Looking to unleash your inner child and artist? Need to relieve some stress or unleash your creativity? Here’s a place where you can do all those, and more: Rakugaki Cafe and Bar, a pop-up cafe/bar brought to you by stationery company Pentel, where you can get away with doodling and scribbling on your heart’s content on every surface (save for the entrance, toilets, cushions, and a set where you can pose for photos).
Calling this type of cafe as an experiment, Pentel set up their first Rakugaki Cafe and Bar in 2014. This year’s pop-up, their third since 2014, started on February 4th and will go on until March 31st, so there’s still some time to check it out. Its concept for the year is “Rakugaki (which means “doodle” in English) Factory,” although, to be honest, we didn’t really see the factory theme.
The cafe/bar is on the seventh floor of a building called NOCO, which is a very short walk from Exit A1 or B5 of Ginza Station, or the central exit of JR Yurakucho Station. It’s a small 46-seater, so reservations—which can be made by calling them at 03-3573-8015—are recommended, especially on weekends. (For walk-ins, you might stand a better chance of getting a seat during late nights, especially on weekdays.) Keep in mind that there’s a table charge of 864 yen (including tax) per head during bar time (6:00 pm onward), and that you can only stay in the cafe/bar for a maximum of two hours—the staff will inform you once your time’s almost up.
Upon entering the small cafe/bar, you’ll be greeted by a sight that’s every artist’s dream come true: scribbles and doodles all over the place. Yes, save for what we mentioned, the entire cafe—walls, pillars, floor, tables, seats—is your canvas or sketch pad. If those aren’t enough for you, there are shelves with blank books for you to doodle on. You don’t have to bring your own pens, as each table comes with a lot of pens—markers, brush-type pens, and more.
Even the food and beverages are art-themed:
The food is of average quality; one thing to know about themed restaurants/cafes is to keep your expectations low taste-wise. The cheapest option on the menu is a plate of fries with colorful sauces (594 yen, including tax). If you want something more filling, though, go for the omurice (1,134 yen)—with a lot of rice (but unfortunately nothing else) in that omelet, it’s heavy in volume, and you can doodle on it with up to five different condiments, including mayonnaise, honey mustard, and ketchup.
But if you’re looking for some photo-worthy finger food, go for the otsumami (snack) set (1,620 yen), which features novelties such as cheese shaped like Pentel erasers and matcha snacks arranged to look like a crayon.
The drinks, however, are pretty good. The cheapest is a latte (648 yen) featuring art of Pentel’s mascot. Its teas (756 yen), especially the blue one, are refreshing and fragrant. The rest of the drinks menu consists of colorful beer (842 yen) and cocktails—the latter can be made non-alcoholic upon request. According to the staff, the most popular drink is the poster color drink (950 yen), a lemony cocktail in a mason jar designed to resemble a jar of poster paint.
Every now and then, the cafe also holds events, activities, and workshops. Some recently concluded examples include a create-your-own sign pen workshop, doll painting for Hina Matsuri (Japan’s Doll Festival), and a chocolate pen workshop.
The activities are guaranteed to be a lot of fun. On March 22nd and 31st, look out for Dr. Canvas, a performer playing Rakugaki Factory’s resident researcher. Customers are free to doodle on him as he goes around the cafe/bar. And for some neon-colored fun, be sure to drop by the cafe on a Friday or Saturday night (and/or on the 19th, a Sunday, and 22nd, a Wednesday) for Rakugaki Night. Taking place during bar time, this is when the lights go out to be replaced by black lights, and you can draw and paint everywhere with fluorescent markers and neon paint. It definitely makes the 864-yen table charge worth it.
With there seeming to be enough satisfied customers to keep it going, we wouldn’t be surprised if Pentel’s experiment becomes an annual tradition. But for now, enjoy it while it lasts. Whether you go solo or with friends, you can be sure that your two hours spent at the cafe/bar will fly quickly as you sketch the time away. (And don’t forget to claim your freebie—a Pentel sign pen—after paying the bill!)