Step back in time at this old-school Japanese kissaten. 

You can find a lot of establishments in Japan that look worn and run-down, so much so that you might find yourself wondering if the place is still in business. That’s what happened to our reporter Masanuki Sunakoma the other day, when he found himself walking past a construction site with a building next to it that was completely covered in ivy.

He was in the area looking for a cafe called Lafresa that was said to be loved by coffee shop lovers, with some local businessman even visiting the joint three or four times a day. Established in 1977, the cafe is said to have a soothing, old-fashioned atmosphere in the style of a Japanese kissaten, but for some reason, Masanuki couldn’t find it.

Whipping out his phone again to check the map, he was definitely in the right area, so he decided to look a little harder at the building where he was standing.

▼ This couldn’t be it…could it?

The building looked run-down, particularly with the wild wall of ivy, a feature he usually associates with derelict buildings. However, there seemed to be no other cafe option in the vicinity, so he dared to peer beneath the ivy, where he found a couple of chalkboards advertising Morning Sets and Coffee and Tea.

A main with salad and coffee or tea for 550 yen (US$3.69) sounded like an incredibly good deal, and when he looked at the door, he could see that this was the place he’d been looking for, as the word “Lafresa” was written on the glass in delicate cursive script.

The glass was frosted, though, so Masanuki felt a little nervous as he couldn’t see what lay inside. Mustering up his courage, he reached for the handle and slowly opened the door.

By the way, there seems to be a mahjong parlor called “Mahjong Gaga” on the second floor. I think it’s open since there’s a signboard, but I wonder how to get to the second floor.

Stepping inside felt like stepping back in time, as the interior took him right back to the ’70s.

Staff led him down the narrow front room to a room at the back that looked like it hadn’t been touched since the late Showa era (1926-1989). an oasis in the office district. It felt like Doctor Who’s Tardis, with the interior feeling much more spacious than the exterior suggested it would be. As he took a seat in this retro room, he saw there were already several groups of people here, some of whom seemed to be tourists and others who looked to be businessmen.

▼ The back area was already full, so he was seated at a large shared table.

The semi-circular table was lined with magazines and newspapers, and there were ashtrays scattered about as well. The fact that you can smoke while having a coffee here is probably why the place is so popular with businessmen.

Thankfully, nobody around him was smoking during his visit, so he was able to order his Morning Set with peace of mind. There were four sets to choose from: A. Buttered Toast with Ham and Egg, B. Tuna Sandwich with Runny Egg, C. Blueberry Jam Toast with Ham and Egg, and D. Cheese Toast with Runny Egg.

After much deliberation, Masanuki chose Set C, and when it arrived, he was surprised at how luxurious it looked, with a slice of expensive melon on the side as well.

This was a fantastic deal, especially as it includes a drink, which can set you back 550 yen at some places on its own. Masanuki opted for a drip-style iced coffee, and it had a smooth texture and refreshing aftertaste. Hot coffee drinkers are spoiled with coffee brewed using a siphon.

The blueberry jam toast had a delicious sweetness and perfect texture, with the outside being crispy and the inside remaining moist and soft. The balance of sweetness and saltiness was divine, and a perfect example of the expertise you’d expect from a long-established coffee shop like this one.

The salad and fruit on the side balanced out the sweet and salty toast for a luxurious kissaten-style breakfast.

Despite being conveniently located just a two-minute walk from Shin-Nihonbashi Station, Lafresa has all the atmosphere of a secret base. The cake sets are also popular, so no matter what time you visit, your taste buds will be treated to all the retro flavours of an old-school kissaten. It’s only open on weekdays, though, so you’ll have to keep that in mind if you plan to visit. If you do find yourself in the area on a weekend, there’s another hidden gem you might want to check out — the Yamazaki convenience store with a DJ booth in the basement!

Cafe information

Lafresa / ラフレッサ
Address: Tokyo-to, Chuo-ku, Nihonbashihoncho 4-2-8
Hours: 8:00 a.m. – 8:00 p.m.
Closed Saturdays, Sundays and public holidays

Photos ©SoraNews24
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