much-needed jolt. Ask for a watered-down blend if you prefer a milder caffeine fix. Stay until dark to watch the scene switch into Bar Tram where locals trade in their coffee for liquor.


1-7-13 Ebisunishi Shibuya, Tokyo, Japan


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Coffee Seibu


Tokyo, Japan • Recommendation • 12 July 2018

Kick off the day with all-you-can-eat toast and delicious brews at Coffee Seibu! The shop harks back to the olden days with red velvet seats, dimly lit wall lamps, and glass panel ceilings. The two-floor kissaten ordinarily hosts a diverse clientele, mainly because they have a non-smoking area for families and free WiFi for the youngsters.


Third Floor, Metro Building, 3-34-9 Shinjuku, Shinjuku-ku, Tokyo, Japan

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Musashino, Japan • Recommendation • 12 July 2018

Monozuki’s rustic interiors, stained glass ceiling windows, and soft jazz sounds remind each visitor of a bygone era. The simple menu highlights honest-to-goodness blended coffee, a mix that gives off a distinct and pleasant sourness. The kissaten is also famous for its collection of antique timepieces, which is quite ironic since time seems to stand still in the shop.


3-12-10 Nishiogikita, Suginamiku, Tokyo, Japan

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Sumida Coffee


Urayasu, Japan • Recommendation • 12 July 2018

Sumida Coffee keeps the kissaten tradition alive by serving their brews in Edo Kiriko (江戸切, a Tokyo-born method of cutting and decorating glass) cups. The intricate tableware are exclusive to the shop, made to order by a master of the craft. Choose beans from over 70 countries, have them roasted in-house, and poured carefully on your picked demitasse—which the owner selects based on his impression of you!


4-7-11 Taihei, Sumida-ku, Tokyo, Japan


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