old city cafe

Paris, Cafe de Flore, Boulevard Saint-Germain,

Cafe where Jean-Paul Sartre, Simone de Beauvoir, Albert Camus and many other sat and talk about philosophy.

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Cafes and Nostalgia

Most contemporary cafes in Tokyo these days share a similar look: modern and quintessentially western, or excessively cute and girly. This concept appeals to the younger generation, especially female SNS users who find photogenic cafe interiors and adorably decorated desserts a crucial part of their curation.

On the contrary, hipsters prefer to sip their coffee in the less mainstream, classic kissatens. Kissaten is a Japanese word for cafe, used to describe older establishments that have been in business since the Showa period. They are often characterized by heavily European-influenced interiors, skillfully brewed coffee, classic music, and friendly owners who have continued to manage their shops over the many years.

The moment you step into a kissaten, you will be taken on an instant nostalgic trip to the past. Most of them have preserved the same look through the decades, with interior decorations and furniture pieces aging beautifully over the years. Anything that looks old fashioned - whether it is a rustic, brass light fixture or sun-tanned chair - has most likely been used since the shop opened. It is truly fascinating to witness what was once considered a modern, trendy style back in the day when the Japanese began to incorporate western design in to their lifestyles.

With the growing trend of new cafes and western coffee shop chains emerging everywhere, many old fashioned kissatens have lost their grounds. There is a beauty in exploring the streets to chance upon these few remaining, quiet sanctuaries in the busy city.