1. Nui. Hostel & Bar Lounge
    Photo: Nui. Hostel & Bar Lounge
  2. Mt Lab
    Photo: Mt LabMt Lab
  3. A Drop Kuramae
    Photo: Keisuke Tanigawa
  4. Chigaya Kuramae
    Photo: Keisuke TanigawaChigaya Kuramae
  5. Jiyucho
    Photo: Keisuke TanigawaJiyucho

25 best things to do in Kuramae: restaurants, cafés, shops and a gin distillery

The traditional centre of craftsmanship is undergoing a revival – follow us on a stylish stroll through this historical 'hood

Kaila Imada
Written by
Jun Harada
&
Kaila Imada
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Hidden away right in between tourist-favourite Asakusa and the much grittier Asakusabashi, Kuramae gets its name from the all-important rice granaries that lined the streets here during the Edo era. As rice was literally money back in the days of the shogunate, the neighbourhood attracted plenty of wealthy merchants and other successful Edoites, many of whom took up residence in the area. Later on, Kuramae morphed into something of a centre for craftspeople – an aspect that's still very much present, especially with the recent increase in young designers and other creatives calling the area home.

Affordable rent and active support from the Taito ward authorities have backed up this influx of up-and-coming talent, making Kuramae a hotbed of hip 'made in Tokyo' shops, trendy eateries and hipster coffee shops. Co-existing with and feeding off the many venerable handicraft businesses already in the area, the newcomers are breathing fresh life into this comfy riverside 'hood. 

RECOMMENDED: The best free things to do in Tokyo

Eat and drink

  • Restaurants
  • Japanese
  • Asakusa
  • price 1 of 4

Living healthy in Kuramae has never been easier: this multi-tasking restaurant, deli and 'health salon' covers almost everything you need for a wholesome urban existence. Brown rice lunch sets are served at the eatery, while the shop stocks healthy edibles, spices, snacks and more from all over Japan. If your language ability is up to par, remember to also check out the classes, workshops and treatments offered at the salon.

  • Bars and pubs
  • Cocktail bars
  • Asakusa

Hiding in plain sight on a Kuramae street corner, this distillery makes inventive, quality spirits from food waste. Tokyo Riverside Distillery is run by The Ethical Spirits & Co, which hit the headlines in mid-2020 with Revive, a gin made by distilling leftover Budweiser beer that was going to waste during Japan’s first state of emergency.

In front of the gleaming 500L copper still on the ground floor is a streetside counter where you can buy all the company’s unusual but wonderful spirits. If you’re looking to get more than just an idea of what this place can do, head upstairs to Stage, the venue's bar and restaurant. A slick single room that’s all copper fittings, polished concrete and pot plants, Stage is where the distillery really gets to strut its stuff. 

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  • Restaurants
  • Tea rooms
  • Asakusa

This tea shop and tasting bar is tucked away on the second floor of the renovated Uguisu Building, which used to be an after school tutoring centre for students. The space is outfitted with vintage furnishings and dim lights, making it look like a secret tea den.

A Drop offers a simple tasting menu for ¥2,000, where you can sample and learn about teas from different prefectures across Japan. You’ll get around six varieties to try as well as tips on brewing tea at home.

  • Restaurants
  • Cafés
  • Asakusa

Sip some coffee and peruse handmade leather accessories at this relaxed Kuramae café and variety goods store run by ballerina and pastry shop owner Miwako Yamada together with designer Kosuke Tamura. The staff are happy to give sightseeing tips for the surrounding neighbourhood, but Camera itself is well worth seeking out – if only for the decadent smoothies. 

As for the food menu, you’ll find cheese toast served with organic potato chips, keema curry bowl, and Hawaiian spam onigiri. There’s always a generous selection of baked goods, too, including carrot cake muffins, cookies and Camera’s famous scones.

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  • Restaurants
  • Bakeries
  • Asakusabashi

This stylish bakery in Kuramae specialises in American-style doughnuts reminiscent of those in New York City. Take your pick from classic cinnamon and sugar-dusted varieties to filled doughnuts stuffed with lemon, mixed berry or custard cream. The bakery also offers a selection of other sweet and savoury treats including earl grey cream buns, cardamom rolls, chilli dogs, pizza bread and fresh croissants, just to name a few.

Stop by during the day and order from Chigaya’s lunch menu. You’ll get a special curry, chilli bean toast or french toast along with your choice of coffee or tea.

  • Restaurants
  • Cafés
  • Asakusa

Out of Coffee Wrights’ three Tokyo locations – including Sangenjaya and Omotesando – the main roastery and café at Kuramae is the most unassuming of the lot. While it may not look as polished as its sister outlets on first impression, the factory-like ground floor space has a very pragmatic setup that puts the focus squarely on the roasting process.

Here the beans are roasted every two to three days, resulting in an ever-changing selection of six single-origin roasts. The second floor space, however, is a different story. While downstairs is all business, the upstairs café is about enjoying the fruit of the roast.

