To make a generalisation, there are two main things Japan loves and potentially does best out of anywhere in the world, food and fashion. Tokyo is a city so designer (and food) obsessed, many fashion houses have cottoned on and opened their first or world-exclusive cafes in Tokyo.
It’s cliché but the city lives, breathes and now eats fashion. From super high-end luxury restaurants looking over Tokyo city, to streetwear-inspired curry houses, here’s a guide to Tokyo’s fashion designer cafe scene.
Location: 3-17-1 Minami-Aoyama, Minato-ku Tokyo
Located down a clean and minimalist Aoyama street, just a few minutes from central Harajuku, sits Café Kitsuné. This minimalist, wood-panelled establishment marks Kitsuné's foray into the hospitality world.
Featuring traditional Japanese-influenced design, the building itself is a zen coffee garden. The store manages to focus on minimalist aesthetics while feeling completely welcoming.
The types of customers who roll through the store are incredibly diverse. From weary travellers, to store workers from neighbouring buildings, to Tokyo’s fashion elite. One thing visitors to Kitsuné have in common is their need for a carefully-brewed coffee.
Must order: Coffee, coffee, coffee in your preferred style. Cold, hot, black, creamy, it doesn’t matter. The baristas have been trained by Tokyo coffee hero, Eiichi Kunitomo, who is known by coffee lovers as the ‘Coffee Doctor’ and is the founder of the legendary Omotesando Koffee house.
Nigo’s Curry Up and 2-5
Location: Curry Up 2-35-9 Jingumae, Shibuya-ku Tokyo | 2-5 Café 2-5, Nanpeidai-cho, Shibuya-ku Tokyo, Japan
The man behind BAPE and numerous Pharrell Williams collabs, Nigo, has two cafes in his home city of Tokyo.
Channelling his entrepreneurial spirit into the hospitality world, Nigo first opened Curry Up in Jingumae, near the streetwear haven that is Harajuku. Though it’s a curry shop, don’t expect super hot South East Asian cuisine. The effortlessly cool, laid-back establishment specialises in the more mild Japanese ‘comfort food’-style curry rice.
As well as Curry Up, Nigo is also the proprietor of 2-5 Cafe in Shibuya (‘2-5’ is ‘ni-go’ in Japanese). The cafe menu features an accessible blend of contemporary Japanese (‘karaage’ fried chicken, curry and ‘tonkatsu’ fried pork) and fresh takes on western classic staples.
Must order: Potentially the highlight of both menus is the Pharrell-designed burger at 2-5.
Chanel’s Beige Café
Location: Chanel Ginza Bldg 10F, 3-5-3 Ginza, Chuo-ku Tokyo
Nestled on the tenth floor Chanel’s iconic Tokyo store, Beige Café is a collaboration between French culinary icon, Alain Ducasse, and of course, the fashion house of Chanel. Over his career, Ducasse has amassed 19 Michelin Stars, though in today’s world of Google reviews it probably doesn’t mean that much, anymore.
For Beige Café, the main focus is on French flavours utilising local Japanese produce. The restaurant itself couldn’t be more ‘ladies who lunch’ in aesthetic. With a colour palette to match your favourite glass of sparkling, it’s the perfect setting for playing ‘Real Housewives of Tokyo’ for a day.
If you want to pop by for a coffee, beer, wine and people-watch, expect to pay around $10-15 AUD. To be honest, it isn’t much higher than average Sydney or Melbourne prices these days.
Must order: The set lunch menu, if you’re on a ‘kind of’ budget or don’t want to blow a huge hole in your credit card. For a three-course lunch curated by the chef, you’ll be looking at about $65 AUD.
Location: B1F, 2-3-1 Dogenzaka, Shibuya-ku Tokyo
Another French name crossing into the Japanese café world is cosmetics label, L’Occitane. Perched above what is potentially the hottest property in Tokyo, Shibuya crossing, L’Occitane’s flagship cafe is the best way to soak in the show that is the Shibuya Scramble.
Aesthetically, it’s a lot more rustic than its contemporaries at café Kitsune. Featuring warm auburn- and gold- emblazoned walls and hosting provincial style paintings, this place is about comfort over everything else. It’s not super fashionable, but it’s tasteful.
Be warned, however. If you want to stay away for hordes of tourists, this isn’t your place. Given its location, English-friendly accessibility and Western-tilted menu, it's a weary traveller’s easy-to-find haven.
Must order: The focus on comfort translates to the menu too, with French-tinged warm chicken and vegetable soup, quiche and unlimited supplies of bread. It’s all about feeling good in the moment.
Location: 10F Yubinbango 104-0061 Ginza, Chuo-ku, Tokyo 5-5-4
Also located in Ginza, the Armani Ristorante is as glitzy and ‘Armani’ glam as you would predict. Gold-emblazoned partitions separate booths that will host guests ready to indulge in $500-a-head champagne and caviar events.
The luxurious Dariana and Massimiliano Fuksas-designed space hosts Italian cuisine crafted with seasonal Japanese produce. The visual aspect of the food is just as important as its taste, making it the most Instagram-worthy meal you’ll experience in Tokyo.
Note: the types you’ll see at Armani Ristorante are not really the trendiest people. Expect the Ginza elite, older socialites and wealthy business sorts.
Must order: Probably just a glass or two of Italian wine which will set you back between $10 - $20 AUD.