Cafés! Oh how we love cafés. The perfect place to while away an afternoon, writing your novel and watching swaths of humanity while only having to minimally participate. Sometimes you can even grab some free wifi or a hearty breakfast, and they’re certainly good places to practice your restaurant Japanese in a low-stress environment.
What are cafés in Tokyo like?
In Tokyo, there’s a café for whatever your thing is. There are endless incarnations from the far out to the familiar. Do you want to experience traditional Japanese coffee culture? A kissaten is the place for you. Want a more relaxed atmosphere? Then you can enjoy a drink on a patio.
Try out the coolest hipster spots for a peek at Tokyo’s cooler residents, like artist Yoshitomo Nara’s café or this incredible 3D latte art café. Cafés specializing in things like fair-trade coffee, single origin beans or vegan fair are also becoming more common.
Most cafés also have food items available, although the options are sometimes limited to a small selection of pasta, sandwiches or desserts.
Oh, and don’t forget we’re talking about Tokyo. That means cafes are often on the smaller side, sometimes you’ll find yourself squeezed shoulder to shoulder with other patrons. But hey, that just makes the experience so much more intimate.
What is the average cost of a cup of coffee in Tokyo?
It all depends how much you value your taste buds. A decent regular cup from a convenience store will only cost you between ¥110 and ¥200. Chains will be between ¥270 and ¥600, and a super classy place could cost you upwards of ¥1,000.
Many places also offer sets that include a drink and a food item. Again prices vary, but for example a sandwich and drink set from Caffé Veloce will set you back ¥670.
Typical café opening hours
For morning sets (that usually include coffee), expect openings from as early as 5 a.m. (Though, this isn’t too common in Tokyo.) Most chains will open their doors for office workers before 8 a.m. on weekdays, but the independents are more likely to wait until 10 or 11 a.m. The average closing time is usually sometime between 8 and 11 p.m. However, if you need a pick-me-up at any time of day or night, there’s always convenience stores and vending machines.
Like most places in the world, there are plenty of Starbucks in Tokyo. But if you aren’t into having overpriced frappuccinos (unless it’s with a view of Shibuya Crossing), you might prefer the local, cheaper chains. Tully’s, Yanaka, Doutor, Pronto, Caffé Veloce and Excelsior all have similar vibes with average-priced cuppas and modest lunch sets. Ginza Renoir has comfortable, lavish seats, but you pay for the pleasure with an expensive menu.
Laptops, Wi-Fi and working from cafés
Remote work is definitely more of a thing nowadays, and being stuck in a cramped Tokyo apartment all day isn’t fun for anybody. (Plus, why not use someone else’s air conditioning?) Switch it up and head to a café — but be careful, not all have good Wi-Fi, and some don’t have any at all. See our list of the best places with free Wi-Fi, so you don’t get stuck with a dead laptop and no internet.
The most well known place to get unlimited internet, coffee and sometimes a shower is a manga café. These are places filled with comic books and are a refuge in the big city to buckle down and get some work done — or alternatively, to get some much needed shut-eye.
The kissaten experience
Kissaten, Showa-era style Japanese coffee shops, attract visitors with their unique décor and menus that are frozen in time. Once a place for the elderly of Japan to have a hot drink smoke and chat, kissaten are now popular with twenty-somethings for their cute, retro and Instagrammable aesthetic.
Whatever your niche, you are bound to find a unique café that suits you. Fan of an obscure 90s anime? Retro games? Vampires? Tokyo has a café for you. A few pop up and go but many still stand the test of time, such as maid cafés, butler cafés, ninja cafés and even hammock cafés.
Read our top 10 themed restaurants in Tokyo for more ideas.
A note on cat cafés
We can’t recommend most animal cafés in Tokyo as we have serious doubts about their animal welfare standards. Instead we suggest animal lovers look for places that are up front and clear about how they keep their animals, or choose another option like the places mentioned in our alternative animal café and owl café articles.
Best Tokyo neighborhoods for cafés
Some neighborhoods are just chiller and more gifted at brewing than others. Some, like Akihabara, are known for their rows of maid cafes. Ginza and Omotesandō are great places for a classy afternoon tea experience (and a price tag to match). Harajuku and Shibuya are not short of themed cafes (or any kind of cute café). But if you are looking for something more down to earth, Kichijōji , Kōenji and Asakusa are ideal.