Wherever you venture in Japan, a cup of coffee or tea is never far away. The word kissa means “to enjoy beverages such as coffee or tea” and that’s just what these cafes are all about. The unique coffee culture in Japan that is kissa, or kissaten, was a major catalyst for the third wave of coffee popularity around the country.
Kissa culture has roots dating back to the early 20th century when kissa developed separately from cafes. Kissa were a place to enjoy a quiet cup of coffee or tea while cafes had become almost rowdy celebratory places that also served alcohol. The first kissaten originated in Tokyo's Ueno district before spreading around other parts of the capital, including Shinagawa.
Embodying the spirit of Japanese hospitality, or omotenashi, kissa—both then and now—dedicate themselves to showing consideration to the guests through attentiveness and service. What began as a place to enjoy a relaxing cup of tea transformed into a coffee shop and, nowadays, many serve sweet menu items such as floats, parfaits, cake—or even food like pasta.
Going to a kissa today means a trip back into a soft environment of low light and dark colors in a quiet atmosphere. The mood of a kissaten is completely different from that of your run-of-the-mill cafe and visitors to Japan will never forget the romantic warmth of the kissa that they visit.
Let’s explore 5 unique kissa around Shinagawa!
High-quality coffee in a warm atmosphere
Cafe Musica can be found in front of Aomono-Yokocho Station. With a brick front the coffee-colored appearance leaves an impression as strong as their coffee. Founded in 1980; the owner, Yasunori Murakami, says, “It's not a fancy place, so feel free to come as you are. Even if you're not a coffee lover, you can enjoy the taste and aroma as you like.”
Inside, choose from table seats or counter seats for you to enjoy your coffee in this wood-heavy interior under warm color lighting that creates a relaxing atmosphere.
Enjoy the fragrant aroma of a caffe Americano that has been siphoned to create strong coffee that you can taste bitterness and richness. Cafe Musica only offers coffee from beans that have been given the title of Cup of Excellence. This title is given to farmed coffee beans that have won an award at a global level. Since these beans are in high demand but low supply in Japan, many customers come to Cafe Musica for this drink.
Enjoy popular homemade food menus such as spaghetti and gratin. Seafood doria, made by covering turmeric rice with white sauce and baking it with plenty of cheese on top, is a creamy and delicious dish! They also serve a range of affordable morning menu sets too.
Overall, in addition to their hot menu, Cafe Musica has a wide selection of cold drinks such as Cafe Queen, which is made by shaking coffee and ice cream, coffee float, and a cream soda float, all perfect summer treats to cool down.
Cafe Musica (カフェ ムジカ)
Address: 2-4-1 Minami-shinagawa, Shinagawa City
Access: One minute from Keikyu Aomono-yokochō Station (northern side)
Business hours: Weekdays 7:30–21:00, Saturdays 8:00–18:00, Sundays and public holidays 11:00–18:00
Café Restaurant DJ
Create your own time in Ebara-Nakanobu
Only a one-minute walk from Ebara-Nakanobu Station, DJ has a kissa just around the intersection at the entrance of Nakanobu Skip Road (Nakanobu Shopping Street). It’s a wonderful place where you can enjoy a quiet drink and a meal in a quaint atmosphere.
The Master (owner of a kissaten) of DJ, Jun Takada, opened the kissa in 1992. “We wanted to meet as many needs as possible, and we emphasized the ease of selection when it comes to the menu assortment. Some people may want to eat only food without asking for drinks, and we want them to come every day,” says Mr. Takada.
In addition to a satisfying volume, you’ll be surprised by the wide range of single item dishes on the menu such as curry, stew, taco rice, pizza, and desserts. Since you can also choose to order a half size from almost all the menu items, the total number of dishes is more than 200.
Of course, there are a variety of drinks such as coffee, tea, juice, and shakes available. It's exciting just to look at the menu.
Whether you want to eat well or fill your stomach, you can do both at DJ.
Café Restaurant DJ (ディージェー)
Address: 2-1-3 Higashi-Nakanobu, Shinagawa City
Access: A one-minute walk from Ebara-Nakanobu Station.
Business hours: 10:00–22:00/ Closed Sundays
COFFEE & SWEETS AWAYA
Time-slip to 1945 in Oimachi
Located just outside the east exit of Oimachi Station, COFFEE & SWEETS AWAYA has been in the same location since it opened in 1945.
