A hop, skip, and a long plane ride to go across the pond to visit Japan is a trip itself. And no matter how many times I’ve done it, I usually find myself near empty when it comes to energy levels at certain points of the day while my body tries to adjust to the time difference. Luckily, I’ve found a few favorite coffee shops sprinkled throughout Tokyo that let me recharge and relax in the meticulously and minimalistically charming café decor. It’s a great way to catch a breath and a second wind while people-watching—a must in this city full of unique locals! Plus, these coffee shops are credit card friendly. So you can keep those yen bills in your wallet for those spots that only take cash.
Sidewalk Stand in Nakameguro
Photo Credit: @SidewalkStand
A small chain throughout the city, this coffee house serves coffee in addition to local brews and snacks (sandwiches and pastries). The location in Nakameguro is right off the Meguro River promenade, a shaded relaxing walk, lined by charming boutique shops and bistros along the way. It may look tight and cozy upon stepping in, but there’s additional seating upstairs with wide windows that let you look down at the tree-lined river walk.
Higuma Doughnuts and Coffee Wrights
Photo Credit: @Higuma_Doughnuts
So, I’m almost certain that this place is primarily a doughnut house that also serves coffee on behalf of a partnering brand. Whether you’re into doughnuts or not (raising my hand here), the space alone is worth the visit. An open concept with high windows will have you pulling out your phone and posting to Instagram faster than they can serve you your freshly made doughnut. Oh, yeah. They fry their own doughnuts right then and there! The cool thing is that when the weather is nice, they’ll open the floor to ceiling windows facing the sidewalk! There’s a nice long bench-like seating area where you can enjoy being inside and outside at the same time on those enjoyable days.
Starbucks Reserve in Nakameguro
Photo Credit: Time Out
Here it is, y’all. The largest Starbucks to ever grace the face of the earth—I’m serious! This four-story Starbucks Reserve opened up back in March of 2019, just in time for sakura season. Like I said earlier, the Meguro River walk is tree-lined, but I failed to mention early on that they’re actually sakura trees! So just imagine how popular this spot must have been when it opened. You have to first get a ticket (free) from the ticketing area next door that lets you know when your “entry” time is to the Starbucks. When they first opened, I heard friends of friends waiting at least 2 hours to get in. Months later as I write this, I can say that the crowds have died down, especially if you go during the middle of the week. My friend and I went on a Wednesday afternoon and only had to wait 30 minutes, during which you can walk around the area and just come back when your time nears.
Blue Bottle in Aoyama
Photo Credit: Airbnb
Another chain, but this time it’s from the Bay Area! If I’m not mistaken, Japan is the first international market that this former start-up and now-Nestlé owned coffee shop has built upon. And the craze for it is real. Tucked away on a quiet street right off the busier Omotesando, this particular Blue Bottle location has any vibe that you may be looking for: a long table with high chairs, small tables in the back that’s great for small groups, and, my personal favorite, a balcony that overlooks a quiet garden and the sidewalk below. The balcony has a handful of tables and standing areas, and it’s shaded (whew) with some extra help from nearby trees. They serve some pretty delicious iced coffees (regular and a New Orleans-style that’s a bit sweeter) and Belgian waffles to die for.
Little Nap in Harajuku (near Yoyogi Park)
Photo Credit: @journeysofagourmand
If you’re walking around Harajuku or Yoyogi Park, you’ve got to stop by here to get a cup of coffee! Hidden in an area behind a modest playground, this tiny café packs a big punch when it comes to serving coffee. A friend and I had gone jogging around Yoyogi Park, literally one minute away walking, on a fairly warm day. Afterward, our palettes were searching for something cool and refreshing to unwind to. We both ordered the iced latte, and it 100% hit the spot (plus a couple glasses of water ‘cause you gotta stay hydrated, especially after a pre-coffee workout like that!)