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Bongen

Best cafés in Tokyo

Looking for a relaxing Tokyo café, the perfect cup of coffee or a superb sweet treat? Look no further – check out our complete Tokyo café guide

By Mari Hiratsuka, Shiori Kotaki and Kaila Imada
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Boasting roots that go back at least a century, Tokyo's café culture is a fascinating mix of the old and the new. From old-school kissaten that tenaciously kept the flag flying for good coffee in Tokyo long before anyone had even thought it could become trendy, to the hottest representatives of the 'third wave' coffee movement, you'll find countless cafés, coffee shops, bistros and bars everywhere you go in the city.

This roundup of the 50 best Tokyo cafés is meant to be a cross-section of the capital's creative caffeinated community, and features a sample of in-demand newcomers, golden oldies and everything in between – we've even included a couple of places where the focus is more on superb desserts than quality coffee. Be it single origin beans, excellent espresso, artisanal green tea, a nostalgic atmosphere or decadent cakes you're looking for, we've got you covered. Check out the list and follow us on a tour of Tokyo's very best cafés – and if you still need more options, check out our previous take on the best coffee in Tokyo or our roundup of the city's best 100 restaurants.

The best cafés

1. Bongen

Restaurants Cafés Higashi-Ginza

Combining coffee with onigiri is certainly a new approach, and one that might actually work. The pairing of rice balls and artisanal joe can be savoured at this stylish Ginza stand, decorated simply in a Japanese style with plastered walls, sho-sugiban (charred cedar) details and a coffered ceiling...

2. Foodmood

Restaurants Cafés Kunitachi

The chiffon sandwich is quite the crowd pleaser – two pieces of beautifully light and cloud-like chiffon cake, wedged together with fruit jam and whipped cream. And given a seasonal twist at Foodmood, it’s even more heavenly than usual...

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3. Toraya Café An Stand

Shopping Chocolate and sweets Shinjuku

For its latest venture, one of Japan’s most venerable purveyors of wagashi has stripped the sugary confections of their pomp and splendour and instead focused on the traditional teatime treat’s key ingredient – the humble anko, or red bean paste...

4. Brick Lane

Restaurants Cafés Setagaya

One of the many independent cafés in Setagaya, Brick Lane stands out with its highly coveted ‘cupcakes’ that are only available on weekends and holidays. Don’t expect the usual mini round cakes with a crown of icing, though. Brick Lane’s take is more cheeky, with fluffy chunks of sponge cake folded in with whipped cream and served in a cute paper cup...

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5. The Tokyo Fruits

Restaurants Setagaya

Nestled in the backstreets of trendy Jiyugaoka, The Tokyo Fruits produces some of the best fruit parfaits around. The combination of sliced fruit, mousse, fruit jelly, whipped cream and sorbet has oodles of flavour, a winning texture and tastes every bit as good as it looks. The selection is informed by what’s in season, so you’re likely to find cherry and peach parfaits in summer, grape and sweet potato in autumn and strawberry in winter...

6. Floto

Restaurants Cafés Sangubashi

Thanks to the Italians, coffee and gelato go hand-in-hand: what’s better than pairing a strong, bitter espresso with a scoop of sweet frozen creaminess? Located a short walk away from Yoyogi Park, Floto’s gelato display will tempt you with its striking array of colourful options: there’s everything from classic chocolate and caramel to seasonal fruit flavours such as peach, kiwi and Japanese beni hoppe strawberry...

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7. Mont Blanc Style

Restaurants Yoyogi-Hachiman

While the café's eponymous dessert is French in origin, Mont Blanc has become a classic Japanese confection. Built on a cake base, this dessert piles on the chestnut and whipped cream before finishing off with strings of more chestnut puree, which gives it the noodle-like appearance. Made using premium, locally-sourced chestnuts, your order is prepared fresh in front of you...

8. Gomaya Kuki

Shopping Chocolate and sweets Harajuku

Sesame is the quintessential Japanese ice cream flavour, and at this Shibuya scooper which gets an awful lot of attention from customers’ camera phones – check out those amazing charcoal- black colours – you’ll see just how versatile and delicious it can be...

