A review of a Meiji-Era Japanese Western Dessert shop that also serves canteen-style coffee. This amateur coffee enthusiast and shoestring digital nomad has included this shop from an atmospheric perspective. Photos are taken with a second-hand Fujifilm X100.

Omiya Hongo Tokyo cake shop

Sour Cherry tart is one of many seasonal items — Photo by Athena Lam

Cafe Overview:

Perhaps it’s the proximity to Todai (the University of Tokyo) with its famous Red Gate down the block. Perhaps it’s the polished stone entrance with the dated (classic?) font. Perhaps it’s the imposingly open glass wall atypical of Japanese independent shops. Perhaps it’s the perfectly preserved classic Showa wooden panels inside. Perhaps, it’s actually about the cakes.

近江屋洋菓子店 本郷店

Omiya is in a scholarly area surrounding the University of Tokyo — Photo by Athena Lam

Anyhow, a friend I used to stay with brought me to Omiya a few years ago and I was charmed. The ambience and cakes alone are worth coming for. Digital nomad friends, think of this as a place to take a break. Perhaps bring reading materials so the people watching is not so obvious, but the steady flow of patrons, usually silver-haired and well-heeled, is quite intruiging.

Omiya Hongo Tokyo cake shop

Omiya (近江屋洋菓子店) was founded in 1884 — Photo by Athena Lam

I just like how spacious and refined the place feels in a bygone-era way. Even though there has been no effort to upgrade to modern tastes, the counters, walls, and lighting look as if they had been installed yesterday.

This attention to detail sits in stark contrast to another feature: that there isn’t much service. Walk in, order at the counter, pay, and find your seat.

近江屋洋菓子店 Omiya Hongo

Coffee is only available as a cake set — Photo by Athena Lam

Note that coffee is only available as part of a cake set, which comes to about ¥900. You will be presented with an oddity: an unceremonious plastic cup to fill yourself at a machine. I believe refills are now ¥50.

The sour cherry tart, on the other hand, is lovely. Each cherry is well preserved, and not really sour (it’s Japan). It’s more like it’s been soaked with a slightly zesty juice to go ontop of a semi-flakey crust.

For my coffee readers – come only to reminisce on diner coffee while enjoying a great cake.

Omiya Hongo Tokyo cake shop

Items are only in Japanese. Hot water. Milk. Hot chocolate. — Photo by Athena Lam

Omiya Hongo Tokyo cake shop

Self-service system for drinks at Omiya — Photo by Athena Lam

The cold juice drinks and water are complimentary and you help yourself by getting a clear plastic cup on the self-serve counter. Options include cold tea, grapefruit juice, melon juice. and strawberry juice.

近江屋洋菓子店 本郷店

The high classic ceilings let ambient light in. — Photo by Athena Lam

After getting everything, the best spot for people watching is at the back. Use the hidden shelf under the table for your bag. Settle in, and read the paper.

Their Story / What I like About Them:

I have a soft spot for academic areas. Just the thought of used books and and university libraries down the street already make the place seem more appealing.

近江屋洋菓子店 本郷店

Perfectly kept walls and counters — Photo by Athena Lam

Founded in 1884 in the Meiji Era, Omiya began (so official stories have it) with a family ambition to open up a shop. At the time, they had settled on bread and became known for their various types, including advertised American bread. In 1895 (Meiji 28), 18-year old Kikutaro (the founder’s son) set sail to San Francisco. Amongst various things, he worked as a dish washer, moved to Seattle and worked at a “milk bar” (ミルクホール), where he learned about integrating butter into a cake mix to make sponge cakes. He stayed there for 3 years before returning to Japan and introducing the ideas he’d learned in the US.

The Kanda shop dates from Showa 41  and is still where the family lives.  The shop history is on its Japanese site.

Omiya Hongo Tokyo strawberry shortcake

Strawberry shortcake classic — Photo by Athena Lam

One of its most famous items is its strawberry shortcake, which is reasonably priced for take-away. The company website shares where they source all their fruits for both staples and seasonal items.

omiya hongo bunkyo jelly

Grape and watermelon ice cream — Photo by Athena Lam

Dessert options include cheese cake, sponge cake, creme puffs, jellies, puddings and tarts. In the Fall, I suggest trying their chestnut desserts, which are packed with flavour.

omiya hongo 近江屋洋菓子店 本郷店

Love the booth seats — Photo by Athena Lam

Good For:

  • Coffee: Canteen (burner) style
  • Food: Cakes
  • Cafe Space: Preserved nostalgic Showa-Era space with bar tables at the back.
  • Friends: Hangouts, catching up, reading
  • Workspace: Not really, but no harm in trying.
  • Remote Work: Bring your own pocket WiFi. No plugs.
Address:  〒113-0033 東京都文京区本郷4-1-7
4-1-7 Hongo, Bunkyo-ku, Tokyo 113-0033
Website:  Website (Japanese)
Hours (Closed Sundays)

営業日
定休日 日曜日

Mon – Sat: 9:00-19:00 月〜土
Holidays: 10:00-17:30

If you liked this post, check out my list of Off-Centre Tokyo Cafes.

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