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Exploring the Delicious, Nostalgic World of Japanese Cafes ‘Kissaten’

 

Depending on who you ask, Japan can be the land of anime, tea, beauty, or strange wonders. What we say next might not be obvious, but think about it and you’ll see it’s true- Japan is the land of cafes.

 

You’ve probably heard of the cafes featuring pop-culture characters, from Gundam and Final Fantasy to Rilakkuma or Hello Kitty. Then there’s the cat, dog, owl, hedgehog cafes where you can interact with (mostly) cuddly creatures while you sip on a cup of tea. For the ones into subculture, there are the maid and butler cafes; or cafes you can go to just to read books and comics. Basically if you can think it, it probably exists somewhere in Japan.

 

Even looking at basic no-frills cafes to get your cuppa joe, the sheer number of cafe chains in major cities easily rivals that of the convenience stores- a Starbucks is never more than five minutes away.

The Kissaten

 

With all these new and exciting concepts that change how we define cafes, you might be surprised to find that there is actually a separate category of traditional Japanese cafes that are alive and kicking. These cafes are what locals call a ‘Kissaten’.

 

 

Translated literally, a ‘Kissaten’ means “tea-drinking shop”, though you’ll find beverages like hand-drip coffee and juices and melon soda floats too. Here we refer to them as traditional Japanese cafes, but the majority of their aspects are actually modelled after 20th century European cafes. These shops proved to be especially popular in the 1920s, and possibly kickstarted the nation’s affinity towards cafes.

 

To this day, they all still retain a very retro feel. When visiting one, you’ll see a old sign outside that looks like it hasn’t been changed in decades, and inside is warm, cozy decor with carpeted or scuffed wooden floors and dated furniture. In other words, it’s the kind of place you might expect intellectuals, artists, and poets to gather, sharing ideas over cups of coffee and smoking cigarettes.

 

 

Nowadays, kissaten are frequented by older city-dwellers who visit for a hit of nostalgia and great coffee, though it still remains a popular place for breakfast too. It also wouldn’t be surprising to find Japanese salarymen working remotely at one of the tables, or sitting in a group discussing business in the afternoon. The kissaten might draw you in with its welcoming atmosphere and delicious food, but you may find yourself staying just to people-watch too.

Food at the Kissaten

 

Many visits to the kissaten often involve food, and the menu will include staples such as pancakes, toast, spaghetti, and parfaits - familiar western foods with a Japanese twist.

 

  

 

Tea is poured out of ornate teapots, the teacups dainty and elegant. To pair with your favourite beverage, choose from a variety of freshly baked cakes, like a rich chocolate Opera, or perhaps a light and creamy mille crepe.

 

 

We had all these elements in mind when we designed our Cafe collection, just a look is enough to give you a sense of calm and coziness. Adding to the traditional kissaten experience, we brought our own little twist- teacups overflowing with French maracons for some extra cuteness. This way, you can bring the kissaten with you, and show your love for tea and sweets wherever you go.

 

The kissaten is a combination of Japanese and Western elements that mesh surprisingly well together, like milk and coffee, or ice cream and melon soda. In an age where we’re often seeking exciting new experiences, the kissaten show us that nostalgia can be equally sweet. So if you’re ever in Japan, keep an eye out for one of these, we’re sure you’ll enjoy the experience.

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