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9. Fuglen Asakusa

Restaurants Cafés Asakusa

The second Tokyo branch of the Norwegian coffee purveyor Fuglen, this café is located in the heart of Asakusa, just a few minutes' walk away from some of Tokyo's most historic sites and attractions. Taking up the entire first floor of the new Nine Hours capsule hotel, the space is bigger and it has plenty more seating compared to their first outlet in Tomigaya – but feature the same aesthetics...

10. Bread, Espresso & Jiyugata

Restaurants Cafés Jiyugaoka

Just as its name suggests, this café specialises in all things bread and espresso. We particularly love the signature French toast, where a thick slice of fluffy bread is prepared in a cast iron pan and served piping hot along with a generous drizzle of honey from Italy...

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11. Kurogi

Restaurants Coffeeshops Hongo

Operated by Yushima kappo restaurant Kurogi, this eponymous wagashi specialist is hidden away on Tokyo University's Hongo campus, inside the Kengo Kuma-designed Daiwa Ubiquitous Research Building. The uber-stylish interior matches nicely with the artistic sweets on offer...

12. Coffeehouse Nishiya

Restaurants Coffeeshops Shibuya

An Italian-style bar and café run by the jovial and talented Kyohei Nishiya, this welcoming Shibuya spot has a laidback neighbourhood feel to it – not least due to the owner-barista's no-frills attitude and the fun, retro décor. Nishiya pulls a highly competent espresso...

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13. Ginza West Aoyama Garden

Restaurants Cafés Nogizaka

When this long-standing spot transformed from a restaurant into a café with confectionery, their popularity soared. Go for a cake set or their hot desserts (try the Hot Soufflé, Hot Fruits Custard and Fondant Chocolat)...

14. Chai Break

Restaurants Cafés Kichijoji

If you're looking to grab a drink on the go before heading to Inokashira Park, sod Starbucks for once and stop by this café for the real deal. The various tea and chai drinks on offer burst with rich aromas, with their 'boiled milk tea' prepared the traditional Indian way with no added spice...

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15. Coffee Amp

Restaurants Coffeeshops Koenji

The roaster is the first thing you'll notice on entering Amp – space is at a premium in this narrow Koenji shop, with weathered floorboards and seats for just over a dozen people. There's not much opportunity for dawdling at the bar: drinkers are given a simple choice of latte, mocha, espresso or regular coffee – all excellent...

16. Saboru

Restaurants Cafés Jinbocho

The totem poles flanking the entrance to Saboru announce loud and clear that this is not your ordinary café, and stepping inside the wooden interior confirms it. This venerable, 60-year-old establishment feels less like a downtown kissaten and more like a cosy cottage up in the mountains...

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17. Café Bach

Restaurants Coffeeshops Minowa

All the beans are roasted on the premises of this dedicated coffee specialist in suburban Minami-Senju. Cafe Bach supplied the coffee for the G8 summit that took place in Okinawa in 2000...

18. The Roastery

Restaurants Coffeeshops Harajuku

Collaboratively run by the folks behind Setagaya's always excellent Nozy Coffee and restaurant impresarios Tysons (TY Harbor, Cicada, Beacon, Ivy Place etc), this uber-hip roastery and café on Harajuku's Cat Street is one of the city's flashiest specialist coffee haunts. Every day, you'll get to choose from two kinds of single-origin beans for your americano, latte or espresso...

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19. Good People & Good Coffee

Restaurants Coffeeshops Ikejiri-Ohashi

This hipster haven in Ikejiri-Ohashi is a relaxed enclave carved out of the creative atmosphere of the area and decorated like a garage, with an assortment of tools on the wall and lumber hanging casually from storage units attached to the ceiling. Seating comes in the form of worn old furniture strewn around the room and three stools placed at the counter. As well as being one of the few places in Tokyo you can get a flat white...

