From venerable roots in the Ottoman Empire to the modern matcha latte, cafe culture is a phenomena found across the globe. Japan has naturally made the concept its own, with a few unique additions here and there. While Japan has more than its fair share of expert barristas and finely brewed espressos, join us as we take a look at Japan’s top 5 pop-culture cafes!
5. Gundam Cafe
Japan loves tie-ins in a way that Western anime fans can only dream of. While there are lots of different pop-up anime themed cafes in Japan and Asia, the Gundam Cafe in all its guises may be one of the longest running. Will you go for a SEED ‘Chosen Future’ (curry rice)? Or a Wing ‘Lost Princess’ (mango and calpis alcohol free cocktail)? Gundam Cafe serves the normal range of Japanese cafe and family restaurant food, with items like curry rice, napolitan spaghetti and cakes being the most common. However, the presentation is something else. For example, while it may be lip smacking, we’re not sure exactly how that hayashi rice is evocative of Kira from Gundam SEED. Officially the poached egg represents torii, his in show mechanical bird, and the cheese is for Kira’s niceness… well, either way it looks delicious!
4. Robot Restuarant
Ok, ok, we said cafes, but this restaurant is amazing enough that we don’t care! It’s our list and we’ll include amazingly over the top and probably limitlessly expensive to run restaurants if we want! This is what the Terminator was warning us about! Who would have thought skynet would be so…sparkly? Sadly, the robot restaurant doesn’t feature robot dinners too, unlike some Japanese restaurants which have vending machines from which you purchase your meal ticket before handing your order to the staff. Robot Restaurant has a much more bento style thing going on. I guess even in the robot future everyone loves bento!
3. Vampire Cafe
Definitely no sparkly vampires here! Tokyo’s Vampire Cafe is old school. Its interior should be familiar to all fans of gothic literature, metal bands or visual kei. There are various set available for people planning parties with friends or celebrating birthdays. Our favourite though, is the anniversary plan which features a lovely coffin shaped dessert! No better way to say “Thank you darling, for marrying me!” The Europe inspired food featured at the Vampire Cafe is nothing to be sniffed at, with dishes befitting such an atmospheric location. Garlic lovers, however, should probably look elsewhere. Vwah, vwah, vwah!
2. Maid Cafe
You know when you get home and your flatmate stomps up to you and shouts “Who left all the plates in the sink? I’m not your maid!” and you sigh and you think, if only there was some fairy godmother out there who would cook you a delicious meal, make a fuss over you and then do all the washing up while dressed incredibly impractically. Well, for a specific service charge and a bit of a queue the amazing world of the maid cafe is waiting for you! Maid cafe must try: having something cute written on your omurice with squirty ketchup. No, we’re serious. Once again maid cafes also have food that would be equally at home in a family restaurant, with old favourites like omurice and hot cake pancakes being popular choices. This is probably because the ways in which you can make a ham sandwich, for example, cute or decorate it are severely limited. And a mentioned above a maid cafe lunch without some ‘moe~~’ is no made cafe lunch at all!
1. Cat Cafe
Do you long to have a cat of your very own? Perhaps you just want to pet cats without all the 5 a.m. wake ups and kitty DIY curtain redecoration? But what if you could do all of that and eat cake at the same time? Enter the cat cafe! The first cat cafe was established in Taiwan, but it didn’t take long for Japan’s legion of cat fans to embrace the concept and open their own all across Japan. Although a cat cafe has previously already made its way to Vienna, cat cafe fans in the U.K. will be glad to know even London has its very own cat cafe now!
Unlike its British pal, Japanese cat cafes tend to be light on the food and drink. The cats are the stars after all and as pet owners we appreciate the lightening speed at which an unattended snack can vanish! You don’t have to travel to Japan to enjoy Japanese cafe culture though! For those on a budget we suggest getting out your favourite cosplay outfit or kimono, digging into a big box of Pocky, Meltykiss or Kitkats with a bottle of ramune and cracking open a copy of Gothic Lolita Bible!