Several cafés whose place is naturally there have existed for decades. The old cafés in the student and old book shops district Jimbocho in Tokyo attract with their peculiar appearance, comfortable interior, delicious drinks and free atmosphere. I will now introduce 5 of them which represent in the best way the spirit of Showa period (20th century).
Established in 1955 and with a history of over half a decade, “Saboru” is a typical representative of Jimbocho’s cafés and as such has also been advertised by the media. The liveliness caused by the students and local publishers who would talk there for hours over a cup of coffee has endured the decades, and nowadays elderly people longing for nostalgia or curious young couples can experience the same old atmosphere as it was back then.
The spirit of Showa period still exists, found in the impressive outside appearance, the brick and wooden interior where lights are dim and the space over the two floors is rather cramped.
Established in 1972, “Kanda Burajiru” café is famous for open-fire roasting carefully selected coffee beans. All the freshly roasted, freshly ground and freshly made coffee brands are aromatic, but the mildly bitter Kanda blend, the typically sour America blend and the thick France blend served in a small cup are the most popular items in the menu.
While being a café, the place nicely implements Japanese traditional style with its relaxing wooden interior, irori (open fireplace) and wind draught coming from the floor. This local interior, combined with the jazz background music, makes the café look like a true “Japanese-style modernity” place.
Established in 1949, the name “Ladrio” means brick in Spanish, and indeed this place preserves the style of old brick cafés. Languid chanson music floats through the air inside the quiet room which makes you forget the tumult of the big city. Among the regular visitors are famous writers, and the legend says that it was here that the famous writer Gou Osaka received the phone call announcing his Naoki prize for literature. The first Wiener Kaffee (Espresso con panna) in Japan was served here, and the fragrant harmony of the coffee and white whipped cream has a historical fame.
“Milonga Nuova” was established in 1953 as a place to listen to tango. A brick house from outside with an wooden interior, this café serves charcoal fire roasted coffee and cakes at daytime and various world brands of beer in the evenings.
The background music is tango which is rare to hear in Japan. There is some actual music equipment for occasional gigs. Professional Altech speakers for theater halls are used in this café to elevate the sound quality to a historically high level.
Tea House Takano
Established in 1974, “Tea House Takano” was the first café specializing in black tea. A lion is drawn on the entrance signboard as a certificate of the high quality of the Ceylon tea served. There is no retro interior, but the spacious clean room and the high-class tea aroma create a pleasant atmosphere.
There are various tea brands to choose from, but one of the most well-known is “Uva Pekoe St. James”, using one of the world’s three best black tea types “Uva”. The mild mint aroma and the peculiar astringency are outstanding in combination. You can enjoy the first cup of tea as it is, and then add milk to the second one.
Among today’s stylish cafés the retro ones presented here are probably unusual. But no matter how much I describe them, seeing is believing. Go there and enter without preconceptions. You will likely enjoy the mix of nostalgia and contemporary space.
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