Shozo Coffee Store | Tokyo Coffee Guide

Shozo CoffeeShozo Coffee Store | Aoyama, Tokyo | Coffee & Snacks | Map

In the space of five minutes around 10 people stopped by to take photos on our recent visit to Shozo Coffee Store. It’s true, the cafe itself is incredibly Instagram-worthy, but the aesthetic doesn’t feel out of place in the neighbourhood (Cafe Kitsune is just down the road). In short, this coffee shop feels genuine. Which makes it a real shame that only 2 out of the 10 people who took photos actually stopped to grab a coffee/food. Because in a time where cafes are designed ‘for the gram’, Shozo is a breath of fresh air.

Shozo Coffee Store

Located in the stylish neighbourhood of Aoyama, Shozo Coffee Store is just off the main road – yet it feels worlds away from the trendy cafes and fashion houses of Omotesando. The rustic, natural look of the cafe has a uniquely Japanese style inside and out. Oddly it’s a style I’ve not found to be popular in Europe.

Shozo’s ‘branding’ isn’t restricted to the outside though. Step inside and you’ll find an array of baked goods (they’re known for their scones), branded items, and of course high quality coffee. All compacted around two very small seating areas (there’s more outside), albeit it rather stylishly. We tried the cinnamon buns and coffee and bought some coffee jam to take home). The pastries were delicious and the coffee went down a treat, the two together making the perfect combo. With the light filtering through the linen curtains, and the friendly staff smiling and chatting away alongside some gentle background music, we felt a moment of serenity in the midst of busy Tokyo.

If you fancy finding out more, check out Shozo Coffee Store’s Instagram to see their food offerings, and get a behind-the-scenes look at the Tokyo coffee scene.

See more: Tokyo Coffee Guide

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Tokyo Coffee: Where to Go | Japan Travel Guide

tokyo coffeeTokyo Coffee: Where to Go | Japan Travel Guide

One thing I love to do when I’m abroad is discover new cafes and coffee shops. It’s one of my favourite little luxuries at home, so to do it whilst travelling is a welcomed pleasure. So when I headed back to Tokyo this year I knew I had to find the best places in town. Luckily for me, my good friend Alanna and her husband are coffee fans too. Being the wonderful people they are, they curated us our own Tokyo coffee tour.

Below you’ll find my suggestions from the coffee tour we did together, and a couple I’ve thrown in myself.

Tokyo Coffee Tour: Where to go

  • Onibus Coffee, Nakameguro
    • Visit here if… you like your coffee with minimal fuss, and a chilled vibe.
    • With 4 locations in Tokyo, Onibus is no new name to the Japanese coffee scene. In fact they’re doing so well that they’re making waves in Europe too; they just got back from Berlin, and a collaboration with Bonanza Coffee.
  • Toranomon Koffee, Toranomon
    • Visit here if… you love chemistry, and minimalist surroundings.
    • Toranomon coffee is all about the chemistry behind coffee. They love experimenting (the lab coats are worn for a reason) and are well known for it. You can find them across Japan, and even in Hong Kong.
  • Coffee Valley, Ikebukuro
    • Visit here if… if you care about fresh, simple ingredients.
    • Coffee Valley isn’t that well known, but that doesn’t mean it isn’t popular. The cafe boasts queues for it’s fresh coffee, and delicious food. Don’t worry though, it’s worth the wait!
  • BiRd & rUbY, Sendagaya
    • Visit here if… you want to hang out somewhere unique and cool.
    • Bird & Ruby is tightly nestled in the middle of Sendagaya, on a cross walk, opposite a traditional shrine. Yep you couldn’t get much more Tokyo than that (the perfect mix of old and new). Offering up coffee and paninis, you’ll look effortlessly cool as you sip on your espresso, and flick through the latest issue of Popeye.
  • Sarutahiko, Shibuya
    • Visit here if… you’re out shopping and need a coffee fix.
    • Sarutahiko has a few locations in Tokyo, but the Shibuya branch is a great location if you just want to get away from the hustle and bustle. They have a great selection of coffee, and are super enthusiastic.