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  • Restaurants
  • Cafés
  • Asakusa

Start your morning bright and early at Kuramae’s Lucent Coffee. Open from 7.30am – a true rarity in Tokyo – the roastery and café boasts a simple, unfussed open space where you can converse with other customers while sipping your drink. 

The coffee beans here are light roasted to bring out their acidic and fruity flavours. Some of the popular single-origin roasts include beans from Kenya with notes of grapefruit, cassis and chocolate, Ethiopia with hints of strawberry and floral, and the fragrant Columbia geisha with notes of muscat and sweet spice.

  • Restaurants
  • Cafés
  • Asakusa

It’s impossible not to get excited about chocolate as you take in the component parts of this café and factory, from the enormous sacks of cacao beans to the shiny metal vats filled with tempered chocolate. Dandelion Chocolate originates in San Francisco but the location in Kuramae, with its modern rustic interior, fits right into this quiet neighbourhood known for its vibrant artisan community.

Here you can witness the manufacturing process in action – while you indulge in all things chocolate, of course. The treats here are bean-to-bar, meaning Dandelion Chocolate is involved in the entire production process, from working with farmers and producers all the way through to the factory floor.

It’s difficult to choose any single dessert; luckily many of the sweets are available in a set. Get the brownie flight (¥750) to sample three baked chocolate cakes made with different varieties of cacao. Or get one of everything with the chef's tasting plate, a dessert platter of five mini treats, including a chocolate choux and pistachio crème brûlée. 

There’s also a range of chocolate-based drinks like cacao nib cold brew coffee (¥500) and Kuramae hot chocolate (¥690), scented with local green tea leaves; or, if you want to pair you chocolate with something a little stronger, choose from craft beer and wine (¥770).

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  • Restaurants
  • Asakusa

As long as there’s steamed milk, latte art master Kohei Matsuno can transform any ordinary coffee into a tiny work of art. So show him a photo of your favourite character or animal and he’ll recreate it on the drink’s surface either as a flat or 3D rendition (both at ¥1,200 each) right in front of your eyes. Otherwise, just opt for the basic latte art (¥650) and leave it to Matsuno’s imagination. Either way, you won’t be disappointed.

  • Restaurants
  • Coffeeshops
  • Asakusa

Sitting pretty right by Kuramae Shrine, this small coffee stand pledges to offer 'coffee that treats your body well', – well, at least they hand-pick their own original beans and roast them twice. All that work results in a refreshing taste, best sampled in soft-flavoured latte form. While the shop functions as a small takeaway stand, there are a few benches outside if you wish to stick around and chat up the locals in the area.

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  • Shopping
  • Bakeries
  • Asakusabashi

Acquiring a 'muffin top' is a real possibility at Daily's – their goodies are that addictive. The counter at this cutesy joint is lined with real American-style creations, which range from sweet options (plum compote and smooth custard, coffee and white chocolate etc) to savoury types topped with mushrooms and sausages. They also switch up their selection every week, so you'll simply have to keep coming back. However, do note that the shop often runs out of product long before closing time – try visiting early, or make sure you never miss out by picking up their original recipe book.

Shop

  • Shopping
  • Asakusa

Those obsessed with Japan’s endless variety of fun, colourful washi tape have to stop by this specialist store. Mt Lab is stocked with an overwhelming selection of washi tape in all sizes, colours and patterns.

Washi tape is surprisingly strong and has many other uses besides just sticking things together. Mt Lab even offers some inspiration on how you can use the tape in your everyday life, including DIY crafts and home decoration. 

  • Shopping
  • Art, craft and hobbies
  • Asakusa

Having cultivated relationships with boutique brands ranging from Louis Vuitton to Lanvin and Dolce & Gabbana, ribbon manufacturer Mokuba is one of Japan's lesser known world-class companies. This Kuramae showroom exhibits their beautiful wares, all of which are available for purchase by the metre. DIYers will love this stylish store, which carries a stunning variety of colourful wrapping material.

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  • Shopping
  • Asakusa

You might find yourself falling in love with the art of writing again after a visit to this specialist stationery shop. Kakimori’s range of pens, inks and letter sets are chosen on the basis of how comfortable they are to use, and customers are welcome to try out the fountain pens in store. Best of all are the made-to-order notebooks, prepared in five to ten minutes, with an infinitely customisable selection of covers, paper and bindings available.

  • Shopping
  • Lifestyle
  • Asakusa

Both a studio and a retail store, this leather shop stands out from the rest. Leather artisan Yuichiro Murakami, who used to be an architect, really puts his heart – and the traditional techniques he learned in Italy – into the products. Oozing simplicity and functionality, his pieces also make for great gifts.

