Koganei Kakigori Cafe Cula

Cafe Cula Kakigori

Cafe Cula Kakigori

Tokyo has just gone through the longest heat wave on history, eight days of temperatures over 35 degrees. One way to cool down in Japanese summers is with shaved ice, kakigōri. Look for the simple kanji sign 氷, usually written in a bright red kanji on a square blue and white flag.

We live out on the Chūo line and did not have the energy to head into the city. Cafe Cula in Koganei uses tennen (natural) ice. It is very delicate and melts quickly so you have to dig in. The sweet sauces are all made from scratch. I went with passionfruit and the tart and aromatic fruit was just what I needed. I am spoiled to have had such nice ice and am afraid others will be disappointing after this one.

Cafe Cula only has a handful of seats inside and the rest of the seating is outdoors under shade. It is open from 2-5 p.m. from mid-July to the end of August.

Cafe Cula

Koganei-shi, Nukui Minami-cho 1-25-4 小金井市貫井南町1-25-4



Some other shops for kakigori in the city:



Ginza Rose Bakery

Salad Lunch

Salad Lunch

I am a big fan of Rose Bakery. An English bakery that first opened in Paris and is now dotting Tokyo. This casual cafe has a large delicatessen-style refrigerator in each shop that showcases the colorful salads and baked goods. While the cakes and sweets are tempting, I am always come here for the salads.

This Plate of Vegetables is about 1,550 JPY at the Ginza shop and was 100% vegetarian. Six vegetable dishes served with a side of rustic sourdough bread. The Kichijoji branch, which I go to more often, sometimes includes some chicken or anchovies in the Salad Lunch, so be sure to let them know if you prefer all vegetables as I believe they could accommodate your request.

The Kichijoji branch is filled with suburban shoppers and stay-at-home moms, sometimes with their kids in tow. The Ginza shop which is in the fashionable Dover Street Market, was just the opposite. Hip and stylishly dressed diners and shoppers with their shopping bags from high-end designers. I definitely feel more at ease at the Kichijoji shop, which also opens at 8 a.m., while the Ginza branch opens at 11 a.m.

Many times our clients tell us that they are craving vegetables. This is a great spot to get your fill.

Rose Bakery Ginza

Chuo-ku, Ginza 6-9-5, Ginza Komatsu West Wing 7F



Best Cafe for Train Fans – N3331



Did you know that in the heart of Tokyo there is a cafe that sits on the train tracks? It is actually located in between the inbound and outbound lines of the Chuo line. The station is just between Ochanomizu and Kanda. It is also a short walk from Akihabara station. Here is the view from the window. We are just a few feet from the trains whizzing by.

Cafe is on the train tracks

Cafe on the train tracks

Here is the view from our seat looking as two Chuo trains pass us.

The cafe opens at 11 a.m. We came early and were the first in line, but by about 10:45 a.m. there were about a dozen waiting to get in on a weekend.

We ordered a sandwich and a curry. Both were terrible. The lettuce on the sandwich was so wilty, it surely was made the day before. The 7-11 sandwiches have fresher lettuce. As for the curry, I’ve had better curry from a pack. Bummer as the cafe itself is so sweet. When we go back I am just going to have something to drink. We did order some ice cream which was good. But, don’t come for the food. Sad as this is such a great dining city. It is a shock to come across food so awful. Come for the view and the experience.

Outdoor seating at N3331

Outdoor seating at N3331

There is indoor and outdoor seating. The outdoor seating has the best views of the trains coming and going. Note that there is NOT a roof over you, so don’t go when it is raining. And, note that it is very hot out there under the sun. We will go back, but I will wait until autumn. You do hear the trains as they pass by.

Ichiro Whiky

Ichiro Whiky

If you like whisky, they have a great selection of Ichiro whisky. I should have ordered a glass after the shock of the food.

The station is the old Manseibashi station. Underneath the tracks there are several great little shops and restaurants. Get your food down here. The cafe is only good for experiencing the train. But, if you are a train fan, or with kids, it is pretty awesome to be on the tracks with trains passing by just in front of you.

There is a part of the cafe that is covered and air-conditioned, but it opens onto the open-air cafe so is not too cool. I will definitely be back, but most likely after the weather cools down.




Tokyo-to, Chiyoda-ku, Kanda Sudacho 1-25-4


A good access map:


Aoyama Blue Bottle Coffee

Aoyama Blue Bottle Coffee

Aoyama Blue Bottle Coffee

Blue Bottle has arrived to Tokyo. The first shop, in Kiyosumi, is on the other side of the city for me. So, even though I live in Tokyo it is about an hour from where I live. Blue Bottle’s second shop has opened in Aoyama.

It’s a busy shop and not the best place to do writing or editing. Quite noisy in fact. I couldn’t hear the staff call out my name to get my coffee. Eventually seats opened up on the deck, where it was quiet and I could get some work done. There is a buzz in the restaurant. It seems that many of the customers, like myself, are first timers. Taking it all in, looking around, checking things out, lots of questions for the staff.