Feel free to share your favourite cafes in Tokyo in the comments!

Check out the rest of my Japan Travel Diaries (including Kyoto, Osaka and Tokyo) here.

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24 Hours in Tokyo | Japan Travel Diary

24 hours in tokyo24 Hours in Tokyo | Japan Travel Diary

Yes, the frequently asked question “What do I do with 24 hours in Tokyo?”. Ok let’s be realistic, unless you’re on a stopover, you’re unlikely to only have one day in this exciting city. However, it can be difficult to decide where to visit, what to eat etc. So when faced with the task I like to think of all the places I would visit if I only had a short period of time in a city.

24 Hours in Tokyo: Harajuku

As cliche as it is, it wouldn’t be worth stopping by Harajuku without a walk down Takeshita Dori (take the metro exit of the same name). Grab some cute stationary from Daiso, pick up some vintage designer goods in the back streets, try one of the famous crepes for breakfast, and just generally basque in the atmosphere. It’s fun and it’s fast.

For those who prefer something more chilled, Meiji Jingu is just behind the Omotesando Exit of Harajuku station. It’s one of the most famous shrines in Japan, and is well worth a visit. Located in a small woodland, it’s hard to tell whether you’re still in bustling Tokyo or not. If you hang around for a while, you may even see a traditional Japanese wedding taking place.

From Harajuku you can walk/hop on a train to…

24 Hours in Tokyo: Shibuya

Famous for it’s giant crossing, you really should try and get to high ground just to witness it. Even if that means stopping by Starbucks for one of their limited edition Japanese drinks. Afterwards, head to 109 for some retail therapy before checking out “Basketball St” and one of the various arcades. You must do purikura (Japanese photo booth)!

Stop by Nabe-zo for lunch, and all-you-can-eat Shabu Shabu (hotpot with thinly sliced meat). I’d suggest the sukiyaki and collagen soups. The staff here are helpful, and the meat is in abundance, so don’t be shy about asking for more. They’ll even replace your soups…if you can manage to finish them that is.

24 Hours in Tokyo: Asakusa

Asakusa is a haven for traditional Japan. Head through the large red gates of Senso-ji, and walk amongst the market stalls. Buy some Amazake (a sweet alcoholic drink made from rice), a side of Senbei (traditional rice crackers), and maybe a mask of your favourite childhood character. The souvenirs here are great for taking home to family. The shrine itself is beautiful, and the grounds ditto. Take your time here and find your inner Buddhist.

If you’re a stationary fan, make time to visit Kakimori for handmade, Japanese stationary. Afterwards, take a walk down Kappabashi-dori, a street famous for kitchenware and plastic food models. Pick up a bacon bookmark, or a pancake keychain etc.

Finally, go for dinner at Sometaro. This Okonomiyaki (savoury pancake) restaurant has been around since the 1930s, and it hasn’t changed much since. The friendly staff speak English, and can offer an English menu also. They’ll even show you how to prepare this must-try dish yourself. Truth be told all of the fillings here are delicious, but pork and seafood are great go-tos.

Of course there’s plenty more to do in Tokyo! Keep an eye out for more Japan Travel Diaries soon.
I’d also suggest checking out Alice’s Tokyo Travel Guides and Park and Cube’s 3 Days in Tokyo.

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Coffee Valley | Tokyo Travel Diary

Coffee ValleyCoffee Valley | 2-26-3 Minami-Ikebukuro, Tokyo, 03-6907-1173 | Website | Nearest Station: Ikebukuro

This is a bittersweet post to write, as I sit here sipping coffee in my London apartment. Only a couple of weeks ago I was walking around the backstreets of sunny Ikebukuro, searching for this elusive spot. I actually discovered Coffee Valley whilst reading an old issue of Vikka magazine. The feature was pretty tiny, but the emphasis on good coffee and natural food caught my eye. It may sound silly but this little cafe was on my list of must-visit spots whilst we were in Tokyo.

How is the coffee and food?

