Food Guides

8 Kissaten In Tokyo Coffeeholics Must Visit For A Deep Dive Into Japan’s Old-School Coffee Culture

Kissaten in Tokyo

A dimly lit space, a faint cigarette smell that permeates the air, and antique furniture – these are just some of the hallmarks of a kissaten (喫茶店), also known as a traditional Japanese coffee shop. A big part of Japan’s coffee culture and history, these old-school coffee establishments have been serving characteristically dark roast coffee and light fares since the Shōwa Period. 

For those who are looking for something more than the everyday espresso-based drinks from Third-Wave speciality coffee houses, check out these 8 kissaten in Tokyo to get your caffeine fix along with a dose of history. 

1. Koseto Coffee Shop

Image credit: @kaori_hagiwara

To a coffee lover, there are few things better than an aromatic cup of coffee and one of them is having your brew come in an elegant porcelain mug. Opened in 1980, Koseto Coffee Shop a kissaten that’s as particular about their drinking vessels as they are about the quality of their brew.

Image adapted from: @retrotabitokyo

The owner hails from Seto City, a city in Aichi Prefecture that’s famed for its ceramics and pottery. The cafe houses a collection of over 200 coffee cups – have your drinks served in your choice of coffee cup, be it a piece of pottery imported from overseas or an exquisite Japanese ceramic vessel made by local craftsmen. 

Take your pick from the wide selection that’s on display behind the counter.

Image credit: @shioriiin529

Like the cups, you’re given free rein over the choice of coffee beans used for your cup of joe. Dark roast coffee beans from places such as Columbia, Brazil, and Guatemala are available. But if you’re spoilt for choice, let the master – the equivalent of a barista in the world of kissaten – know your flavour preferences and they’ll gladly recommend a suitable blend. A cup of hand-dripped coffee costs ¥525 (~USD4.78).

Balance the bitterness of your coffee with Koseto’s signature cream puffs (¥470, ~USD4.28) that are filled with creamy mascarpone custard. 

Image credit: @kissakinoko

Address: 3 Chome-10 Kanda Ogawamachi, Chiyoda City,101-0052, Tokyo
Opening hours: Mon – Fri 11AM-10PM | Sat & Sun 12PM – 9PM
Telephone: 0332-33-0673

2. Café De Làmbre

Image credit: @_laura_oh_

Proudly declaring that it serves “coffee only”, Café De Làmbre is a true-blue coffee speciality shop that has been serving up mean cups of brew in its Ginza store since 1948. 

Hailed as a coffee legend, the late founder Ichiro Sekiguchi has been credited for paving the way for the Japanese coffee industry. Sadly, he passed away in 2018 at the age of 104. His legacy lives on as the shop is still up and running, run by his disciples and successors. 

Image credit: @jsukumvitaya

For the coffee connoisseur who’s looking for something more than your run-of-the-mill coffee, go for their aged coffee (¥900-¥1,250, ~USD8.20-USD11.39), which promises a unique umami and full-bodied flavour. 

Even if you’re not one for funky flavours, there are over 30 varieties of coffee items to choose from. This includes a good mix of single-origins and blends. Price range from ¥750-¥1,200 (~USD6.84-USD10.94)

Evaporated milk poured over coffee for the “Queen of Amber”.
Image credit: @general_c_c

Invented during the early days of its opening, the “Queen of Amber” (琥珀の女王; kohaku no jyoou) (¥850, ~USD7.75) is a must-try for anyone who prefers their coffee with milk. Comprising 2 beautiful distinct layers, the unique drink is made by carefully pouring evaporated milk over a sweetened coffee concoction. 

Image credit: @cholotte_chao

Address: 8 Chome-10-15 Ginza, Chuo City, 104-0061, Tokyo
Opening hours: Mon – Sat 12PM-10PM (Closed on Wednesdays) (Last order at 9.30PM) | Sun & Public Holidays 12PM – 7PM (Last order at 6.30PM)
Telephone: 0335-71-1551

3. Kayaba Coffee

Image credit: @knb_bangning

Established in 1938, Kayaba Coffee is a familiar historical landmark of the Yanaka district – a quaint old neighbourhood in Tokyo that has managed to preserve most of its old buildings. 

The Kayaba Coffee building was constructed in the 5th year of the Taishō period, which lasted from 1912 to 1926, and the interior that’s furnished with dark wood and sturdy leather chairs retains the retro atmosphere of a bygone era. 

In 2006, the kissaten closed down due to the owner’s passing. But thanks to a group of passionate volunteers who revived the old kissaten, Kayaba Coffee eventually reopened 3 years later. 

