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Much of the food in Japan is picture perfect – just think of those multi-course kaiseki meals and wagashi confectionery. Travel consultant Rebecca Barry went in search of the country’s prettiest cafés, desserts and coffee; envy-inducing Instagram fodder for all your friends back home!
Insta-café your way through Japan
People come to Japan for a myriad of reasons – the culture, the history, the beautiful scenery – but if food is your focus, why not stop in at some of Japan’s more unique cafes for that insta-worthy shot? I’ve picked out some of my favourites from Tokyo all the way down to Kagoshima.
Book and Bed – Shinjuku, Tokyo
Most visitors will spend time in Japan’s capital city on your trip and most likely head over to its bright lights, big city area, Shinjuku. In between bar hopping and arcade playing I recommend heading over to the library themed hostel/café Book & Bed. They serve a normal café menu – coffee, toast, ice cream – with one exception: it’s all black.
Here I tried the Strawberry koboreru latte – so named as it quite literally ‘overflows’, taste-wise it’s more like a warm strawberry milkshake. Iced coffee jelly, grey Macchiato and black ice cream (If you go for this option, don’t plan any important meetings afterwards – like I did – as it’ll stain your mouth and lips black!)
Note: This one of the few places in Japan that does NOT accept cash, so come prepared with your credit/debit card.
Where: 1 Chome-27-5 Kabukicho Shinjuku-ku Tokyo-to
Café Komon – Hakone
Next stop is over to the national park area Hakone, just outside Mount Fuji. When not relaxing in the hot spring baths Hakone is famous for, you’ll probably ride across lake Ashi on its pirate ship. Docking at Hakonemachi-Ko port you’ll find a small shopping centre called Hotoriya where café Komon lives.
Here you’ll be able to try some more traditional fare (DIY-style) with a ‘grill your own dango set’ – a type of Japanese rice cake. This also came complete with sweet soy sauce, azuki sweet red bean and pickled radish. Also, on the menu is a giant matcha tea flavoured pancake, which was not all that sweet and benefitted from the maple syrup and green tea ice cream it came with.
Take along your Hakone Freepass for a 5% discount!
Where: 161-1 Hakone, Ashigarashimo District, Kanagawa 250-0521
Ten – Kyoto
On the way to my favourite temples in Kyoto – Kiyomizu dera – the streets are lined with cute cafes and souvenir shops. Tucked away in the back of a gift shop just opposite the temple is a cheesecake café that’s not to be missed. The green tea cheesecake here has an almost mousse-like texture with a hint of matcha – a perfect afternoon treat. Also try the green tea tart and powdered green tea au lait (iced) which came complete with its own little chasen (whisk).
Where: 208-10 Kiyomizu, Higashiyama Ward, Kyoto, 605-0862
Shiawase No Pancake (幸せのパンケーキA Happy Pancake) – Osaka
After you’ve sampled the regional delights of takoyaki and okonomiyaki in Osaka, the street food capital, head to Shiawase No Pancake for dessert to try Japan’s famous fuwa fuwa (fluffy) pancakes. You can choose from a range of toppings and despite appearances the pancakes are actually very light and a little more eggy than sweet, but delicious, nonetheless.
Where: 1-11-9 Nishihommachi, Nishi-ku, Osaka, B1F
Café Foresta – Himeji
For those doing a quick sightseeing stop at Himeji castle, right next to the station is a café with a little twist on your normal coffee. Aside from regular lattes they serve a range of colourful options, all beautifully decorated including an ‘Ocean latte’ (citrus flavour), ‘Foresta Latte’ (rose flavour) and some stunning smoothies. They also serve flavoured shaved ice as well for those visiting in the intense heat of the Japanese summer.
Where: 87 Minamiekimaecho Himeji-shi Hyogo-ken
Without stand – Fukuoka
Any visit to Fukuoka wouldn’t be complete without a trip to the Camden-esque Daimyo district, filled to the brim with vintage shops and independent cafes. Here you’ll find a little stand that sells a revolving door of interesting lattes called Without Stand. I settled on a latte with sweet cream and Japanese pudding (a kind of blancmange). If you want first pick, go early – by the time I arrived a lot of the menu was already sold out!
Where: ARKCUBE103, 1-3-5 Daimyo, Chuo-ku, Fukuoka-city
Daimyo Soft Cream – Nagasaki
For those that make it all the way to the historic city of Nagasaki, you can pop in to Daimyo Soft cream for one of their extremely aesthetically pleasing ice creams. While the flavours on offer change from month to month, I nabbed the earl grey and umeshu (plum wine) while I was there. I got some perfect Instagram shots and a delicious treat.
Where: 11-2-1F, Hama-machi Nagasaki-city, Nagasaki, Japan
Arvo – Kagoshima
Finally, at the very tip of the South Island of Kyushu is the city of Kagoshima, famed for its yatai mura street food village; traditional Sengan-en garden; and the volcano Sakurajima, just off its coast. This volcano is the theme of quirky café Arvo with many volcano shaped desserts such as its blueberry parfait and chocolate cake. Although the parfait was tasty, the cake was surprisingly hard so maybe for this one, do it for the gram, not the taste.
Where: 3-20 Horiecho, Kagoshima, 892-0824, Japan
Walk around any of our offices and chances are you’ll find an empty seat or two – our travel consultants are never far from their next trip to Japan and always return full of tips and tricks, including the best places to pick up black ice-cream and frothy matcha. Got a question? Get in touch!