We arrived late afternoon to find a queue of around 10 people. As a Londoner, this is nothing for me. People seemed curious about us. Maybe because this well-loved spot isn’t exactly on the tourist map. I don’t know. Either way we happily waited with everyone; which consisted of mainly dates and friends. After around 15 minutes we were directed into the cafe. We were spoken to in fluid Japanese, and told to find a table (spread out over 2 floors) before ordering at the counter on the ground floor. The menu here is small, just a coffee list and the daily sandwich, French toast and cake. Don’t worry though if you don’t speak Japanese. It’s all pretty straight forward, the food is displayed on the counter – so you can easily point – and the staff are very friendly.

We ordered two of “today’s sandwich” whilst I had a flat white, and Ben a drip coffee.  Our egg sandwiches were seasoned well with pepper and small bits of vegetables, which created a nice blend of textures. The sandwiches also came with a side of various pickled vegetables to continue the theme – my favourite! The bread was fresh and soft, and the filling was very tasty. I really appreciated the use of natural, wholesome ingredients. The best way to describe the food here is: simple flavours, done well.

As for the coffee, well it was great! Just as good as my favourites in London. They used freshly roasted beans, with a couple of options of origin. I tried some of Ben’s drip coffee, which was smooth and full-flavoured. If I hadn’t been after a slightly milkier alternative, I would have easily chosen the drip.

Final thoughts on Coffee Valley…

For me, Japanese cafes are in a league of their own. Coffee Valley is no different here. Not only is their branding on-point, but their ideology is too. For me food and coffee should be simple at heart, and transparent. By that I mean the use of fresh ingredients which you can trace back to their source. Again, this is something independent cafes in Japan do well. I hope I’m not coming across as pretentious, but at the end of the day Coffee Valley offers up great food, and even better coffee. So if you find yourself in Tokyo, looking for a chilled cafe, make sure you pop by.

You can find out more about Coffee Valley here (non-Japanese speakers can this Google translate version).

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An Old Friend | Tokyo Travel Diary

tokyo travelReunited with an Old Friend | Tokyo Travel Diary

Returning to Japan has been a wonderful start to 2016. Travel has become such an integral part of my life in recent years. Discovering new places is great, but returning to old favourites is just as lovely. I guess Japan is pretty special to me, as I lived and studied there. It’s fair to say that I left a little part of me in Tokyo. So I was eager to see if I could rediscover it several years later.

Tokyo is a wondrous city. Old and new meet, and they compliment each other perfectly. Tradition is a big part of Japanese culture, and so it’s only natural that you can find shrines of various shapes, sizes and colours across the capital. You’ll often find these shrines nestled between skyscrapers, round the corner from a shopping district, or down the back alley of a residential area.

But it’s not only shrines. Even in the middle of Shinjuku you will find people taking a minute out of their hectic lives to snap a photo of the illusive sakura (cherry blossom). This event only happens once a year, and the bloom lasts for only a few days, with the national news covering the spectacle for weeks beforehand. Many Japanese people believe that the sakura are also an analogy of life – it is beautiful, but fleeting, and should be appreciated as such. This is probably one of the reasons why Hanami (cherry blossom viewing parties) is so popular – it’s literally been held for centuries.

Tradition and history are very much ingrained into everyday life in Japan. Sometimes for better, sometimes for worse. Even so, this harmony of history and modern day society, works so well together. And it has always been my favourite thing about the real city that never sleeps.

Tokyo Travel Diaries and more

I’ll be posting some city and travel guides to Japan, including Tokyo (Harajuku, Shibuya…), Kyoto and Osaka. So make sure you keep your eye out for more Japan Travel Diaries soon.

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Kyary Pamyu Pamyu’s Tokyo Kawaii Guidebook App

I don’t often deviate from European fashion and beauty, but you will see me post the occasional Japanese fashion/beauty article on here. So when I heard that Kyary Pamyu Pamyu (a Japanese street style model come pop idol) was releasing an iPhone app for her English and French fans I knew I had to write something about it. Not only because it combines four of my favourite things; Tokyo, shopping, travel and food.

