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.
Chuo-ku, Ginza 7-7-11, Sugawara Denki Bldg. 2F and 3F
Note, Omotesando Koffee has closed. See note here:
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.
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.