The past few days I've been in the Shibuya and Ebisu areas (think: south-west side of Tokyo) to check out some of the up-and-coming cafes, as well as wander around the neighborhood. I've decided that wherever I go, I'm going to find something to do in addition to spending 3-5 hours in coffee shops--while the research and the people I meet are incredible I do regret that I don't get to spend as much time exploring the other aspects of Tokyo.
Yesterday in Shibuya I checked out The Local Coffee Stand, Coffeehouse Nishiya, and The Theater Coffee. The Local is a pretty unassuming space, even though it is on a main street. It's goal is to be the sort of jumping-off point for people just getting in to specialty coffee: they showcase beans from local roaster and run a website called "Good Coffee" in both Japanese and English to help people find "that local spot" in a neighborhood near to them. I'm including a link to the site, HERE. CLICK THIS.
Coffeehouse Nishiya was probably my favorite of the three spots. It's bright and cheerful with the feeling of an old school diner and/or Italian bar (whichever you associate with more). Their drinks are also the most playful, so if you're not a hardcore coffee drinker (but like things like ice cream!) this is the place for you. I had a banana espresso smoothie which I took one sip of, announced "this is happiness" (in Japanese), and got a big smile out of the owner.
The Theater Coffee is on the 11th floor of the Shibuya Hikarie skyscraper and has a great view of the "scramble" intersection that's so often shown in movies:
It's also the intersection that has the statue of Hachiko, the dog that waited for years for his dead master to return. Today there was a sleepy cat curled up at the feet of the dog, drawing a huge crowd:
The Theater is known for its latte art, so my drink had a picture of a swan (or a snake, maybe, depending on how you look at it) drawn in the milk foam:
But since the shop space is literally located on a conference floor, it's not really the place to go for a charming atmosphere...
I also stopped by two local shrines, the Konno Hachimangu Shrine and the Toyosaka Inari Shrine:
The Konno Hanchimangu Shrine has been around since the year 1092 (if I read the Japanese wikipedia article correctly) and was used as a pit-stop for The Amazing Race 15, in 2009.
Those gates are from the Inari Shrine, which was small and charming (and right next to a kendo dojo). I think its amazing how you can walk three blocks off the main streets in a major neighborhood and it becomes almost completely silent. There were people just seated in the courtyard of these shrines absorbing the peace or recovering (like me) for their next foray out into the hustle and bustle that is Tokyo.
Today in Ebisu I spent some time in coffee shops, but also spent about an hour in the Yebisu (still pronouced "ebisu", the 'ye' is an archaic spelling) Beer Museum.
That's a statue of Ebisu, the god of fortune and fishermen, after whom the beer company was named.
The museum is fairly small (but free!) and has a gallery that runs through the history of the company from the late 1800s up to present day. I particularly like the advertisements that show how styles and how the beer company wanted to present itself, namely as something both intrinsically Japanese (even though the recipe and initial engineering was imported from Germany) and something modern.
This third advertisement (which, I thought, was very "traditional" when you compare it to the modernity that's emphasized in the 1920s flapper advertisements) is actually the most recent out of the three, coming just after the beer company (which stopped production after WW2) revived in the 1980s.
The brewery did originate in Tokyo (and the neighborhood of Ebisu is named after the company, not the other way around) but since its acquisition by Sapporo, it no longer brews from Tokyo.
They have a beer-tasting cafe, so I purchased (for 400 yen) a rather large (not exactly a "tasting") mug of their "cream-top stout" (out of five different beer offerings). It was delicious! But there's something inherently lonely about drinking beer by yourself, particularly when everyone around you has come with a friend.
Tomorrow I have plans to meet up with a friend near the Harajuku/ Omotesando area, and on Wednesday I'll be returning to the Ebisu area to meet with the Tokyo based writer for Sprudge, an online publication about coffee.