Japan Café Guide... Japan has always been one of the most popular tourist destination in Asia because of its rich history and multifacet...

Japan Café Guide: Top 5 Cafés to Visit in Japan


Japan Café Guide...

Japan has always been one of the most popular tourist destination in Asia because of its rich history and multifaceted culture. Besides being recognised as a tech-savvy country, Japan is also known for its fresh, exquisite and delicious cuisines. Just a few months back, I visited three different places in Japan – mainly Tokyo, Kyoto and Osaka in a short span of two weeks for my graduation trip. It was definitely an eye-opening experience, being able to witness and immerse myself in Japan’s cultural scene.

Not only is Japan the perfect place to take OOTDs (I took quite a fair bit of shameless and narcissistic photos myself), it also has a great variety of interesting and dainty cafés which I really had to visit. In just that two weeks, I’ve already lost count on the number of cafés that I have visited in Japan. So, I’ve decided to compile the ‘Top 5 Cafés to Visit in Japan’ especially for people who are looking at a short trip. I really hoped that this Japan café guide would be helpful to you in one way or another and the list is not in any particular order.

1) Café Wakakusa (Nara)
Nara is one of the hottest attraction in Japan because it houses to about a few hundreds of adorable deer. At Nara Park, you can easily spot many deer roaming around freely and of course, with huge flocks of people attempting to take a picture with them. I am no exception. I took almost half a day just to get a nice, non-blurry shot with the deer. Trust me, you will be very tired after chasing the deer for the entire afternoon. So, the café part comes in, I wanted to look for a cosy place to rest and enjoy a nice dessert or a cuppa. This is when I found Café Wakakusa, a hidden gem in Nara, where they sell really pretty and delicious crepes! It is quite easy to locate them with a Google Map! (When you are in Japan, you definitely need to purchase data because Google Map is really very important and useful!)

Azuki Beans & Mochi Crepe with Green Tea Ice Cream
Their crepes are really out of the world! I didn’t expect it to be so soft because they literally melt in my mouth. The handmade whipped cream inside the crepe looked intimidating at first glance but they turned out to be surprisingly good and addictive. It wasn’t very sweet and really complements the crepe very well. It wasn’t jelat as well. The red beans were well-cooked – not too soft or too hard. The mochi didn’t really have any taste but it provides this chewy texture to the entire crepe. My favourite was probably the green tea ice cream because it was so rich and creamy. Japan’s green tea ice cream is really very impressive. The ice cream was so consistent and not too icy. I was so glad that I made the decision to add a scoop of green tea ice cream on the crepe itself. It definitely did satisfy my ice cream cravings and made my trip to Café Wakakusa so worthwhile. A must-try when you’re there!

Chocolate & Banana Crepe
Again the crepe and whipped cream were amazing! The chocolate sauce was not too bad – Chocolate-lovers would fall in love with this! It was a mixture of Nutella and Hazelnut sauce and definitely goes very well with the bananas. It was a little too sweet for me but if you have a sweet tooth, you would probably love this! But I still prefer the Azuki Beans and Mochi Crepe! Besides having sweet crepes, Café Wakakusa also offers savoury crepes.

Another thing that’s worth mentioning about Café Wakakusa is the friendly owner. He shares the same passion as me – travelling around the world, café-hopping and have a strong fond for food. He is also the owner of @globalcafeguide where he shares about the different cafés around the world. It was great chatting with someone who is so passionate about his dreams. This is the place to visit when you are in Nara!

Café Rating: 4/5
Food Ratings: 8/10
Location: 東向北町22番地, Nara-shi, Nara 630-8214

2) eX Café (Arashiyama)
Just a 15 minutes’ walk from the popular Arashiyama Bamboo Grove, eX Café is a traditional teahouse café that you have to drop by. They only serve one main which is their signature Carbonara made from Green Tea Buckwheat Noodles and quite a fair bit of desserts. eX Café has a nice and cosy setting which makes it the perfect rest-stop for a nice lunch after a walk in the bamboo forest. I was also stoked by the beautiful and exquisite plating!

