Gestures are the only way to communicate at this Harajuku cafe.

Most customers stepping into Tokyo’s stylish cafes aren’t there just for a drink, but for an elegant place to relax, and so many cafes go to a lot of effort to craft a quiet atmosphere. This new cafe, though, may be the quietest yet, because no one is allowed to speak inside, whether they’re a customer or an employee.

It’s called, fittingly, A Cafe Without Words, and it opened on Wednesday in Tokyo’s fashionable Harajuku neighborhood. Once you step across the threshold, words are forbidden, so you’ll have to use gestures to place your order and for any other communication with the staff.

As shown in the video above, this may require some back and forth between you and the barista or server, as you try to deduce just what you’re trying to convey to each other. The cafe’s menu consists of a total of 10 beverages, all soft drinks and identically priced at 800 yen (US$5.35), so there’s no chance of paying more or getting tipsier than you were prepared for.

Now, if you’ve spent much time traveling in Japan, especially if you’re not proficient in the local language, you might already feel used to ordering without speaking, as printed Japanese restaurant menus are usually heavy enough on pictures that you can just point to whatever you want. A Cafe Without Words closes off this loophole, though. The only printed menu is located outside the cafe, and there are no photos or posters of the available drinks inside, so you really will have to use gestures to order (writing your order down on a notepad, bringing up a photo on your phone, and all other visual aids are also, ostensibly, against the rules).

▼ In the video here, the customer mimics the motions of opening a paper carton in an attempt to express that she wants milk in her drink, which the waitress confirms by mimicking the motions of milking a cow’s udders.

The idea for A Cafe Without Words comes from creative company Entaku, who was also involved with Tokyo’s Cafe Run by Your Friends, where the staff pretended to be old personal friends of yours, that was open back in the spring. For A Cafe Without Words, Entaku describes the concept with:

If words were to disappear from the world, how would you order? A Cafe Without Words is a mysterious cafe where you can only order by gestures. If you get what you’d wanted at first, it’s a good feeling, and it’ll be fun even if you end up with something else. We hope you’ll enjoy the new experience of thinking of ways to communicate your thoughts, and envisioning what the other person is feeling, as you place your order.

There is no one correct way to order in a world without words. Please look forward to seeing what sort of experiences will co…

▼ Yes, the statement really does trail off like that, with the words eventually disappearing.

Perhaps because of how novel the concept is, A Cafe Without Words will only be open until November 5. Reservations are required, and can be made through Entaku’s website here.

Cafe information
A Cafe Without Words / 言葉のない喫茶店
Located at Rand Omotesando / RAND表参道
Address; Tokyo-to, Shibuya-ku, Jingumae 4-24-3, Jingumae Court C 1st floor
東京都渋谷区神宮前4-24-3 神宮前コート C 1F
Open 11 a.m.-7 p.m.

Source: PR Times via Shibuya Keizai Shimbun
Images: PR Times
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