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Experience Japan's 'retro boom' at Monozuki, a traditional kissaten cafe

Posted on February 4, 2021

 

Jazz music, dark wood, antique Western furniture. A waft of roasted coffee beans floats through the air. It is none other than your local Japanese ‘kissaten.’ Located on a cozy and quiet street in the quaint little Tokyo neighborhood of Nishi-Ogikubo, Monozuki is one of the few thriving kissaten shops remaining in Tokyo. Its simple menu does not boast—mainly black coffee and a few other drinks and desserts. But what Monozuki has, and what its modern, mainstream counterparts like Starbucks or Blue Bottle lack, is its notable sense of nostalgic comfort, offering everyone who enters a unique glimpse into the past.

Monozuki cafe entrance sign

photo by @hitoyasumikissa

Kissaten, literally translating to “tea-drinking shop,” is a retro-style Japanese coffee shop that originated as a concept early in the Showa Era (1926-1989). The emergence of the kissaten, or its short form ‘kissa,’ was reflective of its time in which young Japanese people started gathering together to sit and converse outside of the home, embracing concepts imported from abroad such as modernity and freedom.

Monozuki cafe exterior

photo by @haru3ii

Founded in 1975, Monozuki retains its vintage allure and is well-loved by locals and travelers alike. Unlike many other modern cafes that have opted for English cafe names and lettering, Monozuki is only written in Japanese kanji characters outside its store front.

Monozuki interior clocks

photo by @tktmo

At Monozuki, dozens of antique clocks adorn the walls, marking the gentle flow of time that seems to move ever so slowly.

Monozuki lemonade

photo by @hitoyasumikissa

In the hustle and bustle of Tokyo, a kissaten might be just the escape you need in your day to recharge and reset your gears for the next explosion of Tokyo life.

Monozuki stained-glass windows

photo by @tktmo

The stained-glass windows in the cafe tint the world outside in varying tones of sepia, as if you really were tucked deep inside a portal to the past.

Monozuki fruit soda ice cream float

photo by @haru3ii

The charm of the kissaten lies in the fact that no two kissaten shops are alike, each with its own distinct style and personality. Many of the original kissaten shops from the early Showa days were destroyed during World War II by fire-bombings.

Monozuki antique clocks

photo by @tktmo

The lone neighborhood kissaten might appear quirky and anachronistic to the younger generations who pass it by. Nonetheless, amidst a growing Showa revival for all things retro, also known as Japan’s ‘retro boom,’ Monozuki and its nostalgic idiosyncrasies have captivated the hearts of many.

Monozuki coffee with ice cream

photo by @kumiko_nakakuki

For a fresh scoop of carefully roasted nostalgia topped off with a dollop of smooth vanilla ice cream, Monozuki is the place for you.

Access: 

3 Chome-12-10 Nishiogikita, Suginami City, Tokyo 167-0042

Google Maps link 

Written by: Maya Kimura Watts

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