There are cafés all over the world, but if you want a totally different experience that exceeds typical cafe dining, you have to go to Japan – more precisely, to Tokyo!
There is an endless range of theme cafés to suit everyone. For instance, if you like animals, there are the famous cat cafés or you could try a more unusual one, such as a goat or even an owl café.
If you prefer to have your coffee served by a waiter or waitress who’s easy on the eyes, then try a maid or butler café.
For anyone looking for an even more unique experience than that, the following list of cafes might interest you. Since pop culture is everywhere in Japan, it seems only natural to have anime and manga related themed cafés. Some of them, like the ‘Animate Cafés’ (that belong to the same-named shops, famous for selling anime, manga and related goods) change their featured series every few months, while others have a fixed series and location, such as the ‘Gundam Café’ at Akihabara Station. BMJ international went to two of these cafés to try them out for you.
The first one is the ‘Tiger and Bunny Café’ located in Akihabara. It’s named after the famous anime series and still has such a large fan base that you can only go by registering online and waiting for a lottery system to choose you.
After entering the café, you are led to your table and the waiters (who are all dressed in a style very much like one of the main characters, Kotetsu T. Kaburagi) will give you an iPad to order your food from. The food and drink is colourful and has interesting details that resemble each of the protagonists from the series. It usually takes some time for your food to arrive, as the café is always fully booked and customers tend to order lots of dishes at once, due to the limited time you are allowed to stay. However, the wait gives you the chance to take a look at the elaborately designed interior and the many TV-screens (where of course ‘Tiger and Bunny’ is playing) throughout the restaurant. As there’s a lot to keep you entertained, once the food arrives you don’t feel as though you’ve been waiting long at all.
The portions are not big (though rather pricey, as they are in most theme café) but the food is remarkably good and often so beautifully presented, that it almost looks too good to eat. With every item that you order you get coins, which you can later use to vote for the character you want to spend time with (the scenario changes during the day and is displayed on a screen, for example ‘Who do you want to go to karaoke with?’
The atmosphere is incredible, there’s a lot of excitement from fans when they hear their favourite character’s song playing, or a quote from the series. You can often see customers who’ve brought small figurines or toys with them or some who are even dressed up like the characters. Before you know it, the last order is announced and which means it’s time to pay your rather costly bill and to pick up the merchandise you may have ordered before the meal. Even if you are not a huge fan of ‘Tiger and Bunny’, this café is always worth a visit just for the unusual experience, as there’s nothing like this themed cafe in other parts of the world.
The second café we tried can be found in Ikebukuro and is one of the ‘Animate Cafés’. Information about the currently featured series is announced on their website and just like the ‘Tiger and Bunny Café’, to visit you must reserve online in advance. Since the chosen anime are usually rather new, extremely popular and only available to see for a limited time, it can be rather tough to make it through the lottery (it took us 7 attempts to get a table!).
At the time we applied, the featured anime was ‘Kuroko no Basuke’, a very popular sports series about a boy who wants his basketball team to be the best in Japan. The moment you enter, you can hear the opening song and whilst you wait for a waitress (who are dressed as the female trainer of the basketball team) to lead you to the table, you can admire the life-sized cardboard cut-outs of the characters. The décor was excellent, but since each featured series is only displayed for a limited time, there is not as much atmosphere or attention to detail, compared to the ‘Tiger and Bunny Café’. With every order, you get a small free gift such as stickers or trading cards. The character food is cute and original; they even had on the menu some of the protagonist’s favourite meals!
This café is a little bit cheaper than the previous one, yet the food is of a good standard, but not quite as tasty as it was at the first one. Usually, food at theme cafés is fairly average, as the focus is more on the atmosphere and novelty décor, so we were quite surprised at the quality.
Anime cafés are always worth a visit and there are many to choose from in Tokyo, and plenty of them don’t require you to reserve a table beforehand, unlike the ones we went to. The atmosphere is unique and the experience is one you won’t find outside of Japan, so even if manga and anime are not necessarily a hobby of yours, I would still recommend a visit to a theme café purely for this incomparable experience.