Experience kissaten culture

Japanese ‘kissaten’ (traditional coffee shops) do not only serve superb coffee; they’re also perfect for relaxation and for taking some time to yourself. Whether you’re stopping by in between sightseeing trips, meeting up with friends or just looking for a quiet place to read a book, the kissaten is sure to deliver.

1. Wipe your paws first

After being shown to your seat, you’ll first be served a glass of water and an ‘oshibori’, which is a warm hand towel. Intended as a welcoming gesture, the oshibori is used to wipe your hands before you settle in and ponder what to order.

2. Kissaten are info-gathering spots

Most kissaten have newspapers and magazines available, while others are fully equipped with free wi-fi, copy service and even private rooms, making them apt for productive use. You can even think of the kissaten as your office away from the office.

3. Check out a cat cafe

In addition to the traditional kissaten, Japan also offers a wide range of quirkier cafes –depending on the place, you can hang out with cats or owls, be served by a maid or interact with a real butler. It’s like jumping right into the world of anime.

4. Try a local drink speciality

Classics like coffee or tea are always safe choices, but for the full kissaten experience, consider trying some of the more specialised drinks on offer. Examples include matcha (green tea) au lait and hoji-cha (roasted tea) cappuccino, both of which go nicely with lunch meals like sandwiches or omelette over rice.

5. Enjoy a free breakfast set

Customary mainly in the Nagoya area, the ‘morning’ system is now in use at many kissaten across the country. Just order a cup of coffee and you’ll be treated to a complimentary set of toast, eggs, salad and other early-bird treats.

6. Don’t worry about tipping

Tips are generally not accepted in Japan. Service fees are practically always included in the prices, so you can enjoy the country’s warm hospitality at no extra cost. Some kissaten also offer free coffee refills or discounts on seconds, inviting you to kick back and relax.

Useful Japanese phrases at cafes

Sumimasen = excuse me

Kore wo kudasai = I would like this
(As you point to the items you want on the menu…)

Okawari o kudasai = Refill, please!

Itadaki-masu = This is what people say when beginning a meal

Gochisosama-deshita = And this is what we say at the end of a meal

Check here for other useful Japanese phrases.

For meals (including cafes)

For other situations