A review of traditional kissaten (coffeehouse) in Shinjuku. Teijimaya Coffee sits at the edge of Omoideyokocho, aka Yakitori Alley. Notes are by an amateur coffee enthusiast and shoestring digital nomad. Most photos are shot with a second-hand Fujifilm X100 and illustrations are by a fellow cafe-goer Natalie Bleakly.
In Shibuya, the crossing — where the milieu converges and disperses into the fashion centres left and right, or perhaps the cafes tucked away in smaller lanes just beyond.
In Shinjuku, the train tracks — where silver serpents thread through the expansive landscape of neon and above the clattering heels working through the nostalgic alleyways.
In Shinjuku, one thinks of lights, bars, yakitori and the frantic, organic energy that is the city of Tokyo. Shinjuku is also a place of nostalgia, wrapped discretely in every corner that one cares to look. One of those places is the Teijimaya Coffee.
The coffeehouse sits incongruously with its surroundings on a prominent corner with the cramped, sizzling, smoky eateries just behind. Yet, since its establishment in 1964 alongside the skewer joints of Yakitori Alley, Teijimaya has remained a quiet cornerstone of old kissaten, Japanese coffeehouse, culture amidst Shinjuku’s sea of futuristic LEDs and psychedelic signboards.
At about ¥1100 for a coffee set, Teijimaya is likely not a place to visit daily. However, the drink and light snack is a good ticket to enjoying the Showa Era ambience that local patrons with pipes will bring. Yes, the place is smoking friendly.
An English menu is available. In summary, patrons can order a single origin coffee (generally starting at ¥600), the Teijimaya special, or a set. The coffee sets include chocolate toast, cake, and apple pie and a chocolate brownie. Note that with the exception of the toast, all the other items are served from the refrigerator.
The coffee is standard kissaten — quite a dark roast. It’s not burnt, so I drink it fine black. However, I recommend coming here more for the ambiance, and the decent enough coffee and snack is more a bonus.
Teijimaya Coffee has space for remote work, although no plugs or Wi-Fi. The only reason I would suggest not bringing a large laptop is that it doesn’t fit the implicit culture of the place (a book, letters, or anything analogue is great, though).
Their Story / What I like About Them:
Tejimaya Coffee is a relic of Showa Era Shinjuku. Even though they have a total of three branches now, all of them are within a 10-minute walk of Shinjuku Station. Like many other kissaten, they roast their own beans.
Many of the kissaten that have survived modernisation will have a similar ambiance to Teijimaya Coffee, down to the china cups. This one has been successful and has built upon its success by accumulating a collection of items that make it charming: display plates, old kettles, and the like.
Each of these items is kept in pristine condition, turning the space into a living museum.
As a random, personal thing, I happen to like their apple tart. The tart is nothing like the North American version, but is yummy in its generous chunks of soaked apples.
- Coffee: Pour over coffee (single origin and blends)
- Food: Lunch, coffee set
- Cafe Space: Ground floor and second floor (Note: smoking friendly)
- Friends: Hangouts, catching up, reading
- Workspace: Not the best for a laptop unless you get a table and go during weekdays
- Remote Work: Bring your own pocket WiFi.
1-2-6 Nishi-Shinjuku, Shinjuku, Tokyo 160-0023
Closed during New Years
If you liked this post, check out my list of Off-Centre Tokyo Cafes.