We stop by the cafe’s original branch in Tokyo for a cup of coffee and a unique dessert.

Our Japanese-language reporter Masanuki Sunakoma recently got a reminder of how Tokyo is one of the best cities to be feeling hungry in, as you’ve got a pretty good chance of randomly stumbling across a great meal. And it turns out that even if you’re not looking for a full meal, but just craving a snack and a drink, Tokyo is still ready to reward your taste buds with near-random deliciousness.

After a business appointment the other day in downtown Tokyo’s Nihonbashi neighborhood, Masanuki came across Mikado Coffee.

Two things in particular caught his eye: the sign saying that they’d been in business since 1948, and the sign touting their “Mocha Soft” ice cream. It’s sort of unusual for a coffee place to have such a large, dedicated sign for ice cream, especially in a neighborhood with the sort of old-school vibe that Nihonbashi does, so it seemed like they’re really confident in the flavor of their frozen treat.

Stepping inside, Masanuki was surprised to see that there are no seats on the first floor – it’s standing service only. There are seats and tables up on the second floor, but the two floors also have separate order and pricing.

This is an unusual setup in Japan, but there’s a reason for this split. When Mikado Coffee opened 76 years ago, coffee was still a luxury beverage in Japan, and not something the average person could regularly drink. So to try to help make the beverage even a little more accessible, Mikado Coffee dedicated its first floor to standing service and charged lower prices than they did for customers who took up a seat while they sipped, similar to the system in coffee houses in Italy.

Mikado Coffee boasts that acidic notes are an important part of the cafe’s coffee-drinking experience, and while they’re noticeable, they’re not harsh or overpowering. Masanuki found the coffee to be rich but refreshing, with a clean finish and elegant character.

Then it was time for the Mocha Soft, which you can get in either a cone or a cup. Opting for the cup gets you a special addition of a dollop of prune sauce, so that’s what Masanuki went with.

“Coffee prune ice cream” might sound like something specifically designed to break the hearts of children, but to Masanuki’s grown-man palate, it was exquisite. Both the bitter and sweet flavors are gentle enough to mix together nicely, forming a creamy, satisfying combination with the taste of prune leading to a clean finish that had him ready for another bite almost immediately. It’s a very mature dessert, and Masanuki loves it for that.

Speaking of people who love Mikado Coffee, it turns out the cafe has a major celebrity connection. Though founded in Tokyo, with one other location in the Nihonbashi area, Mikado Coffee also has a few locations in the town of Karuizawa, in the mountains of Nagano Prefecture. Karuizawa is also where John Lennon and Yoko Ono spent a number of summers in the 1970s, with the pair becoming regulars at their local Mikado Coffee branch.

All in all, Masanuki’s quick coffee/sweets stop ended up having a lot more history than he’d thought it was going to, but he’s glad that Mikado Coffee is still here for all of us to enjoy in the present.

Cafe information
Mikado Coffee (Nihonbashi branch) / ミカド珈琲店(日本橋本店)
Address: Tokyo-to, Chuo-ku, Nihonbashi Muromachi 1-6-7
Open 7 a.m.-5 p.m. (weekdays), 10 a.m.-6 p.m. (weekends, holidays)

Interior image: Mikado Coffee
All other photos © SoraNews24
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