The little corner of Tokyo with the most artisanal coffee shops is … not in Shibuya. It’s in between Kiyosumishirakawa and Fukugawa. Where is that? It’s just a few stops from Tokyo Station and Nihonbashi, and just under the Tokyo Skytree in Oshiage.
The third-wave coffee movement has been spreading through Tokyo since around 2010, and great indie shops have mushroomed in many local neighbourhoods. The listings of the best cafes will take you all over Tokyo, from Shibuya, Setagaya, Shimokitazawa, Nakameguro, Ikebukuro, to Ginza or Chitose-Funabashi, to name only a handful. If you have limited time and want to visit a few, you’ll be spending your day in trains rather than the cafes or areas themselves. If you go to Shibuya, expect that the best cafes will have crowds and lineups.
In contrast, the indie cafes that have set up shop in Kiyomizu and Fukugawa have a refreshing combination of no-nonsense great coffee, kept by friendly local owners (or often their friends). This is where San Francisco’s Blue Bottle Coffee and New Zealand’s Allpress have set up shop 2 minutes from local veterans such as ARiSE Coffee Roasters. It’ll give you plenty of time to sit down, soak in the atmosphere, and even get some work done.
Below is just the list of places you can visit. In my next post, I have 3 recommended walking routes to not only sample the best coffee, but try out the local Japanese sweets, ramen, and check out the two most important shrines and temples in the area.
*Not indicative of quality. They’re ordered according to how close they are Kiyosumishirakawa Station. You can click on the cafe name links for more in-depth posts.
Portmans Cafe opened its doors in 2011, after half a year of hands-on renovation by its owners and staff. The result is a cozy, home and patio nook in the centre of a concrete jungle. It’s the more Japanese style cafe with food (curries, cakes) on the menu alongside coffee.
Good For: Portmans coffee and lattes only. Lunch (opens late), after noon coffee, hang out with friends, reading
Just off the main street, Hikidashi Cafe combines a modern minimalist decore with restored and retro wooden furniture. Have lunch here and enjoy the warm ambience. They also have a little corner where you can read.
Good For: Lunch (opens late), after noon coffee, hang out with friends, reading
This little shop is nestled into the Morishita community street, which has a fair number of other local haunts. Northwave is a hole-in-the-wall that features 6-8 roasts regularly, with pour-over, espresso, and French Press options. It’s a minimalist setup, and you will want to move on soon after you’ve finished your cup or sandwich – unless you want to talk to the baristas about their roasts and small potted plants!
Good For: Espresso, pour-over, French Press.
ARiSE has been a bastion in the area quietly brewing its small, steaming cups long before the other roasters (and the weekend coffee crowds) moved in. As a tiny corner shop, nothing’s better than sliding the doors open even on the coldest winter days to the warm, smell of water pouring over beans. You’ll be able to sip your cup on the single bench and chair before venturing back out.
Good For: Paper-drip / pour-over.
If you walk inside the rusty corrogated iron sheets of a 50-year-old warehouse, you’ll find a spaciously renovated lounge with distinct leather sofas and wooden chests that double as coffee tables. They also have free Wi-Fi and complimentary blankets in the winter to cover your legs.
They have a full lunch and cake menu in addition to their coffee.
Good For: Espresso, pour-over, hanging out with friends, people watching, reading, working, coffee & cake, lunch.
The legend from San Francisco had daily cues around the block when it first opened its doors. The cafe is right beside the roastery, training room, and warehouse, lending a spacious ambience not found in other commercial districts. It serves espresso and pour-over coffee, and sports a customised La Marzocco espresso machine.
On weekends, it has a constant line up, so if you want to settle in, visit on a weekday.
Good For: Espresso, paper drip / pour over, syphon, hanging out with friends, people watching, reading, working (weekdays).
ARiSE’s second shop in the Kiyosumi area has been a hit since it opened its doors. Larger than its original shop, if you’re lucky enough to grab one of the handful of tables, you can read or settle in to work for a few hours. Otherwise, sit outside and enjoy the fresh air, watching the locals go by as the exit the Kiyosumi Park just across the street.
Good For: Paper drip / pour-over, espresso, coffee & cake, hanging out with friends, working, people watching, reading.
Allpress Roastery and Cafe from Australia runs out of a restored timber warehouse. It offers a spacious combination for its roasting operation and a cafe. In addition to their coffee, you can have some simple food, juices, and smoothies.
They have one long table, two smaller ones, and two outside benches. It’s possible to work for an hour or two, and best to sit down and have a catch up with a friend. With all the people in one area, it can get quite lively, so if you are looking for a quiet work area, Fukadaso and Fukugawa Coffee are better options.
Good For: Espresso, hanging out with friends, working.
True to its name, Sunday Zoo only opens Friday, Saturday, and Sunday. It’s run by a gentleman who’s got a few decades of wisdom and happy to chat with you about the small-batch beans in his many jars!
Like the Northwave Coffee, it’s a small shop, so go with the singular focus of getting a good cup!
Good For: Pour-over.
This old establishment harkens back to the nostalgic Jazz era. Walk inside and you have cupboards full of roasts, marked with flags of their origin countries. On the other side, you have a seating area withs classic ceiling lamps, porcelain displays, and samurai swords.
Good For: Espresso, reading, hanging out with friends, coffee & cake, working.
On the main market street at the entrance of Fukagawa Fudo Temple, Monz Cafe is where you can get a great cup of coffee while doing a cultural tour of Monzennakacho’s claim to fame: the Fukagawa Fudo Temple, one of the most active and open Buddhist temples in Tokyo where you can freely see the artifacts and items used for worship, and the Tomioka Hachiman Shrine, home to the largest portable shrine in the country and the protective shrine for the nation’s best sumo wrestlers.
Good For: Espresso, pour-over, people watching, hanging out with friends, working.
This roastery that has opened up a coffee brewing area is well worth the detour. Its loft setup gives a spacious ambience to the handful of seats in the cozy restored warehouse.
Good For: Pour-over, espresso, people watching, reading, catching up with friends.
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Have a favourite cafe to add to the list? Would love to know. Please leave a comment. Thanks!
If you liked this post, check out the list of East Tokyo’s Cafes.