K5 in Nihonbashi
Photo: K5 / Yikin Hyo

K5 transforms a 1920s bank in Nihonbashi into a trendy hangout with café, restaurant and bars

There's a Modern Japanese restaurant, a cafe that looks like a nursery, an underground beer joint and a library cocktail bar

By Jessica Thompson
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Flashback to Tokyo 1923: the Dai-ichi Bank opens in Nihonbashi, in a grand building with lofty ceilings and a decorative stone exterior. Fast-forward to Tokyo 2020: the building reopens as K5, renovated in a stunning blend of Japanese and Scandinavian designs by architecture firm Claesson Koivisto Rune. It now offers two floors of exciting dining and drinking options and 20 boutique hotel rooms.

K5 is located in the former ‘Wall Street of Japan’, Kabutocho, which was once buzzing with salarymen in their power suits and generous corporate expense accounts. After the bubble burst in the 1990s, the area went into a drab decline as banks downsized or moved away, but the team behind K5 (a collaboration of local creative firms called Ferment Inc) is determined to reverse the trend. And what better way to revitalise an old building – and neighbourhood – than to fill it with some of the best eateries and watering holes in Tokyo?

Photo: ©K5

Switch Coffee

Switch Coffee’s third location (after Meguro and Yoyogi-Hachiman) feels like you’ve stepped into a small nursery that conveniently has a handful of small tables, free wi-fi and excellent coffee. Grab an espresso (¥450), a latte or, try something different and opt for a surprisingly refreshing iced coffee with tonic water (¥600).

Photo: ©K5

Caveman

Produced by the crew behind popular Meguro restaurant Kabi, Caveman cheekily calls its food ‘progressive Japanese’. Dinner is ¥9,000 for 11 courses, with the menu changing based on which ingredients are available on the day. Behind the wall of open shelving you’ll find a smaller section where you can order wine by the glass and small dishes from an a la carte menu. Breakfast is served daily, featuring an assortment of cured meats, egg soufflé, sourdough bread and waffles.

Photo: Keisuke Tanigawa

Ao Bar

The luxe red interior and furnishings, brimming bookshelves and mood lighting of Ao Bar are enough to get you through the door – and that’s before you even look at the incredible cocktail list. This self-described ‘library bar’ pays homage to Eiichi Shibusawa, a 19th century businessman who founded the Dai-ichi Bank that originally occupied the building. The drinks here are based on Asian tea blends, so you can sip on rich concoctions like The Emperor’s Car (Hennessy VSOP, aged roasted tea, lemon juice, mezcal, cinnamon sugar) and Madame (gin, hojicha, vodka, dates, vermouth, lemon juice, absinthe).

Photo: ©K5

Brooklyn Brewery

The briefly named ‘B’ bar is Brooklyn Brewery’s first flagship venue outside New York. As you would expect given its home in the stylish K5 building, it is one hip venue: exposed concrete ceiling, a DJ booth, long communal timber tables. Plus, being in the basement adds a hideaway feel. There’s a variety of Brooklyn Brewery’s famous brews on tap, plus casual bites like tacos, nachos and other Mexican street food.

While you’re out and about in Tokyo, make sure you try one of the city’s 20 best ramen, and end the night at one of these top craft beer bars.

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