Step Back In Time With Tokyo’s Top 5 Traditional Cafés

A Showa Kind of Style Coffee Break

By Shizuka Sakamoto
October 6, 2016
Food & Drink

No need to rush your order, sit in crammed seats or burn your tongue minutes before your next meeting. Time has stopped here — welcome to Tokyo's best traditional kissaten.

From cafés opening as early as the birds start singing to free morning sets to special office stops serving your machiato just the way you want it, it’s not an arduous deal to get that java fix at any given time of the day in Tokyo. But for true joe lovers, coffee is just as much about art and pleasure as it is about atmosphere, and nothing does it better that Japan’s kissaten (traditional coffee houses). Here everything is about respecting the art of coffee making and just taking it slow. Check out Savvy Tokyo’s top five recomended kissaten for your next step-back-in-time coffee break.


Chatei Hatou 茶亭 羽當

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There’s something about this place that makes you forget it all as soon as you step in. Though located in the very heart of Shibuya, the complete shut off of all city distractions and noise makes you feel as if you’re thousands of kilometers away from the hustle and bustle of your daily routines; yet comfortably near enough. The café’s original Hatou Blend (¥850) offers the perfect balance of bitter and sour java, served to you in a cup, which the owner himself selects (among some 400 cups displayed behind him) based on how he sees you. He has nearly 30 years of experience serving personalized coffee. Opened until late at night.  

Where: 1-15-19 Shibuya, Shibuya-ku, Tokyo
Business hours: 11:00 a.m. – 11:30 p.m.
Access: 3-min walk from Shibuya station, East exit


Café Casa 珈琲専門店 香咲

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Hot and cake are the two keywords for this cozy place, and yes you get it, we’re there for the pankeki as much as we are for the coffee. Since 1984, Café Casa has been devoted to serving some of the city’s best hot cakes that taste just as good as they look — and take our word for it, they’re huge! Served with a cup of the shop’s original blend for ¥1,000 at lunch time, this is a great place if you want to satisfy your sweet tooth and indulge on it all by yourself.

Where: 3-41-1, Jingumae, Shibuya-ku, Tokyo
Business hours: 11:30 a.m. – 8:30 p.m. (to 6:00 p.m. on weekends, closed Mondays)
Access: 5-min walk from Gaien-mae station, A3 exit


Sabouru さぼうる

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Built in 1955, Sabouru is one of the oldest and most famous cafés in the city, resembling an old wooden house in the middle of a jungle. A popular destination for people of all generations, this place gets crowded easily, especially on weekends, but it’s worth the visit (and revisit). Serving a wide variety of coffee blends and teas, we also encourage you to try Sabouru’s original Fresh Strawberry Juice (¥500) for a taste of real strawberries topped with salty nuts.

Where: 1-11, Kanda Jimbo-cho, Chiyoda-ku, Tokyo
Business hours: 9 a.m. to 11:00 p.m. (closed Sundays)
Access: Turn left after exiting Jimbocho station, A7 exit


Angelus アンヂェラス

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This three-floor cafe’s history goes back to 1946 when the grandparents of the current owner decided that all Asakusa needed at the time was a place where “everyone could eat something sweet.” Opened just about half a year after the end of the war, Angelus was one of the first in the capital to introduce “Dutch coffee” and served as a popular meeting place for many aristocrats and artists, including the renowned manga writer Osamu Tezuka. Three generations later, the café still preserves its stylish red-and-black ambience, as well as its menu, inviting you to taste not only top-quality hand dripped coffee, but also a true Showa experience. Head there for the shop’s top-selling cake, Angelus (¥330), a Japanese variation of Noel Bouche, that has been on the menu since the shop’s opening.

Where: 1-17-6, Asakusa, Taito-ku, Tokyo
Business hours: 11:00 a.m. – 9:00 p.m. (closed Mondays)
Access: 3-min walk from Asakusa station, Exit 1


Galant ギャラン

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If you ever wondered how cafés really looked back in the Showa era, visit Galant and you’ll know. Time has literally stopped here since 1979 when it first opened, just outside Ueno station. The bubble economy is still at its full here: from the gaudy decor and shiny chandeliers, to the burgundy sofas and retro tiles, treat this cafe as your private Showa-era museum. The best on the menu (aside from all those coffee blends, retro-style sandwiches and cakes) is the all-time Japan favorite Cream Soda, the Shrek-green melon soda with vanilla ice cream and a cherry topping (¥800).  

Where: 6-14-4, Ueno, Taito-ku, Tokyo
Business hours: 8:00 a.m. to 10:00 p.m.
Access: 1-min walk from Ueno station, Exit 5b

Shizuka is a sophomore at Meiji University majoring in English literature. She took a gap year in 2014 and headed to Toronto where she studied English, enjoyed the city life and worked part-time at a French bakery. Her interests are reading, photography, cycling and traveling. Once a long holiday starts, she's quick to fly away away from Japan and enjoy traveling the world.

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