coffee world (Japanese Edition)

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It features a limited menu in the time-honored kodawari tradition of paying attention to detail: Napolitan and chicken curry. Kissaten are virtual theme cafes — vaults of nostalgia in their own right. This naturally starts with the state of coffee in Japan around years ago, which began with trade, treaties and tentative tastings. In those times, coffee was regarded as a medicine that could stave off the effects of the cold and a vegetable-deficient diet.

Roasted in Japan

Not surprisingly, it was sent to shogunate troops stationed in Hokkaido. The coffee beans were typically roasted until they were almost black, coarsely ground, put in hemp sacks and then immersed in hot water. A small-scale version of this brew is still on offer in traditional outlets in the Aomori cities of Hirosaki and Tsugaru. Coffee, slowly but surely, started to be embraced by consumers across the nation.

The first advertisement for coffee appeared in the Yomiuri Shimbun in David L.

The older generation of the time was appalled, the younger generation was enthralled. Young women, and men, embraced foreign ideas such as modernity and freedom, and hung out in spaces where these things formed themselves anew and flourished — the now innocuous kissaten. By , more than 10, kissaten were operating in Tokyo alone. Eventually kissaten became as Japanese as anything else. They were opened, managed, staffed and frequented by Japanese people.


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Shinjuku has lost hundreds of outlets in the face of new property development, including the meikyoku kissa La Scala Yoko Kawaguchi, author of multiple books on Japanese cafe culture, says younger generations simply want different things from the coffee establishments they frequent. However, she adds, the dearth of customers is only part of the reason that Showa Era kissaten are closing.

Best coffee shops in Tokyo

Many owners are aging and the economic downturn of the early 21st century has put a strain on finances, she says. Saboru offers up kissaten classics and neon fruit juices in a three-tiered room of gnarled wood and ornaments: shrine bells, daruma dolls, ganesha statuettes, figurines, Native American masks and snow globes. Basement level Kanda Brazil, founded in , exemplifies Japanese-style contemporary design with its floor of oversized quarry tiles, irori Japanese hearth , traditional earthen plaster walls and thick wooden beams.

You can even order coffee beans from this establishment via fax.

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This is all well and good for iconic kissaten that are located in prominent areas. But those in more suburban areas, without the nearby business centers to provide a steady stream of customers, face more difficulty. It boasts chandeliers, dark wooden furniture, something paneling that seems to have stored all its years now reflecting back at you and coffee beans sitting in glass tabletops.

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There are times in the day when Taro is empty, the space reverberating with the soft strings and piano of endless, nameless classical melodies: a soundtrack from hidden speakers. However, there are times when Taro rattles with conversation and the elderly couple who run it are busy — the wife trembling, slow and bent over in a hunch; the husband tacit in the kitchen.

Guide Coffee world (Japanese Edition)

Trays arrive for a mix of friends, regulars and retirees who are deeply engrossed in thick books of manga. The future fate of Taro, and dozens like it, may already be sealed. Set in a year-old building, it has been a coffee shop since Yoko Kawaguchi, author of multiple books on Japanese cafe culture, says younger generations simply want different things from the coffee establishments they frequent.

However, she adds, the dearth of customers is only part of the reason that Showa Era kissaten are closing. Many owners are aging and the economic downturn of the early 21st century has put a strain on finances, she says.


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Saboru offers up kissaten classics and neon fruit juices in a three-tiered room of gnarled wood and ornaments: shrine bells, daruma dolls, ganesha statuettes, figurines, Native American masks and snow globes. Basement level Kanda Brazil, founded in , exemplifies Japanese-style contemporary design with its floor of oversized quarry tiles, irori Japanese hearth , traditional earthen plaster walls and thick wooden beams. You can even order coffee beans from this establishment via fax. This is all well and good for iconic kissaten that are located in prominent areas.

But those in more suburban areas, without the nearby business centers to provide a steady stream of customers, face more difficulty. It boasts chandeliers, dark wooden furniture, something paneling that seems to have stored all its years now reflecting back at you and coffee beans sitting in glass tabletops. There are times in the day when Taro is empty, the space reverberating with the soft strings and piano of endless, nameless classical melodies: a soundtrack from hidden speakers.

However, there are times when Taro rattles with conversation and the elderly couple who run it are busy — the wife trembling, slow and bent over in a hunch; the husband tacit in the kitchen. Trays arrive for a mix of friends, regulars and retirees who are deeply engrossed in thick books of manga. The future fate of Taro, and dozens like it, may already be sealed. Set in a year-old building, it has been a coffee shop since Or, at least, it was.

They simply had nobody to take over the business. Much loved by the local community, it was revamped and reopened in by a tag-team effort of the not-for-profit Taito Cultural and Historical Society and SCAI The Bathhouse, the latter itself a former sento public bath repurposed as an art gallery. Today, Kayaba Coffee is thriving, a mix of locals and overseas visitors alike stopping by in the middle of a saunter through the shitamachi downtown neighborhood. A small lamp lights up a corner of Saboru. With NPOs on the case, kissaten would never have to close and with careful preservation, renovation, a presence on social media and, possibly, English-speaking staff, they could survive quite comfortably.

On the other hand, repurposing a coffee establishment could regenerate the business into something more. Struggling traditional coffee shops could, for example, follow the lead of Kissa Ginza in Ebisu. Operating as a coffee shop by day, Kissa Ginza offers up alcohol and Chinese-Western snacks such as sweet potato fries and fresh spring rolls at night.

More generally, kissaten may survive in the form of sub-branches such as maid kissa, jazz kissa, manga kissa and even cat kissa.

Even certain chain cafes in Japan have that distinct kissaten vibe. Renoir, with its table-service, is a viable contender, starting life as a singular senbei shop and establishing itself as a kissaten, Ginza Renoir, in Nihonbashi in Ueshima Coffeehouse began life in Some of these come close to what Kawaguchi calls neo-kissaten. However, these menus are more photogenic and designed to be social media-friendly. A man serves customers at Saboru.