This is a map and list of cafes in Yanasen. The area comprises Yanaka, Sendagi, and Nezu, just north of Ueno Park and the University of Tokyo. Give yourself a few hours or even a full day to you work your way through Yanaka Cemetary and the nearby temples, Nezu Shrine, Snake Street and Yanaka Ginza with their small boutiques and traditional shops.
This area is best enjoyed by giving yourself an hour or two to sit down somewhere.
Just enjoy the ambience of a place that catches your eye. There are places for people watching, quiet retreats, and old-Edo style experiences.
The guide focuses on cafes, which include kissaten, Japanese coffee houses. Even though I didn’t find any espresso places, there are a handful of independent roasters and pour-over coffee places. There are many places serving Japanese home-cooking, such as curries, pasta, salads, and dishes with rice.
In the map below, the stars are for sights, and blue icons are ‘lifestyle cafes’, which are included for their ambience, food, or view.
Man Man Do
This cafe takes home the prize for local character. Right on the main Sendagi Ginza Street, the owner shoos you away if you even suggest take-out. The menu consisted of wrinkly sheets pasted on the outside wall, as if from the 30s. However, the dim wooden interior also has a pretty unique character. If you can muster the courage to banter with the owner in Japanese, then sit at the bar. Otherwise, bring a book, sit at the back, and enjoy this little den!
Good For: Pour-over coffee, lunch, reading, people watching
Address: 3 Chome-15 4 Nishinippori, Arakawa, Tokyo 116-0013
Cafe a la Papa
This cafe sits right where the street Yanaka Ginza begins, a prime location for people watching. On the one side, you’ll see the crowds converging into the shopping street with its mix of food stalls, souvenir shops, and grocery stores. On the other side with the hill, you’ll see peddlers and small stands selling everything from used books to spinning tops.
Good For: Light lunch, afternoon dessert and coffee, people watching
Address: 3 Chome-14-11 Nishinippori, Arakawa, Tokyo
Cafe Etsubo (Cafe 笑壺)
This cafe’s biggest virtue is its prime table on the patio, and right beside the window indoors, where you can watch the weekend shoppers go by.
Good For: Lunch, cakes, people watching
Address: 3 Chome-19-4 Yanaka, Taito, Tokyo 110-0001
This is one of the few cafes specialising in Syphon coffee. The decore harkens back to the early 20th century, when the rising middle class had dispossible income and would go for a local coffee and smoke. The charm in its pace. The visitors trickle in, have a few words with the owner, and become engrossed in their newspaper for an hour or two. Even though it’s on the main commercial street, it’s an oasis for old-timers to come and just sip their coffee quietly.
Good For: Syphon coffee, lunch, reading, people watching
Address: 3 Chome−14-5 Yanaka, Taito-Ku, Tokyo
Yanaka Coffee is a roaster that has one bench in front of the cashier and one or two seats outside. If there’s an empty seat when you go, give yourself 15 minutes and take it. The stall’s economical seating arrangement heightens the satisfaction of finding a parking spot to watch the weekend visitors. It’s one of the better known roasters in the area, with visitors from all over Tokyo popping by to try their beans. Interestingly, it’s also one of the most reasonably priced cafes I’ve ever seen, with a regular hot coffee for 240 JPY.
Good For: Pour-over coffee, people watching
Address: 3 Chome-86 Yanaka, Taito-Ku, Tokyo 110-0001
Yanasen Az Cafe
This cafe is a relatively new addition to the street, but already has frequent lineups on weekends. It serves mostly Japanese-Western fare and makes a good choice for lunch (especially if you can get a patio seat on a nice day). It’s a good go-to place if you’re homesick for muffins and doughnuts!
Good For: Lunch, dessert / afternoon tea, coffee and muffin, people watching, catching up with friends
Address: 3 Chome-40-17 Sendagi, Bunkyō-ku, Tōkyō 113-0022
Coffee Kayaba is legacy kissaten and has been in operation for decades out of this traditional-style wooden house. The second floor has tatami mat seating. On weekends, you’ll find lineups like the one in this photo. The cafe attracts history buffs, coffee lovers, kissaten enthusiastis, and even foodies. If you’re hungry try their legendary egg toast.
Good For: lunch, coffee, chilling with friends (weekdays), old Tokyo ambience
Address: 6 Chome-1-29 Yanaka, Taito-Ku, Tokyo 110-0001
If you are looking for tatami-mat cafes, Kokonn is a good alternative to Kayaba Cafe. It’s a shop-cafe-gallery with distinct areas. In keeping with traditional housing layouts, the storefront is the shop, the second floor is a gallery-collective designer space, and the cafe sits at the back of the ground floor. With the limited seating, it never gets too loud, and feels as though you’ve borrowed someone’s house for a few hours to spend time with your friends. I recommend their pork rice; it’s simple, but wonderful soulfood.
Good For: Lunch, dessert, french press coffee, catching up with friends, reading by the window, old Tokyo ambience
Address: 6 Chome-3-8 Yanaka, Taito-Ku, Tokyo 110-0001
Cafe Minori has a minimalist decore more akin to Scandinavian design, which is now popular in newer cafes. Sitting just outside the Nezu Shrine, the place is an interesting counterpoint to other, more nostalgic-looking, cafes in the area. I’d recommend coming here if you just want to relax and have a change of scene after soaking in all temples, boutiques, and wooden houses. The owner left his salary-man job to open this place, which is meant for patrons to hang around.
Good For: Pour-over coffee, lunch, cakes, catching up with friends, reading, work
Address: 1 Chome-22-10 Nezu, Bunkyo, Tokyo 113-0031
Kona Coffee is hidden in a quiet corner off Snake Street, and not on maps. I haven’t tried it myself, but their seating outside was tempting. From that vantage, you can see a framed view of people going through Snake Street with virtually none of the noise.
Good For: coffee & donut combination, people watching, work
Address: 2 Chome-34 Nezu, Bunkyo, Tokyo 113-0031
If you liked this post, please check out my map cafes in North Tokyo (available Friday).