16th May 2019: back to Tokyo, a hidden coffee parlour, music, stationery, and beer and snacks in Shibuya

On this day, we said goodbye to Kyoto and took a bullet train for the last time in our trip, as we headed back to Tokyo.

But first, we had Buddhist breakfast delivered to our room again. If that wasn’t a good way to part ways with a city, here’s another one:

i.e. matcha everything at a bakery in the train station.

The journey to Tokyo takes a while, so we bought some snacks in this place. They were weird… and wonderfully tasty! Very dangerous: if I spent a longer period of time in Japan, I’d make a point of trying all of these things and rate and categorise them.

Hypothesising aside, we eventually arrived in Tokyo, and given that we had sent our big bags by courier from Kyoto to our hotel in Tokyo, we were free to get into the metro to Shibuya without worrying about taking up too much space.

One of my favourite aspects of Japanese culture is their proclivity to use cartoon-style drawings in signs and posters. I was utterly fascinated by the ones in the metro, like this one advising people to position their luggage in a way that wouldn’t bother other passengers, and which also seemed particularly relevant to us on that day 😃

"Good manners, please, POSITION!" - a sign in the Tokyo metro advising people to place their luggage in the right place
“Good manners, please, POSITION!”

Chatei Hatou

Getting out of the Shibuya metro station was a bit of an experience as there were all sorts of construction works happening, and the former layout that Devvers remembered didn’t quite correspond with reality, so it took us a bit of navigating until we found our bearings.

But the feeling of confusion wasn’t going to be gone any time soon…

We walked to this place that I had bookmarked, and when we were in front of the door, I still wasn’t quite sure it was the right place. I think we also double checked with other map services, and it was all pointing to here, and still nothing was really screaming “THERE’S A COFFEE SHOP IN HERE!!!” to me.

I peered through their door and shyly asked the waitress: “excuse me… is this a café?” to which she answered by nodding profusely, and then she led us towards a small waiting table that sat awkwardly in the middle of a high transit area.

Although, in truth, we didn’t know yet that it was a waiting table.

We were given a menu and started looking at it. Then we realised that people were smoking, which didn’t quite surprise us at that point, because we had experienced it already… but it felt a bit more inconvenient than the other time, perhaps because this place was busier.

Still, the place looked pretty and the coffee and cakes we saw being served to other people looked good as well, so we decided to stay and have a quick merienda (or kaffee und kuchen 😏).

The waitress came back, and we were ready to order something, but then she pointed us to another table, at which point we realised that the one we were on was just a waiting table (we think). It was, and still is, quite confusing.

Instead of sitting face to face, we decided to sit with our backs to the wall and looking towards the counter, which was quite interesting as we could both witness all the activity happening behind the counter, but in a chilled down way.

Coffees being poured. Cakes being freed from their moulds, their sides “shaven off”, then iced. Cakes sliced. And repeat.

Not in a frantic way, but more in a sort of effortless, continuous way.

We ordered the chiffon cake, which seemed to be in high demand as we witnessed lots and lots of slices being cut and served from our privileged viewing point.

Chiffon cake
Chiffon cake

It was so fluffy! We speculated that it might have lots and lots of chemical raising agents, as the Japanese don’t seem to be afraid of chemicals (we were still thinking of the program we had watched the night before).

I have a vague memory that there were various flavours of this chiffon cake, but I can’t remember the flavour of it, at all. All I remember is the FLUFFY texture. It was like biting into a cloud (if you could bite into a cloud, that is).

We also ordered some cheese cake:

Cheese cake
Cheese cake

And coffee, of course, that came in pretty cups:

This cafe was also themed in a European classics sort of way, like the one we visited in Matsumoto, but there was something distinctly Japanese about it. Perhaps the vase and flower arrangements; perhaps the wooden beams.

We finished our merienda, paid and left, excited to see what was up in Shibuya since the last time we had been there!

Tower records

Our first stop was this famous record shop. We did not eat or drink anything here, but I wanted to talk about it because good music is like food for my soul.

Plus, you can see another scramble crossing from their windows (like the famous Shibuya crossing!), and also my reflection, yes.

The famous Shibuya crossing, from Tower Records
A scramble crossing in Shibuya, seen from Tower Records

We spent a good time browsing the ambient / electronica / avant-garde section. It felt so deliciously old-fashioned—pressing buttons on their listening equipment; moving to a different column so you could preview other CDs; browsing the shelves to see which artists they stocked; seeing all those artists you’ve never heard of and which you wouldn’t easily find on online listening services as they tend to rank the things that are already popular in a higher position; looking at the cover art and also looking at the SPECIAL cover art. And the packaging. Music as physical object? This is getting meta. But I was throwing myself into it. Maybe I was enjoying the act of discovery. I don’t know!

We do buy vinyls from time to time, but making sure that they arrived intact all the way from Japan to London was a bit more hassle than we were prepared to go through. So we ended up getting a couple of CDs as our Tower Records souvenirs.

Electronica/Avantgarde CD shelves at Tower records
Ambient/Electronica/Avantgarde CD shelves at Tower records

And then we wandered around Shibuya, revisiting former old haunts, and getting amused by the sights of more Spanish restaurants / bars, like this one called “Vidrio” (I think the hiragana says “Vidoro”—I’m very excited that I’m starting to be able to decipher those things!)

Vidrio, a Spanish bar in Shibuya
Vidrio, a Spanish bar in Shibuya

We did not visit this restaurant, but a look at its online menu has taken me aback as they are more respectful to paella and Spanish cuisine than most of the restaurants I’ve seen in London/the UK:

  • For the paella valenciana, they say: “The main dish is chicken and beans”
  • They have fideuà! from Gandía! This is so specific and beautiful to see
  • The paella minimum is 2 people, which is a good sign that it is cooked from scratch (and not coming either from a freezer or from a bigger paella that has been portioned).

Very impressive!

We also visited Tokyu Hands and LOFT. If you have even just the minimal interest in stationery, these are very dangerous places to get close to. We spent a very long time there, partly because I had to check all the stationery, and partly because I wanted to find the perfect bento box.

After all that shopping and browsing, we were tired and hungry and all we wanted to do was to sit and have a beer.

Fortunately, Devvers knew where to go…

Goodbeer faucets

We walked for a few minutes, away from the noisiest streets, and up some flights of stairs which seemed to me like we were going the wrong way, and suddenly we were in a beer bar!

If you had asked me to find this place, I am not sure I would have managed to… One of those places that requires you to know what you’re doing before you can find them!

Good faucets

There was a mixed crowd of tourists and seemingly natives. It was busy enough that you could feel “a vibe”, but not so loud that you couldn’t hear yourself think.

We inspected the menu from our window seat, and ordered some snacks to go with the beer.

This is what it looks like when Japanese people interpret meat platters, I suppose: they make them look really pretty!

I remember enjoying the chicken a lot… 😋

We tried a few beers here:

  • GBF Pineapple Life – Fruit beer (brewed by Nide/Atsugi in Kanagawa)
  • Minoh Pale Ale – English Pale Ale (brewed by A.J.I. Beer Inc in Osaka)
  • Monster C – IPA (brewed by Nide / Baird Brewing Company in Shizuoka)

… before finally calling it a day…!

A street in Shibuya at night

Goodnight Shibuya! 😴

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