The cafe with a kabuki twist — we visit Tully’s Coffee at the Kabukiza Theater

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Kabuki is a traditional Japanese performing art that has been enjoyed by the masses since the 17th century  and is known for its unique make-up as well as its distinct, exaggerated poses and expressions. Kabuki is performed exclusively by male actors, and some of the more famous ones enjoy celebrity status in Japan, appearing in movies, TV dramas and commercials.

So, while it’s not nearly as big an attraction in this day of 4-D movies and theme parks as it used to be in the Edo Period, kabuki is still an established entertainment genre. And the Kabukiza Theater in Tokyo’s Ginza district, which was newly rebuilt in 2013, is still a mecca for kabuki fans. Today, one of the reporters from our Japanese sister site Pouch introduces the Tully’s Coffee shop located in the Kabukiza Theater for a look at a modern cafe that serves a menu item with a kabuki twist!

The Tully’s Coffe branch we visited is located on the basement floor of the Kabukiza Theater, where there is a large area called the Kobikicho Hiroba (Kobikicho Plaza) filled with shops selling kabuki-themed souvenirs and foods. Because the plaza isn’t located inside the actual theater area, anyone can go in and take a look at the shops, even if you don’t have tickets to a kabuki performance.

▼ The Kabukiza Theatre, where the Tully’s Coffee is located:

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In addition to its unique location, the Tully’s Coffee shop in the Kobikicho Plaza holds a special significance for the coffee chain, as it was the 500th branch opened in Japan. We’d heard that they had an original kabuki-themed menu item as well as exclusive souvenir goods available only at this shop, which our reporter Momo was excited to be checking out.

When we got to the shop, there were some traditional kabuki-style umbrellas and chairs in front of the entrance, which added a kabuki feel to the setting. We also spotted illustrations of traditional tiles and lanterns on the shop sign, which was a cute touch.

▼The entrance to the cafe:

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However, once we entered, we have to say there wasn’t much that was unique about the interior, although perhaps that was to be expected of a coffee chain (and nope, unfortunately, there were no staff members in kabuki costumes).

▼The interior of the cafe looked quite normal.

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Their exclusive menu item, the “Kabukiza Cappuccino“, was advertised on a small sign placed on the cash registers. It was such an unobtrusive sign, in fact, that our reporter was worried that they might not actually be selling it at that time. As it turns out, the cappuccino was available, so we placed our order and waited to see what the kabuki-themed beverage would be like. Maybe they’ll serve it with the traditional kabuki cry of “Yooooooh …!”

Okay, so they didn’t serve the cappuccino while shouting “Yooooooh …!” — they gave us a very normal “Here you go” type of greeting instead when our drink was ready.

But to our delight, we saw that the cappuccino was decorated with a traditional kabuki face in “kumadori” make-up, drawn into the drink’s froth with cinnamon powder. The drink was soy milk based and…well, tasted quite normal.

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The fun part about this cappuccino is that when you drink it, you find yourself looking right into the kabuki face. If you have a favorite kabuki actor, you can imagine his face while drinking the cappuccino, and it might even feel like you’re kissing your kabuki idol! How exciting is that?

▼ Drink to your favorite kabuki actor!

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The only downside is, after the first sip, the face gets distorted to such an extent that it won’t remind you of your favorite kabuki star anymore and will most likely resemble an alien or monster instead, so your love affair with the kabuki actor made of soy milk and cinnamon will probably end as quickly as it began.

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One decoration we noticed was a large roof tile, displayed inside the counter, that was actually used in the past on the theater roof. This was actually quite neat to see!

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▼ The small signs in the shop had a bit of kabuki taste to them.

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There were also special souvenirs available at the shop, such as tumblers illustrated with ukiyoe block print images and tenugui towels with patterns from the famous “Scrolls of Frolicking Animals and Humans” (Choju Jinbutsu Giga). Japanese-style items from Tully’s may be unexpected, but certainly could make interesting gifts. 

▼ Some of the exclusive souvenirs sold at the shop:

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So, the Tully’s Coffee Kabukiza Theater shop is definitely set in a unique location, and the fact that its kabuki theme is not too over-the-top could make it a causally fun place for anyone to visit, even if you’re not a hardcore kabuki fan.

Of course, the Kabukiza Cappuccino is bound to be even more delightful if enjoyed with a live kabuki performance, so if you’re going to the Kabukiza Theater for some kabuki action, this may be as good a place as any to grab a cup of coffee!

Cafe information
Tully’s Coffee Kabukiza
Address: Ginza Kabukiza B1F, 4-12-15 Ginza, Chuo-ku,
東京都中央区銀座4-12-15 GINZAKABUKIZA B1F
Telephone: 03-3547-3370
Open Mon to Fri: 7:30 a.m.-10:00 p.m., Weekends and holidays: 8:00 a.m.-10:00 p.m

Photos and original article by: Momo Momomura ©Pouch
[ Read in Japanese ]

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