After filling up our stomachs with Tonkotsu Ramen at Kyushu Jangara, we thought we’d burn the fats by walking around. I’m not even sure if that actually works, but it was nice to walk around Tokyo anyway, so we might as well try!
We strolled around Omotesando, which is the pedestrian road leading to the Meiji Shrine. Located in Harajuku, Omotesando is a lovely street lined with lush zelkova serrata trees and high-end brand boutiques including Bvlgari, Celine, Dior, Fendi, LaForet, and Louis Vuitton, to name just a few. It is dubbed as “The Champs-Élysées of Tokyo” What was I even doing in a street with luxury brands I couldn’t even afford?! Well, when you’re in Omotesando, you’ll get to savor the crisp air and the prettiness of the trees, and walk around the immaculate streets. That alone is a luxurious experience. Best of all, it’s free!
Takashi, the same Filipino-Japanese friend who took us to Kyushu Jangara, said that he wanted to take us to this nifty coffee place in the Omotesando community called “Omotesando Koffee.” He said that that though this coffee shop is small and sequestered, it’s one of the most talked about coffee shops in Tokyo. He gave us a heads up though: this coffee shop was going to be a little hard to find. And he wasn’t kidding. Even for someone who lives in Tokyo, Takashi still had a hard time locating the place and we got lost a few times along the way. We didn’t mind, though. I like getting lost, especially in a pleasant place such as Japan. Plus, while walking around the Omotesando neighborhood, we lighted upon another neat coffee shop, Uchu Café (Space Café) which is built inside a camper van!
Uchu Café (Space Café)
In the middle of the posh Omotesando neighborhood, this cool trailer parked in a lot definitely stands out — even if you don’t know what it is at first. Then, when you realize that it’s actually a coffee shop — no, a space-themed coffee shop! — its coolness factor skyrockets even further!
Actually, we did not know that it was a space-themed coffee shop. Had Mike and I known, we would have explored it more, since we are both interested in space-related things. Since we didn’t get to go inside, here’s a photo of what it really looks like:
This microcosmic space café looks like a pocket-sized planetarium. It can probably seat less than 10 geeks who will most likely want to fiddle with the space memorabilia, the telescope, or the disco light resembling Saturn, while having a cup of “Space Coffee” or a plate of “Gagarin Toast,” named after Yuri Gagarin, the Russian Soviet pilot and cosmonaut who was the first human to journey into outer space.¹
At night, this coffee shop is even more out-of-this-world! The area is adorned with neon lights and telescopes (real ones!) that guests use for stargazing. They also hold regular space talks and festivals, complete with quiz competitions and star map-drawing classes.² I’m so sad that I only found out about these things after I visited the place! I hope that by reading this blog post, I was at least able to help you discover this fantastic coffee shop so that you can visit it if you ever find yourself in Omotesando.
Uchu Café (Space Café)
Address: 4 Chome-13 Jingūmae, Shibuya-ku, Tōkyō-to 150-0001, Japan (view map)
Phone: 03 6432 9790
Opening Hours: 11:00 AM – 10:00 PM (Closed on Tuesdays)
After so many (wrong) turns, we finally found Omotesando Koffee! I guess Takashi wasn’t kidding — this hidden gem in Tokyo is hidden, alright! We arrived at a small brown traditional Japanese house which was abounding in foliage, and my first thought was, “This is a coffee shop?!”
When we stepped inside Omotesando, I got my answer: yes, this is a coffee shop, and it’s probably one of the most unique and quaint coffee shops I have ever been to. This clandestine café may be tiny, but it sure has a quiet charm. It is by far the simplest, most unornamented coffee shop I have ever seen, and yet every corner and every detail looked like a piece of art.
The cube design is clear-cut in every component of the coffee house, including the logo, the interiors, the font for the menu, and the snacks. Even the letter “O” in “Koffee” was replaced with a cube. Peek inside the “house” and you will notice that it looks like a box. The reason for this is that Omotesando Koffee was intended to be a pop-up kiosk. Like a box, it can be assembled and disassembled, then easily moved from one place to another, so if the owner decides to bring Omotesando Koffee elsewhere, he can easily do so.
Meet Eiichi Kunitomo, the owner of the famous Omotesando Koffee. Dressed in a lab coat, Mr. Kunitomo works all by himself with his La Cimbali coffee machine within a two-by-four cube, and does so very happily. He is all smiles, all the time. He smiles when greeting customers, smiles while making coffee, and smiles even when you couldn’t make up your mind about which coffee to order. His genuine friendliness adds to the overall warmth of the place.
Even the menu of Omotesando Koffee is stripped down. Choose from “Hot Koffee,” “Iced Koffee,” and a few bites. Nothing more, nothing less. (And yes, “coffee” is spelled with a K, probably because the owner’s last name starts with a K as well!)
Most coffee shops nowadays are always teeming with people, and sometimes, with all the chatter and the noise, plus the distractions brought about by laptops and mobile phones, it’s hard to just relax and be quiet with your thoughts. But the ambiance at Omotesando Koffee (plus the absence of any electrical sockets to plug electronic devices) is so serene, that the only energy you’ll really feel is a Zen-like energy. The starkness of the tatami house, the rustic charisma of the garden, and the stillness of the neighborhood will calm your nerves and make you feel like a good cup of coffee and some quiet time are all you really need to make you happy.
Though I am not a big coffee drinker and I was still stuffed from lunch, I couldn’t leave Omotesando Koffee without getting myself a cup of coffee. After all, I travelled this far. And who knows when (or IF) I will ever get a chance to experience their coffee again? Omotesando Koffee was only meant to be a temporary shop, with a lease contract of only 12 months long. But because it gained such a huge following, the lease term has been extended, and it is there to stay… for now. I was fortunate enough to have had the chance to be there, and because this was a rare opportunity, I asked Mr. Kunitomo to prepare one iced Omotesando Koffee for me.
If you have enough time to spare to explore the side streets of Omotesando, make a quick stop at Omotesando Koffee. Whether you’re a coffee lover or not, just seeing this unconventional coffee haven for yourself is a nice experience. It’s a nostalgically beautiful place to just relax. And because this coffee shop is so unpretentious, being here is also a great reminder that the you don’t need pageantry and extravagance to be impressive, because true beauty can be found in simplicity.
Address: 4-15-3 Jingu-mae, Shibuya-ku, Tokyo 150-0001 Japan (〒150-0001 東京都渋谷区神宮前4-15-3)
Opening Hours: 10:00 AM – 7:00 PM (Please note that individual outlets maybe closed on certain dates. Please contact each outlet for details)
Directions: View map
Photos by me and Mike Smith / Miguel Lazatin