All you need is a little caffeine. Image by Sammi Lim.
Having spent the better part of my life in busy cities such as Kuala Lumpur and New York City, I’ve always felt more at home surrounded by high-rise buildings than sprawling fields.
Even so, nothing could have prepared this cosmopolitan girl for the madness that is Tokyo.
Home to 13.3 million inhabitants, it’s not always easy to find peace and calm in Tokyo.
During rush hour, lunch spots are packed full of salary men and students standing elbow-to-elbow, slurping bowls of ramen. The lines at supermarkets and Starbucks snake around myriad blocks or aisles. Using the metro is an exercise in endurance; separate companies run the subway system, which makes the ticketing system more difficult to decipher than a Sudoku puzzle.
During my short, stressful week in Tokyo, I found it absolutely necessary to seek out tranquility and to replenish my energy with caffeine. Here are some places where you, too, can re-center.
It was at Streamer Café’s Shibuya branch where I met Japanese hipsters – pouty baristas who defy the notion of polite Japanese hospitality. Ignore their mean faces and indulge in the mean brews!
Coffee lovers frequent Streamer Café for its bowl-sized lattes topped with intricate latte art.
Love coffee and tea equally? Try the signature “Military Latte,” a mélange of espresso, steamed milk, and matcha/green tea.
The army-themed café is decked out in earthy colors and camouflage print.
While coffee is the main lure at Streamer Café, ridiculously cute doughnuts take the spotlight at Floresta Doughnuts. If you have no qualms about eating adorable food, take your pick from sweet treats resembling kittens, seals, and other animals.
Floresta stands as proof of Japan’s kawaii culture, which often permeates the local food industry.
The doughnut chain takes pride in using only organic and local ingredients, so a bout of gluttony here weighs less on your conscience.
Ranging on the small side, these minuscule cake doughnuts are a tad pricey at ¥250 (~$2.50) each, but the craftsmanship and ingredients easily justify the cost.
The food truck craze has seized the world. Even espresso is going mobile!
It was purely coincidental that I stumbled upon a Motoya van one strenuous afternoon. I was immediately charmed by the one-woman operation run by a driver/barista/cashier. She sat with her back to the driver’s seat, hunched over an espresso machine.
Besides a diverse selection of drinks, there was also an assortment of Bento boxes and sweet snacks.
My espresso was good, but the experience of buying it from a rustic van held the most charm; far from today’s state-of-the-art food trucks, Motoya’s espresso van looks like a homey kitchen stuffed into the back of a van.
Motoki Ito, founder of Motoya Espresso Express, aims to foster neighborhood spirit with his espresso vans. Ito takes it upon himself to personally hand wash and roast the Arabica coffee beans.
Calling all crazy cat ladies who love caffeine!
Calico Cat Café is the perfect place to take a paws. This two-floored café houses a huge feline family ready to frolic and purr at your feet. Think coffee shop meets petting zoo.
Cat enthusiasts are bound to gush over Calico Café’s vast variety of breeds, ranging from the ever-surprised-looking British shorthair to the exotic spotted Bengal.
Japan’s cat cafés have to pass stringent health inspections, so banish any concerns about finding fur in your food. An entrance fee of 1,000 Yen (approximately $10) grants you an hour in cat paradise; every 15 minutes beyond that costs 150 Yen ($1.50). The total is tallied up from the time you clock in.
My friend and I enjoyed delicious iced coffee and fresh-squeezed juice.
Catnip is available for purchase from your waitress if you wish to be smothered in extra love…furreal!
Where do you go for a unique respite from the chaos of life? Share in the Comments below!