Carbonara (Green Tea Buckwheat Noodles)
This is the only main they served but its good enough. I was actually quite excited when I first saw it on the menu. What??!! Using Green Tea Buckwheat Noodles to make Carbonara? Are you kidding me? I’m a huge fan of Green Tea but will it taste good? Well, it turned out to be damn impressive. First, the portion was relatively huge. Second, the carbonara was rich, creamy and addictive (the green tea flavour was subtle which lingers in the mouth after you swallow the noodles). Third, it was not jelat. Fourth, the bacon they gave were humongous. I’m not kidding. They were not the crispy type of bacon we always see on the usual Carbonara but these were chewier. Fifth, it is healthy. Sixth, the sides they provided us were damn good! It was a mixture of sweet and sour which definitely opens up my appetite! A must, must, must try when you are at Arashiyama Bamboo Grove!

eX Café has quite a selection of desserts for you to choose from. It will definitely quench your thirst after a long walk in the forest. In frame, Kori-Mango & Kyoto Kuro Roll (Kuromaru). I’m still very impressed with the carefully thought-out plating of the desserts which really makes the customer very happy!

Kori Mango
It is something like Singapore’s Ice Kachang or Korea’s Bingsu. The shaved ice was relatively fine and melts in my mouth instantly. It was a bit too sweet for me though. I felt a bit cheated because I thought they were going to drizzle real mango sauce on the shaved ice but it turned out to be artificial flavouring. Okay, at least they gave us a generous portion of fresh mangoes to go with the shaved ice. I’m happy because I needed something icy after walking a good two hours in the forest. The complimentary toppings were not too bad!

Kyoto Kuro Roll (Kuromaru)
Oh my god! This Kyoto Roll was so delicious! They were so fluffy and moist! I didn’t felt like sharing it because it was that good! They have three different types: One is the classic one which is the one I ordered, Charcoal-flavoured one and Matcha-flavoured one. The cream which I still could not figure what is it made up of (probably a mixture of coconut and vanilla) was so rich, flavourful and creamy. I would suggest you order the roll than their shaved ice if you were to visit them!

So, beat the Kyoto heat by visiting eX café, a blend of traditional Japanese styled rooms and antique themed Western furnishings when you are at Arashiyama!

Café Rating: 4.5/5
Food Rating: 8.5/10
Location: 35-3 Sagatenryuji Tsukurimichicho, Ukyo Ward, Kyoto, Kyoto Prefecture 616-8384

3) Mondial Kaffee 328 (Osaka)
Osaka is my favourite place to visit in Japan because of its rich cultural heritage and amazing monuments. It’s a pity I only spent one day in Osaka because it wasn’t in our itinerary initially. I couldn’t explore the place much in such a short period of time but I did googled for a café nearby. Most of the cafés were closed because we went there in the evening (the cafés in Japan closed around 5-6pm). I was very disappointed when the café that I had planned to go was closed. Left with no choice, I walked around looking for a place to stop by and Dadah, I found Mondial Kaffee 328. I wouldn’t say that it is the best in Osaka but it was one of the decent and affordable one you can find. (I was in Osaka a few years back and their café scene was not as established as compared to today). In frame, Oreo Chocolate Muffin, French Toast, Green Tea Latte, Iced Cocoa and Iced Caramel Latte.

Oreo Chocolate Muffin
The muffin wasn’t over the top, but still relatively simple and decent. It tasted like the old school kind of muffin I used to have when I was a kid. It would have been better if it was more flavourful (perhaps adding more vanilla essence) and less chunky. They could also probably incorporate more oreo into the muffin because now, both the oreo and muffin are like two separate individuals. 

French Toast
The French Toast was unbelievably good because my expectation was quite low after the Oreo Chocolate Muffin. The toast was soft and the sauce was so good! The whipped cream is not very sweet but very addictive. Can I ship back the whipped cream from Japan? A must-order at Mondial Kaffee 328!

Matcha Latte
Their matcha latte is one of the best that I’ve tried in Japan. It was not too sweet and the matcha flavour was strong. I also like the subtle bitter aftertaste of the matcha latte.

You can stop by Mondial Kaffee 328 for a cup of coffee after exploring the Osaka Castle. Good place to chill with your friends.

