Lies in the heart of Japan is its capital city, Tokyo, where tons of unusual places, most of which are already recognized as major tourist attractions reside. Tokyo, as one of the richest cities in the world, is not only famous for its bright and dazzling night lights, sophisticated railways, high-tech public equipment and facilities, eye-catching street fashionistas, mesmerizing shopping districts, and mouth-watering food, but also for its growing number of unusual cafes and restaurants that could offer you more than what you could expect. These kind of cafes have continuously caught the attention of majority of Japan's tourist patrons and newcomers alike. Listed are 10 of the themed cafes in Tokyo which not only serve the usual food and drinks, but will definitely give you a unique experience you will remember during your visit to Japan.
1. Maid Cafe
Be served like a master by cute Japanese girls while you eat!
Photo from thaich.net
One of the points Japan is most famous for is probably the culture of inclination to anything which denotes "cuteness". From Hello Kitty coin purses, fans, mugs, towels, mirrors, up to Pokemon and anime printed trains and cars... With this kind of environment, who would not think of the possibility of having a maid cafe where all your waitresses are cute and pretty girls dressed up in lovely maid outfits. The idea is for the waitresses (maids) to act as servants for their masters, or the cafe patrons. Both the waitresses and the customers take part in this mini role-playing game where the cafe visitors play the role of house masters arriving back to their spacious mansion.
One of Tokyo's most famous maid cafes is the "Home Cafe". The Home Cafe features over 180 overly cute and friendly maids dressed in Victorian-style maid costumes. Upon entrance to the cafe, these cheerful maids will greet you with a warm "Okaerinasaimase, goshujinsama!" which means "Welcome back home, master!". These maids are not only good in appearance, but are also excellent in communicating with their customers, which makes it a pampering place similar to a real home. Maids write down words of their customers' requests usually with catsup for omuraisu (omelette rice), and syrup for pastries and other desserts.
Other famous maid cafes include CURE MAID CAFE, Hiyoko-ya, Maid in Angel's Cafe, and Wonder Parlor.
Home Cafe: http://www.cafe-athome.com/
CURE MAID CAFE: http://www.curemaid.jp/
Maid in Angel's Cafe: http://akibaculture.tripod.com/cafes/06_MIACafe.html (English)
Wonder Parlor: http://wonder-parlour.com/index.html
2. Cat Cafe
Rent and play with cats.
Photo from element_photography @ Flickr
Cat cafes, also popularly known as "neko" cafes, are basically themed-cafes wherein you can stay and literally "rent" domestic cats to play with for a certain amount of time. Cats are famous for being cute and cuddly, thus, a stress-reliever for people who periodically want to stay away from work. Depending on the cafe, small cat cafes may have 2-3 cats in their care, while bigger cat cafes have around 10 or more.
In cat cafes, you can play with the cats, caress their soft fur for as much as you like, and feed them some snacks. Most cat cafes allow picture taking, but without the flash for it might impose threats to a cat's health. However, most cat cafes do not allow their customers to bring in their own pet cats for certain reasons.
Top cat cafe rankings in Tokyo include Cat Cafe Calico, Neko Cafe: Cat Cafe Neko-no-Te, Cateriam, Asakusa Nekoen, Cat Cafe RIEN, and NekoMaru Cafe.
Cat Cafe Calico Official Web: http://www.catcafe.jp/
Cat Cafe Calico: http://wandertokyo.com/cat-cafe-calico/ (English)
Cat Cafe Neko-no-Te: http://www.nekonote.org/
Asakusa Nekoen: http://asakusanekoen.com/index_english.html (English)
Cat Cafe RIEN: http://www.rien222.com/
NekoMaru Cafe: http://www.nekomarucafe.com/
3. N3331 Cafe
A cafe in the middle of two railways.
Photo from N3331.com
N3331 Cafe is one of Tokyo's most unique cafes--architecture wise. It is recognized as the world's closest cafe to a train station because it is situated right in the middle of two train railways itself. In between the Kanda and Ochanomizu stations, which are part of the present-day Chuo line, used to be the old Manseibashi platform. At present, it is now known as the N3331 Cafe wherein people are given another chance to gather in a cozy spot right between the tracks to drink some coffee, or have some light snacks. The cafe's menu items are limited, but the uniqueness of the cafe's architecture will surely bring railway enthusiasts, and local and foreign tourists to awe. The cafe is also active during nighttime and serves alcoholic beverages to customers.
4. GUNDAM Cafe
A paradise for GUNDAM fans!
Photo from Tokyo Otaku Mode
Aimed primarily at fans of the GUNDAM series and merchandise comes yet again one of Japan's unique themed-cafes: GUNDAM Cafe. This popular cafe in Tokyo's anime capital, Akihabara, features an interesting food and drinks menu which are based on different key points and places mentioned in the GUNDAM series. Some of which include the Jaburo Coffee, Char-Zaku Curry, Gunpla-yaki, and many more.
The cafe also comes with a mini souvenir shop where you can buy official GUNDAM items and gifts such as keychains, GUNDAM coffee face mugs, sweets, coasters, and more. The ambience of the cafe will also delight not only the devoted GUNDAM fans, but repeater and first-time Japan tourists alike with its futuristic architecture design and accents. Not to mention the staff are also dressed up in costumes similar to some of the female characters in the series.