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  • Shopping
  • Home decor
  • Asakusa

Much more than your average homewares shop, Koncent sits along Kuramae's Edo-dori and functions as the home base for H Concept, a company involved in design consulting for a wide range of Japanese manufacturing businesses. As is to be expected, the trendy store stands out in these surroundings, with the all-white interior decorated with cool knickknacks from all over Japan. Take your pick of items from super-soft Imabari towels to Cupmen characters for your instant noodles.

  • Shopping
  • Art, craft and hobbies
  • Asakusa

Satisfying your every yarn-, twine- and other sewing-related need in Kuramae, this venerable retailer has been open for business since 1864. In more recent years, the shop has steadily expanded its selection, which now also includes tape, ribbons, wrapping paper and more. Highly recommended for DIY types on the hunt for inspiration and/or materials.

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  • Shopping
  • Bags and luggage
  • Asakusa

If you need a stylish leather bag that's also made to last, head straight for this factory store operated by the notable Ren brand. Simply crafted from quality materials, their unisex bags are all light and durable, but we're especially fond of the super-smooth pigskin varieties. Located in Kuramae, a neighbourhood known for its plentiful supply of shops and other businesses flying the flag for 'made in Tokyo' gear, Ren is well worth a stop whenever you're in the area.

  • Shopping
  • Toys and games
  • Asakusa

Planning your own little fireworks show? Found a stone's throw from the Sumida River, where the city's best-known summer hanabi festival has been held since 1733, Matsuki deals in colourful explosives of all shapes and sizes. From kid-friendly fire-sticks to beastly rockets, your every firework need can be satisfied here, all year round. The shop also carries a range of traditional toys and decorative items, just in case you prefer something non-combustible.

Do

  • Things to do
  • Asakusabashi

Élab is a multipurpose space housing a restaurant and workshop focused on sustainability and supporting local businesses. At the front is Kitchen Lab. The restaurant sources its produce from two nearby farms, and also picks up leftovers from neighbouring businesses, including cacao husks from Dandelion Chocolate, and repurposes them.

Set behind the restaurant is the Living Lab, where kintsugi classes (repairing broken ceramics with gold) and woodworking workshops take place. Kintsugi classes are just ¥5,000 for your first visit; from then on it’s ¥3,000 per class. Got some old clothes you’d like to fix and repair? Bring them to the upcycled clothing workshop and give your preloved items a second life. You can sign up for Élab’s events and workshops here.

  • Things to do
  • Asakusa

When was the last time you penned a hand-written letter? As we now live in a fast-paced digital world, many of us have lost touch with pen and paper. At Jiyucho, you can take the time to reflect on your day and write a letter to yourself which will be sent to you a year later. 

It’s a unique concept, and the shop offers several letterset options. The Tomoshibi (¥2,970) is the most popular, where you get to choose a postcard themed on past, present or future to help prompt your letter, as well as a cup of coffee or tea. Once you’ve finished, seal your letter and hand it to the staff who will mail it to you a year later.

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  • Things to do
  • Tsukishima

Joggers love this riverside route that runs along both sides of the Sumida River from Ryogoku in the north to Kachidoki and Tsukiji in the south. The course attracts only light traffic and provides smooth surfaces, challenging staircases and captivating views. Groups of parents hanging out with their kids, as well as office workers taking the opportunity to lunch with the sea breeze in their face also frequent it, while you can even spot the occasional cyclist on the flatter sections.

  • Health and beauty
  • Spas
  • Asakusa

There are many ways to feel nostalgic about the past. In Tokyo, taking a bath at Misuji Bathhouse has been offering visitors a glimpse into yesteryear since 1951. With its antique kawara roof, the bathhouse preserves traditional architecture and interiors from the Showa period. The most remarkable feature is a luxurious garden that you can see from the changing rooms. See if you can spot the colourful carp and goldfish swimming in the pond. Together with the steaming-hot bath, the elegant views and classic Japanese ambience will sweep your breath (and fatigue) away.

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  • Attractions
  • Religious buildings and sites
  • Asakusa

Standing right in the heart of the Kuramae neighbourhood, this shrine was first established in 1694, and assumed its current name in 1947. It's said to be the birthplace of kanjin sumo, i.e. wrestling tournaments held in order to raise donations for shrines and temples, and a memorial stele for the participants still stands on the shrine grounds. Traditional-style rakugo performances also take place here on occasion.

Stay

  • Hotels
  • Asakusa

Run by the same group behind Iriya's Toco Tokyo Heritage Hostel, this friendly Kuramae hostel boasts some nifty interior design and a stylish ground-floor bar (complete with grand piano) that seems to be as popular with local residents as it is with guests. Mixed dormitories start at ¥2,600 per person, while a private twin room starts at ¥6,800 per night, with shared bathrooms, a kitchen and free wifi. There's no curfew, but the common areas all close at midnight, making it better suited to early sleepers. Nui. is a short walk from the nearest subway station, and a 15-minute stroll from Asakusa.

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