A few days back I wrote about the unique Starbucks in the Kitano Ijinkan area in Kobe; however, this neighborhood has one more unique cafe which I want to introduce here: Nishimura Coffee, Kitanozaka.
Nishimura Coffee was started in 1948 in the port city of Kobe and it has an interesting history. It's actually the first establishment (coffee house) to serve black coffee, cappuccino and coffee jelly in Japan. Until today Nishimura Coffee serves home-roasted coffee beans brewed with the mineral-rich water of Kobe's Nada ward. Apart from that, they have specially designed coffee cups reflecting the history of this place and ingredients like milk and sugar are 'tailor-made' for the Nishimura cafe, too.
Just have a look at the coffee shop images; with the beautiful red brick structure covered with green leaves in spring and in summer, the coffee house is a kind of a hidden treasure on the street. This particular shop opened in 1974, but it used to be for members until 1995. Only after the Great Hanshin earthquake it was made a open to the general public.
When I first visited the cafe I noted a slightly more 'sophisticated' approach from the staff, compared to the more casual and and 'young' style at Starbucks, which makes it a kind of a 'adults' coffee shop rather than a place for the younger generations to hang around. The interior and antique style furniture also adds to this image.
The coffee menu is kind of on the expensive side, with standard coffee flavors starting at 800 yen to some drinks at around 1200 yen.
The first floor of the cafe is a coffee only space, whereas contemporary French based cuisine is served exclusively on the second floor of the cafe (lunch and dinner). Personally, I prefer the second floor for the western ambience, the view of the Kitanozaka street with its tourists and the India Club just opposite to the shop.
The best time to visit this area is between December and February, when Kitano street illuminations in the evening add further beauty to the coffee experience. The first week of May (Golden Week) is also a good time to visit, as Kitanozaka street is then decked with flowers (Kobe Infiorata). Try to go during the week, when there are less tourists, so that you can enjoy, quietly, a cup of coffee.