If you’ve exhausted all the activities on Tokyo’s tourist map and are looking to explore the capital’s outskirts, Koenji should be first on your list. Situated in the Nishi (West) district, there’s no absence of quirkiness: the local Art and Cat Salon boasts a range of cat-themed paraphernalia (from lampshades to clocks), the Under 700 shop features mannequins with fluffy raccoon heads, and there’s even a coffee shop called Poem – a hipster’s Paradise!
Directly opposite the station, visible from the platform, is the Yonchome Café. Fitting in perfectly with Koenji’s trendy reputation, the café draws you in with its unique décor, a mishmash of rustic and contemporary. Its funky scrawled lettering, the string of Christmas tree lights that hang in the window all year round, flickering invitingly, blue and yellow mosaics that decorate the walls, fractured images of cherubs and coffee cups, and bulbous red lamps attached to black metal dragons.
A yellow lamp in the centre looks like it’s straight out of Game of Thrones, whilst in one corner, a range of black-and-white photographs of children from the ‘40s is on display (the café doubles as a gallery space, with a different showcase every few months). With so much to look at, you might forget the place’s main aim is to serve food!
The café’s busiest period is undoubtedly 12:00-15:00, when the lunch menu is on offer. Yonchome’s lunch menu is too enticing to turn up: a mere 670 yen for a choice of various different dishes, including two choices of pasta, a rice dish, or a “bread menu” dish (sandwiches and wraps). There’s also the “Lunch Dish” which alternates daily, all served with a salad and a choice of coffee or tea. You can add one of a range of delicious desserts for just 190 yen extra – from chocolate cake to caramel mousse. Outside of the lunch menu, the prices are slightly higher, but certainly affordable, and again, widely varied: Italian-style appetisers, Israeli salads, tacos, hamburgers… even tripe!
The drinks menu is equally impressive, with Happy Hour running from 5-8pm on weekdays. Liqueurs, cocktails, beers, milkshakes, herbal and non-herbal teas and fruit juices are all available, as well as the café’s own concoction, a “guava-moni.” The café is fairly nocturnal – it’s open everyday from 11:30am to 2am, with last orders for food at 1am, drinks at 1.30am – so is an understandably popular venue for private parties.
The music in the café is an eclectic mix of indie tracks, though the occasional ‘60s tune pops up too. The staff members are always friendly and guaranteed to greet you warmly and provide service with a smile, escort you to your seat and dispense regular water refills. Smoking is permitted indoors, and there’s also an outdoor area that’s bound to be ideal in Tokyo’s notoriously blistering summer months. If you’re interested in relaxing against a view of Koenji’s main square, hop on the Chuo or Tozai line and see what this quirky little eatery has to offer. You won’t be disappointed.