20. Rengetsu Café

Restaurants Cafés Ikegami

Worth the trip out to Ikegami all on its own, the wonderfully retro Rengetsu is set in a gorgeous Japanese-style home built in 1933. Occupied for decades by a soba shop downstairs and a traditional inn upstairs, the structure looks essentially just like it did back in the early days of Showa: although the straw mats on the ground floor have been replaced by wooden panelling, the décor remains intact...

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21. Kazuma Coffee Chuo-dori

Restaurants Cafés Ginza

Finding a seat at Ginza's many trendy cafés can be a real challenge, especially on weekends, but you'll hardly ever need to worry about that at Kazuma. In part, the coffee prices are to blame – ¥1,200 for a cup of joe sounds like extortion in anyone's book – but the lack of crowds is also due to this golden oldie's gallery-like surrounds and almost ridiculously quiet atmosphere...

22. Café du Lièvre

Restaurants Cafés Kichijoji

Hidden out among the lush greenery of Inokashira Park, in the direction of the Ghibli Museum, lies this French-inspired café that specialises in crêpes and Bretagne-style galettes topped with fresh vegetables, mushrooms and pesto – and smoked salmon, soft-boiled egg or other proteins if you pay extra. Made with buckwheat flour from Hokkaido, the galettes are flavourful and aromatic...

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23. Tsuta Coffee

Restaurants Coffeeshops Aoyama

Found directly in front of Aoyama Gakuin University's Ivy Hall, Tsuta occupies the former home of architect and Budokan designer Mamoru Yamada. Opened in 1988, it's a pleasantly quiet old-school kissaten with relaxing garden views. Specialising in high-grade Brazilian Santos coffee...

24. Kenyan Shibuya

Restaurants Tea rooms Shibuya

This venerable tea house has been serving up aromatic drinks for more than three decades now, and it shows in both the quality of the tea and in the slightly worn-down interior. Their biggest draw is the ice milk tea, and practically all other tea choices available also come served with milk...

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25. Oshiage Nyanko

Restaurants Cafés Oshiage

Standard latte art is unlikely to make much of an impression after you've laid eyes on the 3D foam cats decorating drinks at this uber-cute café. That's not to say it's all show and no go, either: their coffees, teas and hot chocolates are expertly crafted...

26. Café de l'Ambre

Restaurants Coffeeshops Ginza

'Coffee Only' reads the sign outside Café de l'Ambre, which has been keeping the Ginza hordes well caffeinated since 1948. Remarkably, it's still run by the same man – Ichiro Sekiguchi, 103 – though he's entrusted some younger tykes to handle the day-to-day running of the place. Though they treat their coffee with the utmost seriousness, this isn't one of those fussy, killjoy coffee temples...

27. From Afar

Restaurants Cafés Sumida

The ideal place for stylish coffee-sipping, perhaps with a small cake on the side, this spacious and relaxing café by the Sumida River is set in a former timber warehouse with a high ceiling. It's decorated with antiques, old books and small flowers, while tea sets, an international selection of stamps and even minerals are sold at the counter. All orders of coffee and tea are served in Imariyaki cups...

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28. Angelus

Restaurants Coffeeshops Asakusa

Perhaps, at some point in the distant past, this was the way local upmarket operations got to grips with handling newfangled foreign delicacies. At Asakusa's Angelus, founded in 1946, you're in for a real blast from the kissaten past: the joe is painstakingly brewed by hand and the clientele consists mainly of old folk who have been coming here for decades...

29. Edinburgh

Restaurants Cafés Shinjuku-Sanchome

The Scottish capital is famous for many things, but coffee isn't normally one of them. You're a long way from Edinburgh at Shinjuku's Edinburgh, though – or Coffee Kizoku (literally, 'aristocratic coffee') Edinburgh, to give it its full name...

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30. Daikei

Restaurants Cafés Kunitachi

Named after the shape of the plot it stands on (daikei means trapezoid in Japanese), this unique Kunitachi café doesn't look like the most welcoming place out there, but do gather your courage and open the door: what awaits is wonderful. The insides are like a museum with antiques everywhere, including masks on the wall and small bronze statues on the shelves...