Image credit: @greenjasmine915

Most of the ingredients used in the dishes are sourced from shops and bakeries from the neighbourhood, so you can get a literal taste of what the area has to offer. 

If you’re not one for black coffee (¥500, ~USD4.55), satisfy your sweet tooth with “Lician” (¥600, ~USD5.46), a staple since Kayaba Coffee’s founding. It’s a hot drink blend that balances the bitterness of coffee with the sweetness of rich cocoa. 

Image credit: @rin_ha

Besides drinks, Kayaba also offers a morning menu from 8AM to 11AM daily, featuring a selection of sandwiches and toasts. Each set costs between ¥700-¥1,400 (~USD6.37-USD12.74) and comes with freshly squeezed juice, or a side of salad and soup of the day.  

Try the most popular item on their menu, the signature egg sandwich (¥1,000, ~USD9.10), which consists of a thick slab of eggs that’s sandwiched between 2 slices of fluffy white bread. 

Image credit: @meetjuthere

Address: 6 Chome-1-29 Yanaka, Taito City, 110-0001, Tokyo
Opening hours: Mon – Fri 8AM-6PM (Last order at 5.30PM) | Sat & Sun 8AM-7PM (Last order at 6.30PM)
Telephone: 0358-32-9896

4. Yuria Pemuperu

Image credit: @c__shio23ri

Aside from coffee, most old-school cafes in Japan also serve cream soda – a simple yet nostalgic drink that typically comprises melon-flavoured soda, topped with a generous scoop of vanilla ice cream. 

Known for its cream soda, Yuria Pemuperu is a popular kissaten that’s located in the trendy Kichijoji area. Choose from their basic cream soda flavour (¥800, ~USD7.28) or seasonal offerings (¥850, ~USD7.73)

Image credit: @mana_cafestagram

To fully appreciate the cream soda, take a sip when it’s first served to enjoy the fruity and refreshing sweetness of the carbonated drink. As the ice cream melts little by little, the drink will be transformed into a creamy concoction.   

While you’re there, we recommend getting the lunch set (¥1,280-¥1,480, ~USD11.64-USD13.46), which is available from 11.30AM to 4.30PM daily. Yuria Pemuperu often switches up their lunch menu selection, but you can expect western classics such as pasta and pizzas.  

Image credit: @sapphirina_copepod

Address: 1 Chome-1-6 Kichijoji Minamicho, Musashino, 180-0003, Tokyo
Opening hours: 11.30AM-12AM, Daily
Telephone: 0422-48-6822

5. Nanatsumori

Image credit: @walrus1618

Once you’re done thrift-shopping at Koenji Look Street – a shopping street that’s home to a number of vintage shops – stop by Nanatsumori for a much needed coffee break. 

Retro furnishing, stained-glass lamps, and light instrumental jazz playing in the background – you’ll feel as though you’ve been transported back in time at Nanatsumori. Housed in an antique building, Nanatsumori has been operating since 1978. 

Image credit: @kimy_cafeglam

Choose from a variety of coffee blends (¥485-¥515, ~USD4.41-USD4.68) for your black coffee – ranging from dark to light roasts – or go for their single-origin beans (¥515, ~USD4.68)

Image credit: @__chii____

If you need a pick-me-up, their custard pudding set (¥945, ~USD8.59) is worth a try. A signature dessert that has been around since Nanatsumori first opened, the soft egg pudding and bittersweet caramel sauce is the perfect accompaniment for the hand-dripped coffee that comes with the set. 

Before you leave and when you pay for your meal, you’d be given a 5 yen coin that’s tied with a ribbon as a keepsake. In Japanese, 5 yen (五円; goen) is a homophone for 御縁 (goen; fate), so it symbolises the owner’s wish to cross paths with their customers again.

Image credit: @ryo_komura

Address: 2 Chome-20-20 Koenjiminami, Suginami City, 166-0003, Tokyo
General opening hours: 11.30AM-12AM, Daily
Lunch menu: Mon – Fri 11.30AM-2.30PM | Sat, Sun & Public Holidays 11AM-2PM
Dinner menu: Mon – Fri 5.30PM-11.30PM | Sat, Sun & Public Holidays 5.30PM-11.30PM
Telephone: 0333-18-1393

*Opening hours are subject change due to COVID-19 regulations. 

6. Coffee Lodge Dante

Image credit: @hayashiyutaka

Founded in 1965, Coffee Lodge Dante is a well-known member of the Tokyo kissaten scene. Those with a keen eye will be able to spot the siphon coffee makers that are lined up on the counter. 