There are a total of 49 seats in the two-story store and you can relax at the table seats. The store manager, Natsuyuki Takamura, said with a smile, “Because it is a store with a long history, many customers have been visiting for many years. I hope we can continue to provide peace in a space where you rest.”
Mr. Takamura's recommendation is the Bristol cake, where you can taste four kinds of fruits. It is colorful and looks fun. The sweetness of the refreshing fruit that spreads through your mouth is irresistible.
One of the recommended coffees is Turkish Toraja, a coffee made from Indonesian beans. It has a rich taste and is offered considering its compatibility with cakes. The crema is extracted with a nel drip so that the taste comes out firmly, and the coffee is characterized by the strength of its bitterness and leaves a refreshing aftertaste.
There are about 20 kinds of Western confectionery that are always lined up in the showcase, and seasonal cakes will ensure no two visits are ever the same. When you go to Oimachi, why not take a break at AWAYA?
COFFEE & SWEETS AWAYA (アワヤ洋菓子店)
Address: 5-3-10 Higashi-oi, Shinagawa City
Access: One minute from Oimachi Station.
Business hours: 11:00–19:00 / Closed Tuesdays and every other Monday
King and Strawberry
Retro vibes in Musashi Koyama
King and Strawberry is located in Musashi-Koyama’s Shopping Street, Palm, and is a two-minute walk from Musashi-Koyama Station. Since opening in 1985, this shop has been loved by locals of all ages.
When you go through the door, you’ll be greeted by a dessert showcase. Cakes prepared for everyday desserts to birthdays can be ordered in or for take out.
A calm, classic atmosphere flows through the deep and spacious store. The owner, Masayuki Tobinaga, was impressed by the space of a coffee shop he visited where various people gathered and spent time with each other. He became absorbed in the world of kissa from then on.
The specialty of King and Strawberry is their jumbo parfait. You can choose from six different flavors, and even add strawberries, bananas etc. as toppings. The “king” parfait has a height of about 60 cm and is beloved by locals as a flower-shaped party-sized parfait.
Mr. Tobinaga says, “I want everyone to have a good time with a smile. I hope everyone can relax and eat parfaits here, just like sitting around a hot pot at home."
In the past, King and Strawberry has been loved as a place for special memories, such as school students visiting with friends or a celebration of the athletic club being with a king parfait as a trophy. It’s definitely a shop that you want to go to with your family and friends.
King and Strawberry (王様といちご)
Address: 3-24-3 Koyama, Shinagawa City
Access: Two minute walk from Musashi-Koyama Station
Business hours: 9:00–22:00 / Open all year round
Enjoy a Kissa menu at this Sake bar
Finally, let’s visit a slightly unusual coffee shop. A one-minute walk from the east exit of Hatanodai Station, Usagiya opened in the spring of 2021.
Actually, this is an izakaya (Japanese pub) that mainly serves craft beer and sake. Due to the limitations on serving alcoholic beverages due to Coronavirus from 2019, the izakaya reopened under the name Junkissa Usagiya. Even now, the cafe menu from that time is still being offered.
There are three types of cream soda: akane (red), sorairo (blue), and melon (green). The retro-designed glasses are also cute. In addition, they also prepare cream soda with alcohol that looks the same. There are many people who order it.
Café pudding is filled with exquisite flavors. The owner, Takahiro Uto, says “I love sweets”. His admiration is clear by the sweetness of the pudding and the bitterness of the caramel topping.
Napolitan pasta is a delicious dish of chewy noodles with thick-sliced bacon. “I tried and tried to make it a unique Napolitan pasta, but in the end I realized that the standard was best,” says Mr. Uto.
“Although there are alcoholic drinks and snacks, I want you to be as comfortable as you are at a coffee shop. I choose cute plates, so please take a lot of pictures and post them on SNS,” smiles Uto.
Eight types of craft beer and various brands of sake are also offered, so even those who like the combination of sake and sweets can come to Usagiya and enjoy the atmosphere and menu.
Address: 3-11-8 Hatanodai, Shinagawa City
Access: One minute walk from Hatanodai Station
Business hours: 16:00–23:00
Every one of the kissa in Shinagawa has its own menu and space so you can have a wonderful time regardless of where you choose to go. Discover for yourself the charm of these fantastic retro cafes that carry the spirit of Taisho-era Japan with a modern twist.
For the kissaten introduced here, please note their business hours and menus are subject to change.