Café Rating: 3/5
Food Ratings: 7/10
Location: 大阪市西区北堀江, Osaka, Osaka 55

4) Gontran Cherrier Tokyo (Tokyo: Shinjuku)

This bakery café is so popular in Tokyo, especially their signature Matcha Croissant which sigh, I did not manage to try it despite visiting the bakery twice. Apparently, the Matcha Croissant which appeared countless times on different social media platforms sells out pretty quickly. The shop keeper told me it was sold out in the morning - one hour after they have opened the shop! Oh well, better luck next time! I didn’t wanted to leave just yet because I would have wasted my time and money if I left without trying the other pastries which looked equally tempting and enticing! 

Mont Blanc
The Mont Blanc was really crispy and has a really strong taro taste which I really liked. The sugar icing drizzled on it makes it sweeter but not jelat. It was definitely worth the amount I paid and it was really cheap.

Roule Patisserie
This tasted very similar to an egg tart but it is softer, richer and creamier. I also like the crust of the pastry which is neither too hard nor soft. Again, very affordable! 

Scone Au Matcha Et Chocolat Blanc
I was taken aback (in a good way) when I took first bite of the Matcha scone. It looked pretty normal to me but never ever judge a book by its cover, the Matcha scone was so tasty. The crust was so crispy but the inside was so moist and fluffy. The Matcha flavour was really strong and it was not too sweet. The melted white chocolate inside the scone was a really good complement. So good and addictive that I could probably eat 3-4 of it by myself. 

It would be good if you could visit the bakery as early as possible because it is really packed in the afternoon which I believe you can see in the above pictures. They have quite a wide selection of interesting flavoured pastries for you to choose from. Also, they do serve pretty awesome coffee. 

Café Rating: 4/5
Food Ratings: 8/10
Location: Shibuya-ku, Yoyogi 2-2-1, Southern Terrace 東京都渋谷区代々木221 新宿サザンテラス

5) Rainbow Pancake (Tokyo: Shibuya)
No rainbow pancakes but the pancakes here were the best I’ve tried in my life. They were the softest and fluffiest pancakes I’ve ever eaten in the past 25 years of my life. No wonder they are so popular among the Japanese people and also among the tourist. There was a long queue when I was there in the afternoon and I had to wait a good 20 minutes before getting a seat inside the café. The café houses only up to eight tables and is relatively small. Rainbow Pancake is one café in Tokyo you shouldn’t missed! In frame, featuring their all-time favourite Macadamia Nuts Pancake & Mango and Rum & Raisin Pancake.

Their latte were really aromatic and clean! Oh ya, before I forget, everyone needs to order something in the café (that’s the café’s policy) but it’s worth it!

Macadamia Nuts Pancake
Yummy! Like I mentioned earlier, the pancakes were so soft and fluffy! The pancakes were not very sweet and it really goes very well with the crushed Macadamia nuts which were nicely coated with a layer of sugar icing. The condensed milk (I presume) was not too sweet and it did bring out the entire flavour of the pancakes. They also provided a cute cinnamon biscuit for us to go with the pancakes. A scoop of ice cream would further complete the meal! But still, a must-try!

Mango & Rum Raisin Pancake
Bang! This was my favourite pancake at Rainbow Pancake, especially their in-house ice cream. Again, no complains about the pancakes. The mango and rum & raisins ice cream were so rich and flavourful. I liked how they were small bits of fresh mangoes in the ice cream and they were generous in the amount of raisins infused in the ice cream. So freaking good especially during the hot afternoon in Japan. 

I would suggest going to Rainbow Pancake at around 12.30-1pm because the queue got a little crazy after 2pm. A must-visit café at Tokyo and it is really easy to find! 

Café Rating: 4.5/5
Food Ratings: 9/10
Location: 4-28-4 Jingumae | Ares Garden Omotesando 2F, Shibuya 150-0001, Tokyo Prefecture

P/s: Hope this café guide had help you in one way or another if you are planning to head to Japan for a short trip. And remember to buy data because it would be very useful during the trip!

Written by: Yong Wei Kai (Follow me on Instagram @yongweikai or @sgcafehopping)

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