As most people would know, there’s no knowledge of an area, a city, or a country quite like that of a local’s. When you’re traveling across the world, generally the first thing on your itinerary would be seeing the many majorly popular landmarks and attractions at your destination, and there would be many, of course – isn’t that why you planned a trip there in the first place? Experiences such as riding camels in the Sahara, climbing the Harbour Bridge, or even something as miniscule as crossing the major Shibuya Scramble Crossing would be major ticks off anyone’s bucket list. However, more often than not, when you’re weeks (or even days) deep into traversing across a country, fatigue, both physically and mentally, will settle in, and eventually the desire to wake up on a leisurely Wednesday morning, get dressed in casual clothes, and go to where the locals dine, away from the bustling crowds and loud tourist will be so loud, you won’t be able to ignore it.
But the struggle is real – where do the locals go?
In a city as small yet vast and diverse as Tokyo, where literally every station you hop off at will present you with an infinite number of options to choose from, it can be a real tough decision to make, so we’ve done the ground work for you.
Shibuya is arguably one of the most popular neighbourhoods visited in Tokyo. Home to the famous Shibuya Scramble Crossing and Takeshita Street in Harajuku where the famous Harjauku girls and cosplayers thrive (amongst many other things), it may come as a surprise that neighbouring areas to Harajuku (still within Shibuya) offer many hip, trendy, eclectic, and romantic cafes that are literally just a train ride or even a short walk away from the major touristy areas. We’ve glazed over the more foreigner-targeted places, and curated a list of five of the cutest cafes where you can grab a romantic brunch on any given day amongst the quieter local crowd. Allow yourself to unwind and relax, and give any of these cafes a go whilst you’re visiting Shibuya!
Aoyama Flower Market Tea House – Aoyama
Situated right next to Omotesando Station, less than 10-minutes walk from Harajuku, is, without a doubt, one of Tokyo’s most aesthetically pleasing café. With a branch of the famous Aoyama Flower Market at the front selling gorgeous seasonal blooms, it will be hard to head straight to the back where the café sits without stopping to smell the roses and admire the colours. Gentlemen (or ladies), cue some romantic bouquets for the walk home afterwards.
As expected of a café inspired by and designed within a flower market, the interior of the café is completely decked out with luscious vegetation growing from the ceiling, winding its way around poles, and breaking up the homey wooden furnishing with a pop of colour. Fresh flowers are creatively placed around the café which adds to the romantic vibe. During the day, the gorgeous glow of natural light filters in from the massive windows against the wall, and at night, hanging light bulbs create a relaxed, vintage atmosphere.
The menu is full of dishes inspired by the colourful hues of fauna, and the drinks selection is overrun by refreshing fruity tea concoctions that come out brimming with flavor and flowers. Some of the dishes are downright adorable, and others just look too pretty to eat, although when you eventually do sample it, your taste buds will thank you for sending them to heaven. This place is the perfect spot for a light brunch or lunch and is completely Instagram-worthy.
Address: 5-1-2 Minami Aoyama Minato-ku, Tokyo
Hours: Mon – Sat: 11:00am – 8:00pm, Sundays & Holidays: 11:00am – 7:00pm
Pluffy Café – Shimokitazawa
There will be people who are self-confessed caffeine addicts, and then there are some who don’t need a hit to carry on with their daily lives (I know right?!), but everyone can agree that a latte with a bear, a penguin, a flower, or even a heart on it makes it infinitely more enjoyable. If you and your partner are one of the each of the extremes, head to Pluffy Café in Shimokitazawa to find common ground over some of the cutest latte art you will ever come across.
Located less than 3-minutes away via the train from Shibuya, Shimokitazawa is the local’s best kept secret. Despite the distance, you will hardly see tourist crowds here. A small yet bustling neighbourhood housing a hipster culture and a foodie sub-culture, it’s home to some of the best cafes in Shibuya.
Pluffy Café is hidden away off one of the main roads, and dishes out some of the best pancakes and cutest coffees in the entire neighbourhood. Lots of locals head here for a leisurely brunch date to grab stacks of their pancakes and indulge over a latte with an adorable bear on it. The flavour range is incredible; you will be able to select from the likes of chai, coffee, chocolate, banana, and so much more. Beware – it may be so cute that you won’t want to drink it at all!