The staff helped me to select a Papau New Guinea single origin. She said it was “like peach”. The coffee, served in a glass mug, was fruity.

Blue Bottle is getting a lot of press in the media, which explains the big crowds. Not sure, but I guess this will die down at some point.

The Aoyama location is just off the main street where there are many brands like Issey Miyake and Prada. The shop is up the stairs on the second floor of a building that looks like it was an old apartment building. Don’t know why, but the shop doesn’t open up until 10 a.m. Frustrating for those of us who prefer to have coffee earlier in the day, but many coffee shops in Tokyo don’t open until 10 or even 11 a.m.


Blue Bottle Aoyama

Minato-ku, Minami-Aoyama 3-13-14



Kichijoji Light Up Coffee

Aihara-san of Light Up Coffee

Aihara-san of Light Up Coffee

At my local coffee shop, Cribe, in Kokubunji, I often meet coffee shop owners. The other day I met a very young Aihara-san whose shop, Light Up Coffee, is in Kichijoji. Light Up was on my my radar thanks to recommendations from Twitter friends. Arigato, Twitter!

Light Up Coffee is about a seven-minute walk from Kichijoji Station’s North Exit. Take a left out of the North Exit and walk straight. The street is filled with fun shops selling trinkets, antiques, clothes, and things you don’t need, but desire as they are “kawaii” (cute). Across the street is a park and this morning it is filled with nursery school kids laughing and crying. This is a residential neighborhood this far from the station.

Light Up Interior

Light Up Interior

From the back of the shop is the hum of the small coffee roaster. I walk to the back and find Aihara-san tending to the beans. He helps me choose from the day’s coffee and recommends Kenya Kariru. It has a soft acidity and is reminiscent of a strong-brewed tea. There are several Japanese magazines to peruse and even some English coffee books, including Blue Bottle’s gorgeous book.

The furnishings are simple. Two skinny wood counters with skinny chairs. There is a cool breeze as there is a back door that is opened.

Light Up Exterior

Light Up Exterior

Aihara-san brings me a second cup, also from Kenya, but a new bean called Tegu. He said the Kenya bean was changing. This was fruitier and hand hints of tomatoes. Different from the first. At Light Up one of the menu options is a flight of coffee, a great chance to taste different coffee next to each other.

Light Up Coffee is open seven days a week. On Tuesdays he has shorter hours.

Light Up Coffee

Musashino-shi, Kichijoji Honcho 4-13-15



Wednesday – Monday 9:00 a.m. – 8:00 p.m.

Tuesdays 12 noon – 5 p.m.

Kokubunji Cribe Coffee

Yoshida-san of Cribe

Yoshida-san of Cribe

Coffee is hot, hot, hot in Tokyo. San Francisco’s Blue Bottle recently opened in Kiyosumi Shirakawa and lines have been very long. Throughout the city it is becoming easier to find a great cup of coffee. I am thrilled as my own ‘hood, Kokubunji, has its first third-wave coffee shop, Cribe. The owner, Yoshida-san is super friendly and the coffee is the best I can find on this part of the Chuo line.

Cribe Interior

Cribe Interior

Cribe opens at 7:30 a.m. and is open until 9:00 p.m. There is beer for late night visitors. The shop is small and has some benches along the wall and a small seating area in the back of the shop. Yoshida-san is serving sandwiches and doughnuts from a local shop.

Cribe Exterior

Cribe Exterior

I asked him how he picked Kokubunji to open a coffee shop and he said that he went to university in the area. I am thrilled.



This is an original coffee drink called Betty. It is a generous pour of cold milk topped with espresso. Can you see Yoshida-san’s reflection on the espresso machine? Great smile. And his Betty puts a smile on my face. Cribe Coffee – worth the trip.


Kokubunji-shi, Honcho 3-5-5



Open 7 days a week from 7:30 a.m. to 9:00 p.m.

Takashimaya Patissieria Sweets Counter

Shinjuku Takashimaya

Takashimaya Patissieria

If you have a sweet tooth be sure to visit Shinjuku Takashimaya’s Patissieria in the depachika. The concept is brilliant, over a hundred signature sweets from patisseries throughout Tokyo all displayed together. Carefully peruse the sweets and upon selecting one, or two if you like, take a seat at the counter and order a coffee and enjoy.

Shinjuku Takashimaya

Takashimaya Patissieria

Even on days when I don’t have time to sit down, I do try and glance through the display case as the offerings are constantly changing. As can be expected, aside from the classics, many are influenced by the seasonal ingredients.

Takashimaya Patissieria Mont Blanc

Takashimaya Patissieria

My view from the counter with a Mont Blanc. Shinjuku Takashimaya is located just outside of Shinjuku JR Station. Take the Shin-Minami-Guchi, New South Exit, take a left and you will walk into Takashimaya in one minute. Follow the escalators down to the basement.