31. Satei Hato

Restaurants Coffeeshops Shibuya

Stepping through the low, marble-tiled entrance, the first thing you’ll notice is the gorgeous tableware displayed behind a long hardwood counter. That’s not to say that the surroundings here outshine the coffee – on the contrary, Satei Hato’s hand-drip offerings maintain the absolutely highest quality. Choose from up to eight varieties of charcoal-roasted beans and watch as the formally dressed staff prepare your treat with almost religious dedication...

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32. Davide Coffee Stop

Restaurants Coffeeshops Iriya

Who knew Iriya had a place like this? Daisuke Matsushita's Davide is a very decent take on an Italian streetside café, sidestepping drip coffee entirely (simply because it takes too long to brew) and offering excellent espressos and lattes instead. Down yours at the counter or just get one to go – the man in charge of the machine doesn't care either way...

33. Monozuki

Restaurants Coffeeshops Nishi-Ogikubo

Not all kissaten in Tokyo are worth the moniker, but this one sure makes the grade: stained-glass windows, antique clocks and the soft jazz soundtrack make you feel like you’ve stepped back in time. Founded in 1975, Monozuki offers a very simple menu – black coffee is the main attraction – but is beloved by both locals and former Nishi-Ogi-ites...

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34. Allpress Espresso

Restaurants Coffeeshops Kiyosumi

Serving terrific coffee in Kiyosumi-Shirakawa since 2014 – long before the arrival of Blue Bottle made the neighbourhood one of Tokyo's third-wave hipster havens – New Zealanders Allpress also have outlets in cities like London, Sydney and Singapore. Housed in a former warehouse that's been beautifully renovated to match the brand's sleek but down-to-earth image...

35. Little Darling Coffee Roasters

Restaurants Cafés Nogizaka

Located within the green space of Share Green Minami-Aoyama, this spacious coffee roastery uses coffee beans selected by one of the world’s best baristas, Naoya Akagawa. Five different types of coffee beans are on offer daily which are carefully selected based on the season...

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36. Aminchi

Restaurants Cafés Setagaya

Hidden away near Matsubara Station on the Setagaya tram line, Aminchi is the kind of place that requires an effort to get to. Open for only six hours daily, this tiny one-woman operation seats nine and offers a different experience on every visit. That's because there's no regular menu: the muffins, cookies, quiches, ice creams and other desserts are impeccably seasonal...

37. Glitch Coffee & Roasters

Restaurants Coffeeshops Jinbocho

After a decade as chief barista and head roaster at Paul Bassett, Kiyokazu Suzuki broke out on his own and set up this excellent coffeeshop among the old-school kissaten of Jinbocho in spring 2015. Glitch has won admirers for its communal roaster and relaxed approach to craft coffee, and imports beans directly from mainly Kenyan and Tanzanian producers...

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38. Café Trois Chambres

Restaurants Coffeeshops Shimokitazawa

Opened in 1980, Trois Chambres feels a world away from the busy streets of Shimokitazawa. Antique cups line the shelves, regulars strike up conversation over the counter and the corner tables are practically always occupied by someone reading a book – time truly appears to stand still at this kissaten...

39. Paddlers Coffee Nishihara

Restaurants Coffeeshops Yoyogi-Uehara

Although it was hidden on the second floor of Shibuya's Todd Snyder store, the tiny but virtually flawless original outpost of Paddlers did brisk business with its impeccably executed hand drip and beans from Portland's famed Stumptown Coffee Roasters, so we were happy but not surprised to see owner Daisuke Matsushima expand his operation...

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Roar Coffee House and Roastery
Roar Coffee House and Roastery

40. Roar Coffee House and Roastery

Restaurants Cafés Chuo

Ever hoped you had a more colourful latte? Enter Roar, where your cuppa gets spruced up big time with some rainbow latte art. As long as there's milk involved, the baristas here can transform your coffee into an iridescent work of art. For the base, you have the option of letting them pour in the coffee before or after creating the picture...