Address: 2 – 29 – 16 Kitazawa Setagaya-ku, Tokyo Takagi Building 1F
Hours: 11:00am – 8:00pm (last order at 7:30pm)
West Aoyama Garden Café – West Ginza
Imagine this: you’re starving, and you’ve just ordered a stack of pancakes for brunch. Your mouth is watering as you’re thinking about cutting up a square from your stack and dipping it into maple syrup, and you see the waitress bring out your meal. But alas, it’s not the thin stack you’d normally see on American TV shows, it’s actually one incredibly round mound of perfection, smooth as a baby’s bottom and accompanied by an inviting slab of melted butter, sweet maple syrup, and fresh cream (although you can opt for chocolate cream if you want). It’s like a cake, but a pancake. It’s the best of both worlds.
West Aoyama Garden Café’s known for exactly the above. Their pancakes are renowned across Tokyo, and is a favourite for brunch sessions and romantic dates. They have a spacious indoor seating area with wide seats, however, their outside seating area is absolutely stunning, so try and request a spot out there, although it might be a bit difficult as it is quite popular.
Whilst their pancakes deserve so much more praise, their entire menu selection should be applauded. Special mentions are required for their mille feuille and hot soufflé, which are both super soft, incredibly fresh, and dangerously flavoursome. On any given day, you will see most tables with a combination, if not the entirety, of these three dishes. If you and your partner both have a sweet tooth, this is the place to be. You won’t regret it.
Address: 1 Chome-22-10 Minamiaoyama, Minato, Tokyo 107-0062
Hours: 11:00am – 8:00pm
Milk. Black. Lemon. By GOGO NO KOCHA – Daikanyama
As the most hipster café on this list, expect to see some funky interior designs, out of the ordinary seating options, and an entire menu dedicate to tea. Milk. Black. Lemon. By GOGO NO KOCHA is the ultimate destination if either of you are tea addicts. This place is absolutely brimming with tea creativity that you’ve probably never even heard of. The interior is an attractive all-white with splashes of wooden furnishing and a red feature wall which seems to have hooked some tea beverage ornaments along it. It’s so cute!
The café is very spacious, and there is the option to sit on tables along the wall, or in individual hanging pods that are made of woven wheat tapestry and are complete with cushioning. It is absolutely divine (but they are limited so don’t get your hopes up!). There is also a glass window where they prepare your food and drinks, which makes it a tad more interesting.
The menu is extensively filled with various tea varieties, which they’ve split up into ‘Happy’, ‘Relax’, and ‘Refresh’ – so there’s something for everyone! The teas come out in some of the cutest cups and pots, with the most adorable decorations (flowers, herbs, and fruits!). There are fresh sandwich varieties and a wide selection of cakes to accompany your tea, so you can get the entire deal here. Only a few minutes away from Daikanyama Station, which is close to Shibuya, get away from the crowds and get your Tokyo tea fix here.
Address: Matsard Daikanyama 1F, Sarugaku-cho, Shibuya-ku , Tokyo 150 – 0033
Hours: 11:00am – 8:00pm
City Bakery Hiroo – Hiroo
A quaint café located on the main road but without the main crowds, City Bakery Hiroo is the brainchild of Maury Rubin, two-time Emmy Award-winning producer and direction. Hiroo is a relatively small suburb within Shibuya, located only 10-minutes away by train from the main station. Over the years, it has amassed a small yet thriving collection of funky cafes and restaurants located only minutes away from the station. Break through from this, though, and you will arrive at City Bakery Hiroo.
Dark wooden furnishings, half benches and tables, and stools along the window which look out to the street curate the vibe of an inner-city cafe. The moment you want in, the smell of freshly baked delicacies will assault your nose and you’ll never want to leave. The glass cabinets will tease you with displays of muffins, cakes, breads, croissants, and other delicacies, whilst the refrigerated cabinet nearby will taunt you with fresh daily-made sandwiches and wraps. If you’re able to tear you eyes away from the food for a second, their drinks menu offers everything you would ever need: a great coffee selection, a wide tea variety, and a good mix of hot and cold beverages for the couples who can never agree on a hot latte or an iced coffee. Their double-onion bread is divine (although it might make for some strong breath afterwards), and their number one best seller, the pretzel croissant, is an absolute must. Heated up, it’s the perfect pastry twist that’s incredibly crunchy on the outside and super soft inside.
City Bakery patrons have been known to sit themselves down on the comfy benches and just spend the day there chilling and enjoying the great ambience of the café, so if a long stretch of relaxation is what the doctor ordered, this is your go-to-place.
Address: 5-4-21 Hiroo, Shibuya-ku, Tokyo
Hours: 8:00am – 8:00pm
On the surface, Shibuya is a high-paced, frenetic, crazy city with so much glitz and glamour to offer young and old couples, and everyone in between. However, if you just dig a little deeper and explore a little further, you will find that there are a multitude of hidden gems around every corner, in every city. Romance is alive and well in Shibuya, and the above cafes will give you some time to fall in love again in Tokyo.