Takashimaya Patissieria

Shibuya-ku, Sendagaya 5-24-2, Shinjuku Takashimaya

Japanese Kissaten – Ginza Tsubakiya


Some twenty years ago friends brought me to this coffee shop in Ginza. It was my first time in one of these classic kissaten 喫茶店 (coffee shop). I had no idea that such places existed. It felt as if we had stepped back in time. The coffee was (and still is) expensive, but one could order exquisite cakes or sandwiches, and sit there for as long as we wanted. Tsubakiya is an old-school kissaten in the heart of Ginza, perfect for some quiet solo time or for meeting friends.

Recently a friend was visiting from overseas and we decided to meet for coffee. Of course there are great spots in the city, like Omotesando Koffee or Turret Coffee, but not all are ideal for lingering over conversation. So I returned to Tsubakiya, and nothing seems to have changed.

Tsubakiya sits on the corner, just a block off of the main Chuo Dori. The coffee shop is on the 2nd and 3rd floors of the building. The 3rd floor is non-smoking, which is good to know as some of these older shops can be filled with smokers. There is a stairwell that leads up to the shop from the street level. The dark interior is a nod to the early 20th century Taisho era (1912-1926). Waitresses are in black dresses with white aprons and completed with a frilly white cap. A cup of coffee starts at 1,000 JPY, and I believe refills are for about 300 JPY. The coffee is made with a siphon and the cup I had was very smooth. A great spot if you are looking for a quiet cup of coffee in Ginza. It opens at 10 a.m., another reason why we chose this spot as other coffee shops don’t open until 11 a.m.

Tsubakiya is part of Towa Foods and has a few shops throughout the city.

Ginza Tsubakiya

Chuo-ku, Ginza 7-7-11, Sugawara Denki Bldg. 2F and 3F


Monzennakacho Monz Cafe


Monzennakacho is a very cool neighborhood that is close to the heart of Tokyo. Accessible via the Tozai or Oedo subway lines. Part of the area abuts the Sumidagawa River and there is a river that runs through it that offers boat rides under the cherry blossoms in spring.  I lived here for a few years and love this area very much. There are a few temples in the area including the Tomioka Hachimangu and Fukagawa Fudosan, as well as a big festival every three years in the summer. My favorite pickle restaurant in Tokyo, Kintame, has a shop just in front of the Fukagawa Fudosan.

A new addition to the area is Monz Cafe, hip cafe on the old street that leads from the Tozai station exit to the Fukagawa Fudosan temple. On this spring day the windows and doors are wide open. Two young girls are behind the counter. Inside is tight seating for 18. There is a small glass case with some baked goods like pound and chiffon cakes. The limited food menu includes panini and Eggs Benedict. My “flat white” is like a cappuccino, but with more milk. The coffee is rich, but not too bitter or dark. The cafe has a light and refreshing feel to it. A great spot to grab coffee with a friend, or perhaps a coffee after a pickle lunch at Kintame.

I asked one of the girls behind the counter what this was prior and she said it used to be an amazaké shop. She pointed to the space above the door and they have retained the old sign. A small gesture, but one that is perfect for this neighborhood, which still retains the feel of shitamachi, the heart of old Tokyo.


Monz Cafe

Koto-ku, Tomioka 1-14-5


Monday – Friday 8:00-19:00

Weekends and holidays 9:00-18:00

One minute from Tozai exit #1.

Omotesando Koffee


Omotesando Koffee, while known for its good coffee, it is perhaps more famous for its “ko-hi- kashi” or coffee sweet. Kunitomo-san at the shop said it is a baked purin, which is like a creme custard, but that flour is added to the mixture. It has a crispy crust and is soft and eggy inside. Dangerous if you come hungry as one could easily go through several of these.

The quality of the coffee is excellent here. My girlfriend’s latte had a nice proportion of milk to espresso. I indulged and got a Bailey’s espresso. The aroma of the Baileys reminded the both of us of our days at Midwestern liberal arts colleges. Amazing how just smelling the Baileys brought back memories from 25 years ago. Next time I will get the Baileys with some milk.

The shop card are coffee filters that are also used for serving the ko-hi- kashi. Brilliant. I teased him asking if I could recycle these at home as coffee filters and he said we could.


Here is the exterior of the shop. It is on the first floor of a residential home, which could explain why the shop does not open until 10 a.m. We got there a bit early and it was fun to watch the rituals of preparing the small garden in front of the shop before opening the gate.

The handsome Kunitomo-san in a light blue lab coat is very friendly. We spoke only in Japanese but on our way out some Americans came in and we could hear him speaking English. It was raining this morning so we stood inside and had our coffee tachi-nomi style. If the weather is good there are two small benches in the narrow garden in front of the shop. But, this is not a place you want to linger for long at.

Omotesando Koffee

Shibuya-ku, Jingumae 4-15-3


10:00 – 19:00 daily

* Omotesando Koffee is right behind Maisen tonkatsu. The perfect spot for a coffee after tonkatsu.