Tokyo Cafes: Light Up Coffee

A review of an independent coffee roaster, Light Up Coffee at Kichijoji, Tokyo. Notes are by an amateur coffee enthusiast and shoestring digital nomad. Descriptions are equal parts coffee and remote-work suitability. Most photos are shot with a second-hand Fujifilm X100.

Light Up Coffee Kichijoji
Light Up Coffee’s tasting set — Photo by Athena Lam

Cafe Overview:

Light Up Coffee Kichijoji
Light Up Coffee’s sparse interior was DIY by owners Yuma Kawano and Tamito Aihara — Photo by Athena Lam

Since the summer of 2014, whispers of Light Up Coffee have rippled slowly from Kichijoji through Tokyo’s coffee scene. Perhaps first by the impressed critics, then their trailing skeptics.

Either way, it took a while for me to return to Kichijoji to try this hole in the wall out after doing an initial neighbourhood map on a cold, rainy day. If it’s your first time at Kichijoji, Light Up Coffee sits near the end of a local restaurant and shopping street which has several other local roasters. The 一圓 本店 manju (meat buns) in a street steamer along the way are a must try.

Light Up Coffee Kichijoji
Light Up often features local artists — Photo by Athena Lam

The small space with the plank-counters don’t make suitable workspaces and there is no Wi-Fi, so that’s the end of remote working for this post.

Back to the coffee. Many people may have heard of Takayuki Miyazaki, who won first place at the 2016 Japan AeroPress Championship and works at FabCafe and Light Up. Of course, the cafe offers aeropress coffee in addition to the pour over and espresso drinks.

They usually serve two blends and the rest are single-origin beans.

Light Up Coffee Kichijoji
Cappuccino — Photo by Athena Lam

My local friend opted for a milk-based espresso, which she felt could have been warmer (Japan has a habit of frothing the milk at a lower temperature).

Personally, I’ve grown to prefer pour-over in Japan as my first choice for espressos are still Pacific Northwest style, so I opted for the tasting menu. Each drink came as about half an American cup, which works out to be quite a bit for anyone sensitive to cafine.

The tasting notes are at the back of each card, but I tried blind tasting before checking the profiles. The Ethiopia Konga Natural had a sweet and smooth, almost creamy ending (strawberry, yogurt). Ethiopia Guji was my favourite with more distinct staccato citric notes (grapefruit). The Costa Rica Candelilla was a suitable contrast with its mellower profile (chocolate and apple).

Light Up Coffee Kichijoji
The equivalent of 1.5 regular cups — Photo by Athena Lam

Their Story / What I like About Them:

Light Up Coffee Kichijoji
In-house roasted beans — Photo by Athena Lam

It turns out, Yuma Kawano and Tamito Aihara started Light Up Coffee only 2-3 years after finishing university, where they studied unrelated degrees. Their jobs in cafes slowly got them interested in the trade and obsessed enough to do a coffee tasting trip in Europe together. The small, rundown unit that Light Up Coffee now occupies was all they could afford in the trendy neighbourhood to begin their in-house roasting operation. According to an interview, they did all renovations and built the furniture themselves in order to make the place work.

The visitors don’t mind the small space and many do take-away. In fact, the cafe even hosts regular coffee workshops and events.

Light Up Coffee Kichijoji
Shop alcove area by the seats — Photo by Athena Lam

Good For:

  • Coffee: Pour-over, Aeropress, Espresso
  • Food: Pastries
  • Cafe Space: Narrow bar ledges, approx 6-10 seats (depending on how cozy you want to be)
  • Friends: Catching up and maybe reading
  • Workspace: Not suitable for remote work
  • Remote Work: Note suitable for remote work
Address:  〒180-0004 東京都武蔵野市吉祥寺本町4-13-15
4-13-15 Kichijoji Honmachi, Musashino, Tokyo 〒180-0004
Website:  Website / Facebook

営業日 [無休]

Daily: 10:00-20:00 月〜日

If you liked this post, check out my list of cafes west of Shinjuku.

Athena Lam

A content marketing strategist and consultant. Passionate about storytelling for great teams and products. Co-founder of Business 3.0 (, Personal blog at

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