Moshi Moshi Tokyo is Kyary’s guide to her favourite spots in Tokyo. The app allows you to explore Tokyo through her eyes, visiting clothing boutiques, cafes and more. Kyary has become a worldwide hit – her London tour was a sell-out with devoted fans turning up in hoards. It’s because of this success that the release of this app makes so much sense. It’s also a great way for the Japanese government to garner interest and promote tourism. Tokyo is an amazing city but it can be slightly overwhelming at times, especially if you’ve never visited before. This app will be a great way for fashionable young things to check out some of Tokyo’s hot spots.

I downloaded the French version to get a taste of the app before the English release. My French is terrible but surprisingly I still managed to understand everything. I loved the interactive features and thought the photography and design was incredibly cute and fun. The small magazine-style section highlights 9 clothing stores, featuring some of my personal favourites, including Nadia, Avantgarde and Tokyo Bopper. Ultimately though the interactive map is the most helpful as it highlights a large number of restaurants, stores etc. making it much easier to find your desired location. Unfortunately the promise of “Kyary’s favourite spots in Tokyo” actually translates to chosen spots in Harajuku. However this is the area that made her famous, making it slightly more understandable. It may seem limited but there are still tons of places to visit and it’s nice to see Harajuku is still getting some love, after a decline in popularity in recent years.

The app is currently available to download on iTunes, however the app only offers a download for the French version right now (to coincide with Japan Expo 2014). The English version will be released on July 18th, in time for Hyper Japan in London (and J-Pop Summit Festival 2014 in San Francisco). The first 500 people to download the guide (via the app) will also receive a voucher for a free badge that they can collect at Kyary Pamyu Pamyu’s booth at Hyper Japan/J-Pop Summit.

Download Moshi Moshi Tokyo.

Source: 1

Discuss: Test Drive Your Clothes, Before You Buy

Japanese clothing brand GU (a Uniqlo sister brand) have released a new concept into their new Shibuya Parco store (Tokyo) this month. The concept behind the store has been labelled “GU Fitting” and claims to be the first of it’s kind in the world. 

So what is ‘GU Fitting’ and how does it work? Essentially it’s a service that allows you to test drive an item, or items, of clothing before you purchase it. It may sound a little crazy, and you’re probably wondering how it could work, or why it’s even a thing. Well GU want you to be able to really get to grips with their items, so they’re willing to loan you the items for the day. Say you walk into GU’s new store and your eyes fall on a cute dress, but you’re not sure how it will fit or feel. All you need to do is visit the GU Fitting Counter (they take 30 requests a day) with your item/s (3 max) and put in a request to ‘test drive’ them. You can meet up with friends at a cafe, do some window shopping, or maybe even sit around at home. All you have to do is return them by the end of the day. You can then decide whether you want to purchase them or not. 
But won’t people steal the items? This part has a lot to do with the culture, in my opinion. GU are trusting their customers with the items and are only asking for a name and telephone number, no ID or deposit etc. This is because they have trust in their customers. If you lose your wallet in Japan, chances are someone will return it or give it in to the police. It’s because of this that a lot of Japanese people have a very trusting mentality and it translates well into schemes like this. As for the items on sale – most are priced around 2,000円 (around £11.50) or less, so this is purely fast fashion, nothing high-end. 
GU have certainly come up with a unique way to sell their clothing, and with a large selection of on-trend quality items I can see this becoming a big hit with the brand. GU are already considering expanding the project if it is successful, and as a fan of the brand I would love to try the idea out. Will it catch on? I really don’t see it working outside of Japan, without a few changes. I could see it working in the UK if the customer left their card details/with a deposit scheme, however I’m not too sure the idea would catch on. It does seem like something that would only work in Japan, for now anyway. The store will be open until the end of June, so you still have some time to check it out if you’re in the neighbourhood. 

What do you think? 
Would it work in your country?
Would you ‘test drive’ an outfit/item of clothing? 
Source: 1, 2, 3