The coffee shop offers siphon coffee, an unusual brewing method in the coffee scene that’s mostly saturated with espresso-based drinks and hand-dripped brews. You’d be able to enjoy a smooth and clean cup of coffee that’s unlike anything you’ll taste from coffee extracted using a drip brewer or espresso machine. 

Image credit: @madokahayasaki

Go for their Dante Blend (¥600, ~USD5.46) or milk-based drinks, such as café au lait (¥730, ~USD6.64). If you can, get a counter seat to enjoy an unobstructed view of the coffee masters working their magic with the siphon coffee maker.

Like most kissaten in Japan, Coffee Lodge Dante used to be filled with cigarette smoke. But in a bid to improve the drinking experience and allow customers to be greeted by the aroma of coffee as soon as they enter, the owner has decided to completely ban smoking in recent years. 

Image credit: @cncvir

Address: 3 Chome−10−2, Nishiogiminami, Suginami City, 167-0053, Tokyo
Opening hours: 12AM-7PM, Daily
Telephone: 0333-33-2889

7. Meikyoku Kissa Lion

Image credit: @ayu3_film

Removing itself from the hustle of Shibuya, Meikyoku Kissa Lion is one of the last few coffee music houses in Tokyo that’s still running today. With its baroque-style architecture and stonewall exterior, the almost-century old coffee shop stands out amidst other modern buildings in the area.  

Image credit: @rangefind

Meikyoku Kissa (名曲喫茶), which refers to a type of hybrid music and coffee cafe, was all the rage during the 1950s and 1960s. As vinyl records were expensive, people then preferred to spend their afternoon at spaces like Meikyoku Kissa Lion, sipping coffee while enjoying the music.

Housing an impressive collection of vinyl records, Meikyoku Kissa Lion is a haven for both music and coffee lovers alike. For just the price of a cup of coffee (¥550, ~USD4.99), customers get to spend a therapeutic afternoon at the kissaten listening to music

Image credit: @kaimte

A “concert” with a fixed lineup is held daily from 3PM to 7PM. Once you’ve arrived and settled down in your seat, a leaflet which outlines the program flow will be given to you. Thanks to the custom-made audio system at Meikyoku Kissa Lion, patrons can indulge in a superb sound experience that can rival even the acoustics in actual concert halls.

As it’s not meant as a space for chit-chat sessions, cafe visitors are to refrain from talking and if necessary, speak softly. Do note that photography is also not allowed inside. Please ask for the owner’s permission if you’d like to take a photo to commemorate your visit.  

Image credit: @tktmo

Address: 2 Chome-19-13 Dogenzaka, Shibuya City, 150-0043, Tokyo
Opening hours: 11AM-8.30PM, Daily (Last order at 8.20PM)
Telephone: 0334-61-6858

8. Chatei Hatō

Image credit: @hatou_coffee_shibuya

Located just a stone’s throw away from Shibuya Station, Chatei Hatō is a convenient pitstop for anyone who’s in the area and looking for a place to unwind.

Image credit: @tomm2kim

Like Koseto Coffee Shop, Chatei Hatō houses a huge collection of over 400 dainty coffee cups and saucers. But instead of letting customers take their pick, the barista will choose a set that best suits the customer’s vibes and the drink that they’re having.  

Image credit: @takaetakada

Go for their famed charcoal-roasted coffee beans, which come in 7 varieties sourced from 7 different regions, such as Guatemala and Brazil. A cup of hand-dripped brew will set you back ¥850 (~USD7.71), which is pricier than usual, but it’s an experience not to be missed for true coffee connoisseurs. 

Characterised by its unorthodox taste, drip coffee that’s extracted from charcoal-roasted beans has a unique smokiness and rich bittersweet notes. Sit back and watch as the suit-clad barista whips up your drinks using a cone-shaped dripper. 

Image credit: @coffee_space_tokyo

Address: 1 Chome-15-19 Shibuya, Shibuya City, 150-0002, Tokyo
Opening hours: 11AM-11.30PM, Daily
Telephone: 0334-00-9088

Kissaten in Tokyo for coffee lovers to visit

Third-wave coffee houses aren’t the only places in Tokyo where you can get your daily dose of caffeine. Explore Japan’s coffee culture by visiting these charming kissaten that are steeped in tradition and history. 

For more food places, check out:

Cover image adapted from: @rin_ha and @jsukumvitaya

Xiu Ting Wong

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