“Cafe-meguri”, or cafe-hopping in Japan.

  • CULTURE
  • Cafe-meguri (カフェ巡り)is Japanese for visiting several cafes in one day. Cafe-hopping, if you will. Although it may not be something you’d consider visiting Japan for, Japan’s cafes are as numerous and as diverse as they are in the West. Of course, there are the popular chains such as Starbucks, Doutor, Cafe de Crie, where each branch is identical to the ones anywhere else. But privately-owned establishments are growing ever more popular, and each one is sure to provide its own charming and eclectic atmosphere.

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    The traditional Japanese cafe is known as a kissaten (喫茶店)and typically serves coffee, tea, sandwiches, and sometimes a feature on the menu unique to that particular joint. A favorite of mine in Yokkaichi serves soft-serve vanilla ice cream with sweet red beans. You’re also likely to find a very standardized “morning set”: a hard-boiled egg, toast and a cup of coffee (or tea) for under 500 yen, served early in the morning.

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    The best part about these kissaten is that they all tend to have been established in the mid- to latter-half of the 20th century, so the decor is bound to have some nostalgic, old-fashioned appeal. Another favorite kissaten of mine is furnished with brown leather chairs, copper-topped tables, glass ashtrays and has a decorative carpet with stylized peonies adorning the walls surrounding 70s-style glass ceiling lamps.

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    And of course there are the more modern-themed establishments. Another favorite of mine in Harajuku, Tokyo, features both sweet and savory pies in addition to coffee and beer with seating outside on a beautiful wooden deck, aptly named “The Deck”.

    The one pictured above is everything in-between: a traditional, old house-turned-cafe and antique gallery, nestled at the foot of the Suzuka mountain range in Mie, five minutes from Yunoyama Onsen station (Kintetsu Line). Cafe Roman features a very simple but delicious menu. Delicious teas (their matcha tea latte is the best), coffee, and slices of homemade seasonal cake (I enjoyed some apple-cocoa cake there two weeks ago, my companion had some yuzu pie).

    Although these cafes tend to be quite small, they are scattered generously throughout any city or town, and you’re bound to stumble upon one. Their hours vary, though, so don’t go too early in the morning or too late at night. If the timing is right, however, you can drop inside and find a delightful escape.

    As I once read on a teahouse scroll, “Inside a pot of tea, time slows down.”