41. Ties

Restaurants Cafés Yushima

Strong coffee and artistic cakes are the twin specialities at Yushima's Ties, where the dripping process is fine-tuned to perfection. Choose from around half a dozen blends, all explained in detail by the counter, and pick your favourite from the cake display case right by the entrance. They always have around ten varieties – including seasonal specials...

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42. Higashi-Mukojima Coffee-ten

Restaurants Coffeeshops Mukojima

Owned by a born-and-bred local eager to liven up his 'hood, this comfy joint has earned a steady following over the decade it's been open. Don't miss the no-bake cheesecake...

43. Tokyo Saryo

Restaurants Tea rooms Sangenjaya

For years, Tokyo's caffeine addicts have been spoiled with an overflowing supply of 'third wave' coffee shops, while green tea – Japan's native pick-me-up – has been left by the wayside. But times they are a-changin': Sangenjaya's austere Tokyo Saryo offers single-origin green tea in hand drip form...

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44. Coffee Valley

Restaurants Coffeeshops Ikebukuro

Found right by Ikebukuro Station, Coffee Valley answered local caffeine addicts' prayers when it opened in late 2014. The baristas brew aromatic mixtures in the stylish but comfy space, decorated with ample wood – gulp up your morning fix at the ground-floor counter, or sit back and relax on the sofas upstairs...

45. Higashiya

Restaurants Tea rooms Ginza

This tea salon puts a fresh twist on traditional Japanese confectionery. As well as the typical combination of green tea and sweets like cold kuzu noodles, the salon also serves alcohol – ask the staff which beer, shochu or wine goes best with your sweets...

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46. Cafe Facon

Restaurants Coffeeshops Nakameguro

Reputed to be one of Nakameguro's top coffee spots, Cafe Facon appears to be angling for a more mature crowd. It's pocked with Parisian references, including a small library of Francophone books and a grotesque faux-naive painting of cherubs frolicking around the Eiffel Tower. Iffy decor aside, Facon clearly means business. The shop roasts its own beans, offering four blends and a selection of single-origin coffees...

47. Onibus Coffee

Restaurants Coffeeshops Nakameguro

Jiyugaoka-based roasters and bean importers Onibus have kept a relatively low profile on Tokyo's coffee scene until now, keeping things close to home at their original location while backing up Shibuya's About Life with top-grade beans from places like Rwanda and Guatemala. They can expect a larger share of the spotlight from now on though, as this Nakameguro branch has been making waves...

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48. Canal Cafe

Restaurants Cafés Iidabashi

There aren't many al fresco cafés in Tokyo that can rival the atmosphere of this waterside spot in Iidabashi. Canal Cafe is the modern-day incarnation of Tokyo Suijyo Club, the capital's oldest boat house, which first opened nearly a century ago. Rowboats aren't quite the draw they used to be, so the club serves mainly as a restaurant nowadays – though you can still head out on the water...

49. Amameria Espresso

Restaurants Coffeeshops Musashi-Koyama

There was a time when Musashi-Koyama was famous for little besides having a shopping arcade that seemed to go on forever. That arcade is still there, but we're more likely to make a detour to the area to get a quick jolt at Amameria Espresso. Opened in the summer of 2010 by certified cupping judge Toshiaki Ishii, this intimate shop roasts its own beans, and the aroma alone is likely to lure...

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50. Chocolate Jesus

Restaurants Cafés Asakusa

You really have to visit this place for yourself to make sense of it all. One of our own described the experience of even entering this Asakusa café as 'pushing your way through the wall like Harry Potter at Platform 9 3/4'. We'd argue a mishmash of Narnia and Alice in Wonderland with a dash of Wes Anderson's cinematography would be an equally apt description. Inside, the world of Chocolate Jesus is on full display, with pink walls and crockery worthy of the Queen of Hearts...

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