5. Planetarium STARRY Cafe
Dine inside a planetarium.
Photo by mesponsler @ Flickr
The Planetarium STARRY Cafe, as the name suggests, is basically a cafe with a built-in planetarium which you could experience and enjoy while eating your preferred meal and drinks. Situated near the Haneda Airport in Haneda, Tokyo, this cafe restaurant is famous as it is a few of its kind, not to mention the relaxing atmosphere inside as you dine. The interior is dimly lit with reddish-orange lamp lights to support the 360 degrees projection of the figures on the ceiling. There is also a variety to the range of films projected from short animations, informative videos about the universe and the stars, Japanese movies, and more. It is a recommended place if you want to have couple dates, or if you simply just want to enjoy a different restaurant experience.
6. Calbee Plus Cafe
Eat your favorite Calbee chips fresh from the fryer.
Photo from thatfoodcray.com
Whether you are a repeater tourist to Japan, a Japan enthusiast, or even a mere anime and Japanese pop culture fan, you probably already have heard of the brand "Calbee". Calbee is one of Japan's largest and most famous snack makers, and it just built its own official cafe within the district of Harajuku in Tokyo in 2011. Calbee Plus Cafe, with its modern pop art inspired interior, offers the freshest potato chips in town. And by "fresh," I meant fresh from the fryer itself.
Calbee Plus Cafe serves a variety of their brand's chips which come in mouthwatering flavors such as Maple Butter, Salted Butter, Royce Chocolate, Sour Cream, etc. You also have a choice of thin-cut or thick-cut potato chips. The best point of this cafe is that you can eat fresh potato chips while they are still hot. Eating potato chips hot and fresh gives a very different feeling of satisfaction, I believe.
Calbee Plus Cafe also has branches in Kyoto and Hokkaido.
7. Rakugo Cafe
Experience traditional Japan through live performances.
Photo by shunputei_shocho from Livedoor
Approximately 30-seconds if traveled by foot from the Jinbouchou crossing, located at the 5th floor of the Kandakosho Center, is Rakugo Cafe. "Rakugo" is a Japanese type of storytelling which involves only one storyteller reciting monologues in front of an audience. The storyteller wears a kimono and sits on a cushion in the middle of the stage. There are no other props used in rakugo aside from a fan and a small towel which takes extra skill for a rakugo performer because of the need to express emotions and scenarios given the limited resources. The rakugo was a very typical form of entertainment during the Edo Period of Japan which goes back about 400 years from now. Despite it being a traditional performance art, rakugo is still practiced today in Japan.
Inside the Rakugo Cafe are books. CDs, DVDs and other items related to Rakugo performances. At night, a small stage is setup for special Rakugo performances that the customers can enjoy while drinking wine or coffee of their choice.
8. Mominoyu Cafe
Relaxing footbath café.
Photo from excite.co.jp
Relax yourself as you soak your feet in hot water through these artificial hotsprings inside the Mominoyu café. Mominoyu Café allows you to experience a sensual footbath while you take your time and enjoy your food.
9. Cafe&Bar STEAM LOCOMOTIVE
Be amazed by true-to-life city and railway dioramas.
Photo from Densha de Japan blog
Cafe&Bar STEAM LOCOMOTIVE is yet another unique cafe in Tokyo. It features a diorama of the Yurakucho station complete with self-sufficient lighting setup and running large model trains on miniature railways. The diorama is so detailed that railway enthusiasts and diorama fans will surely enjoy observing the a miniaturized version of an active scenery right in front of their very eyes. Cafe&Bar STEAM LOCOMOTIVE being a cafe in itself, also serves food, snacks, and drinks and desserts for their menu. Another attraction inside the cafe is their collection of train related novelty items such as socks, keychains, stationery items, and more, which can be bought as souvenirs.
10. Panda Coffee Shop
Pandas everywhere you look.
Photo from entabe.jp
Imagine a place filled with pandas all over, from interior design to accents to the cafe's menu itself--name it and we have it, all in cute panda-inspired designs. Panda Coffee Shop, as the name suggests, is a place for panda lovers, or even tourists who just want to experience something new. The cafe's main attraction is their panda-nized menu items such as panda omuraisu (panda omelette rice), panda cocoa drink, panda cookies, etc. There is also a mini stall inside the cafe where you can buy cute souvenir panda items. Panda Coffee Shop is a nice place to stay if you want to relax and feel a different environment with all these adorable panda novelties.
Relax while still having fun!
Wandering around the busy streets of Tokyo is indeed fun but tiring at the same time. Good thing we have these themed cafes scattered around the districts of Tokyo where we could relax and take a break from the busyness of the capital, but still experience something out of the ordinary at the same time. Whether you are a full-pledged traveler, a Japan tourist patron, or even a first-time Japan visitor, these unusual cafes will bring you to awe as you enjoy the ambiance together with a good cup of drink. Travelling is all about "experience" and I am sure you will discover the glamour and beauty of Japan's capital city, Tokyo, through experiencing unique places like these that are probably "only in Japan!"