Instagramming Tokyo’s Cafe Scene
One of the best things about being a graduate student is that you don’t have to spend 8 to 5 in a stuffy office. You can work anywhere you want, pretty much anytime, which means that some of us spend a lot of time in coffee shops. Over the past few months, I’ve made an effort to get around to some of Tokyo’s many cafes, so I thought I’d share some of my recent adventures with you. I’ve coupled my love of cafes with my love of Instagram–all of the photos below were taken with my iPhone, so pardon the quality. Enjoy!
Fab Cafe, Shibuya
One of my favorite new coffee haunts is Shibuya’s Fab Cafe, which opened up last year–if I still lived in Shibuya, I think I’d be here every day. Fab has a wonderful, artsy atmosphere, much of which revolves around its laser-cutting machine, which inspires customers to come in with their own creations and also gives form to creativity by the staff. The laser cutter goes through paper, felt, acrylic, wood and just about any material, so there’s a huge variety of projects possible, as long as you bring in your Adobe Illustrator vector file. For White Day, they were also custom-printing designs on some very tasty-looking macaron sets. Even if you’re just here to grab a cup of coffee and a bagel sandwich, there’s something energizing about being around people who are creating things. The seating is comfortable, with outlets aplenty and free, fast wifi. And for being in Shibuya, it’s generally not that crowded or noisy, which can be a welcome change from the cafes closer to Hachiko Crossing. It’s probably the best all-around cafe for work that I’ve come across in Tokyo.
Mojo Coffee, Kagurazaka
Mojo Coffee is my other new favorite. A branch of a popular New Zealand coffee chain, it also opened up just last year. The space is cute with good light, the coffee is delicious, and they have a yummy selection of freshly baked sweets, delivered daily by a fellow who lives in the neighborhood, in addition to savory treats like panini. I have to confess that the rotating selection of baked goods is part of what keeps me coming back; I’ve had amazing Guinness chocolate cake, scrumptious banana cake with cream cheese frosting, and even some believable sausage rolls. It’s easy to get burned out on the light, airy, Japanese-style cakes that are so common in Tokyo, and the eats at Mojo feel dense and hearty in just the right way. I also love that the selection is slightly different every day. Mojo roasts its own coffee in the roastery downstairs, and you can buy it onsite. They even have a decaf roast, which can be rare at Tokyo coffee shops. Beer and wine is also available. The cafe is pretty small, but it rarely seems to be crowded, so it’s a great place to sit for a long chat with a friend or a few hours with a book. No wifi though.
Rue Favart, Ebisu
A multiple-story cafe and restaurant just across from the Maison Franco-Japonaise, Rue Favart is a full-service restaurant and fantastic cafe. I ordered a steak lunch set that came with a soup, drink and desert for around 1,000 yen. The pastries are particularly scrumptious. I recommend sitting on the third floor (pictured above). The staff don’t seem to mind people camping out with work or a friend, particularly during the day (it gets busier at dinnertime). Free wifi is available.
Streamer Coffee Company, Shibuya
Streamer bills itself as a “Seattle-style” coffee company, and it definitely feels that way (I presume to be able to judge, having lived in Seattle for five years and spent my fair share of time in its many awesome coffee shops). Streamer is probably best known for its latte art; owner Hiroshi Sawada is a past winner of Seattle’s Millrock Latte Art Championship. But not all of the baristas are similarly skilled, so your latte art quality may vary considerably. It seems like they may be trying to discourage people from camping out here, so be aware. Aside from some Clif Bars on sale, there generally isn’t much food available. Although they used to have wifi, that’s no longer the case (beware old reviews!). And they require ever person to buy a cup of coffee or item. But, if you’re looking for a coffee shop with a US feel, this is a good option.
カフェ・タピロス (Cafe Tapirosu), Roppongi
This classy cafe is quite close to Roppongi Hills. They have a great selection of coffee and even do a scone set, which was really yummy. The service was superb. The waiter seemed to be the proprietor himself, and he had the cutest bow tie. It’s a cute place, but it also doesn’t seem to be overly crowded, so you could settle down with a book or laptop for a while. There seems to be wifi available, though I didn’t try it. If it doesn’t work, or if you’d prefer a more casual atmosphere, check out Cafe Frangipani just down the street (described below).
Suzu Cafe Udagawa, Shibuya
Another cute little Shibuya cafe, Suzu actually has two locations about a block apart from one another, which caused me some consternation when trying to meet a friend. The Jinnan location is much more of a restaurant, while the Udagawa site has more of a cafe feel. Great natural light and not overly crowded during the day. The menu has a pretty good selection of food and drink, so you can either eat a full meal or just grab a snack with coffee. No wifi or outlets though.
Brooklyn Parlor, Shinjuku
I love the atmosphere in Brooklyn Parlor–there’s something really fun about being surrounded by books, and even though this is a basement floor establishment, they really make it seem spacious and inviting. They operate full restaurant and bar, and it tends to get pretty busy on weekends and weekday evenings, so it may not be the best place to really camp out for long periods of time. But there’s plenty to choose from in terms of cafe fare, and there’s free wifi.
Cafe Frangipani, Roppongi
A quirky little haunt in Roppongi, Cafe Frangipani’s main attraction is probably the VW bus it houses–and yes, you can actually sit in it and eat/drink. This is definitely a place where you can camp out with a laptop and enjoy the free wi-fi without any waiters bothering you. Very casual and bohemian atmosphere. If you’re looking for something a little classier, check out カフェ・タピロス (described above)–it’s just down the street.
Cinnabon / Seattle’s Best Coffee, Roppongi
This place is like a little slice of the US. Cinnabon reentered the Japanese market after leaving in 2009. Its new location in Roppongi is shared with Seattle’s Best Coffee (which I find interesting, since SBC is a wholly owned subsidiary of Starbucks). When it first opened, it was rumored to be a two-hour wait for a bun of cinnamony, buttery, sugary goodness, but things have since calmed down. There was no wait when I visited in March. Also, though the main level of the shop seems to be pretty small, there is a second floor with plentiful seating, including counters with electrical outlets.
Do you have a favorite coffee shop in Tokyo? Tell me about it in the comments! I’m always look for new haunts, particularly if the coffee/food is good, or if it’s a good place to work.
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