Kiyosumi-Shirakawa: The Best Tokyo Cafes You Didn’t Know About
Find Your Favorite Cafe In The Coffee Town Of Tokyo
July 22, 2020
Food & Drink, Neighborhood Guide
Perfect to get your caffeine fix, some work done or read a book: explore some of Tokyo’s hidden coffee shops.
A little ways out from central Tokyo, off the Hanzōmon Line, you can find yourself in a place known as Kiyosumi-Shirakawa. Located in the Koto Ward of Tokyo, it’s a highly-populated area visited by a heterogeneous crowd from families out on a bike ride together to young couples out for a casual lunch. You’ll find a variety of people living here as it’s one of the more affordable places within Tokyo.
Over the years the neighborhood has developed a name for being the “Coffee Town” of Tokyo, and that name has only become more of a reality as more shops open up. While many people recognize Shimokitazawa in Setagaya-ku to be the trendiest, most hipster place of Tokyo, Kiyosumi-Shirakawa is rising in popularity with some of the best coffee you can find. You better go before it’s crowded!
Kiyosumi-Shirakawa is rising in popularity with some of the best coffee you can find
Cafe culture in Japan
Japan’s cafe culture has grown to a newfound love for coffee that has been arising within the past few years. Many are drawn to coffee not for the taste, but for the experience that comes with it. The cafe atmosphere itself is appealing enough as the relaxing vibe of a shop is the perfect place to bring a book and read.
In correlation with this, cafe culture has been booming within recent years, and dozens of little shops and roasters have been showing up in Tokyo. One place you can find some of these cafes gathered is Kiyosumi-Shirakawa: they are very close to each other, and you can easily jump from shop to shop.
If you don’t know too much about coffee, have no fear: just ask for the house blend, and you’ll be able to try the unique flavors of each cafe!
Western influence on Cafes in Japan
Western culture has influenced many of these cafes as they strive to have the same kind of relaxing atmosphere that European cafes are so well-known for. Japanese cafes are inspired by many of the things we attribute cafe culture with. Sleek interior design, good quality coffee, and smooth background music to help clear your mind.
Similar to Parisian teashops, many Japanese ones sell pastries like cakes or macarons. You may also find that English is used more often on cafe menus, as it’s recognized that cafes are a non-traditional entity for Japan. In fact, the Japanese have a separate word for “cafe”. The word kissa (“喫茶”) or kissa-ten ( “喫茶店”) refers to smaller, individually owned cafes. The word cafe (“カフェ”) in Japan literally refers to Western-style cafes, such as the worldwide giant, Starbucks. While the line between the two words is becoming blurred, Westernized cafes in Japan would never be called a kissa.
You can see many people working in cafes with their laptops, as sharing a workplace has also become more normalized. Since more people have begun remote work, it’s become necessary to find somewhere to work that isn’t the home.
Where to get your Coffee Fix in Kiyosumi-Shirakawa
Blue Bottle Coffee Company
Blue Bottle Coffee Company is a well-known coffee shop and roastery in the U.S. With the first Japanese branch located here in Kiyosumi-Shirakawa, it’s no surprise how popular it is with the locals and foreigners alike.
The shop has a warehouse feel, with high ceilings and an industrial interior from the metal accents. Although the inside is quite wide, it gets extremely packed on weekends around lunchtime.
After visiting on a Saturday afternoon, I soon realized I wouldn’t be getting a seat anytime soon as the line wrapped around the building. It just goes to show how trendy this small part of Tokyo and cafes are becoming. Despite not being able to enter at that time, I did indeed stop by again to grab a morning coffee. The waffle and latte art were made for a photo op, and this is the perfect place to snap a picture for the ‘Gram.
For those who want to recreate the same taste at home, this particular branch is a roastery in addition to a cafe. You can buy coffee beans and take them back with you, and they even offer instant coffee packages for those without the fancy equipment.
Too popular? Try Arise Coffee
If you didn’t quite get your caffeine fix from this place, try out Arise Coffee which is located across the street. While it’s a much smaller shop only equipped with stools, it’s just as popular with coffee fanatics.
You can stop by and get some black coffee, or pick from their selection of different beans. It has a vastly different vibe from your typical cafe atmosphere and has more of a grunge look.
When a cup is not enough… Where To Eat
Right outside of the Kiyosumi-Shirakawa metro station is a small shop called LS Cafe. There, you can find a natural atmosphere decorated with plants and wooden tables. This is the perfect casual spot to enjoy a light meal with your friend after work as it’s open until 10 at night.
They offer free wifi as well, and you’ll find a good amount of people inside, working. As many independent cafes do, they sell their own products including jam, dressing, juice, and alcohol.
In terms of their food, they mostly serve sandwiches and salads. The rice and meat plates seemed to have the most variety in ingredients, although every plate came with some sort of carb, vegetable, and protein. It resulted in not only a visually appealing, colorful meal but, a balanced one as well.
After ordering the “Hot Sandwich Avocado and Shrimp”, I realized two things. One, it looked exactly like the picture on the menu. That in itself was pretty miraculous to me. Second, it was filling but not too heavy. Truly a perfect dinner.
Their menu includes a multitude of different drinks including coffee, herbal tea, smoothies, beer, smoothies, juice, and even cocktails. From lattes to specialty drinks, they have a wide variety to choose from.
Something interesting on the menu was the chicory coffee. This non-caffeinated drink has a mild flavor, with a woody aftertaste. It doesn’t taste at all like traditional coffee and could be worth trying for someone tired of drinking the same black coffee every day.
They also have pasta, dessert (Hokkaido salt vanilla ice cream), tarts, cheesecake, and pound cake. If you’re looking for a lunch spot to eat food instead of just sip some coffee, I recommend this place!
LS Cafe is not nearly as popular as some other cafes on this list, but I find that to be more of a reason to go, as you’re more likely to find a seat.
Cafe Ginger Tokyo
The next place to stop by is tucked away in the older parts of Kiyosumi-Shirakawa. Located on the second floor of a narrow building is a shop called Cafe Ginger Tokyo, and you can hear vintage music playing the moment you step in..
By the entrance, there is a large shelf, with records lined up from top to bottom. The shop seemed to be divided into two parts, one side filled with books which evokes a cafe, and the other by the kitchen which sets you in a bar mood. Despite this, the general atmosphere is very peaceful, and you won’t have to worry about any bothersome customers.
They have a wide variety of drinks and meals on the menu and offer lunch and dinner specials. While a typical cafe may have sandwiches and salads, I was surprised to see that this cafe was proposing curry. With Indian style curry, their featured item on the menu was a “Butter Chicken Curry”.
Along with coffee, they had other soft drinks as well as a surprisingly wide selection of beer. They also had specialty drinks, such as a “Coconut Azuki Milk” but unfortunately, I decided not to get it this time as it gives me an excuse to go back once more and order it then.
If you’re looking for a place with a similar atmosphere to sit down and enjoy quiet time, try visiting Books&Cafe, located about a 10-minute walk away. The name says it all; it’s the perfect place to plop down with your favorite book and get reading. Sometimes it really helps to get away from the familiar setting of your own home, and I find myself focusing better on what I’m reading when I’m in a cafe.
Here you can do the same while enjoying a warm cup of coffee, and this is yet another highly recommended place within Kiyosumi Shirakawa.
Tag us in your best cafe snaps using #SavvyTokyo, we are always looking for new places to try out and our Kiyosumi-Shirakawa selection is only beginning!