The Unique Coffee Culture Of Japan


Japan the land of the rising sun, is one of the best tourist destination to travel. The city is known for their famous Cherry blossom trees, and famous Japanese Street Fashion Subcultures.

Aside from that Japan is one of the largest consumers of coffee in the world, and known for their unique coffee culture where they make their coffee outshines from the rest of the coffee around the world.

When you visit the streets of Japan especially in Tokyo you will notice limitless permutations of coffee shops. Strolling around the city, you will also see the grimy neon Key Coffee signs affixed to towering Tokyo buildings which indicates the skyrocketing evolution of coffee culture in Japan.

Anywhere and anytime coffee is always available in the land of the rising sun, from a plethora of bottled, canned, and instant coffees available in vending machines and convenience stores nationwide.

Coffee first came to Japan hundreds of years ago, but only hit its stride starting in the 1970s, with the introduction of one of Japan’s first indigenous chain retailers, Doutor.

In the scale of Japanese history, coffee is relatively a new addition. In Japan’s self-imposed isolation from the outside world from 1638 until 1853, or “sakoku”, as it was called, Nagasaki was the only city where foreign merchants were allowed to enter. They, to a tiny island offshore called Deijima. Originally, Dutch merchants were the only ones who drank coffee in Japan. Introducing the coffee in Japan is not love at first sip, the Japanese didn’t immediately take a liking to the bitter brew, but by the end of Japan’s isolation–in the Meiji restoration in the late 19th century–coffee shops began popping up in Tokyo and imports peaked at around 140,000 bags. Coffee didn’t really surge in popularity until after World War II when Japan could resume imports.

In the early years, Japan coffee shops serve as impromptu meeting rooms for businessmen to talk shop and swoon potential clients. Nowadays Japan coffee shops serve as a relaxing place for working men and women, a place to chill out with friends, a tourist destination, and serves as a fashion statement in the street of Japan.

Japan Coffee Culture

Trendy new cafes, complete with latte artists and sleek designs that could be easily mistaken for New York City or LA, are the new attractive hangouts for Japan’s youth.

If you are looking for the best coffee shop in the city I must say all of the above. Cities like Kyoto, Hiroshima, and Osaka are teeming with places new and old that all compete for the young Japanese crowd, and foreign tourists as well. In Hiroshima Miyajima Island, famous for the world heritage listed Itsukushima Shrine, has become an unlikely hub of cafes. The tiny island off the coast of Hiroshima City is home to two independent roasters and at least 16 cafes.

Japanese Latte Art
Photo by : Daphne Tan

The comparatively quiet atmosphere of the Japanese coffee shop may also tie into another obvious difference from the coffee culture of the rest of the world: the briefness of the typical Japanese coffee shop visit.

Like so many things in Japan, the coffee culture is rapidly changing, as coffee businesses take cues from what’s hot in foreign countries and blend those elements to suit Japanese tastes. Coffee shop dates and weekend meetups with friends over a brew are becoming commonplace.