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Hiroyuki

Kissaten (or Kissa for short)

24 posts in this topic

This thread is what I have been wanting to start for several months now, but I have been hesitant for fear of receiving little or no response.

But after reading this thread today, my curiosity has gotten the better of me, so here it is.

http://forums.egullet.org/index.php?showto...=0entry725096

Do you ever go to a kissaten? Are you a regular at a certain kissaten? Do you go to one of those Starbucks shops only? What do you think the difference between a kissaten and coffee shop/coffee house/diner? Tell me about your experience with kissaten.

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ive never been to kissaten (never been to japan), but ill offer up a couple thoughts and a couple questions.

i like teahouses, but dont frequent them as much as i used to. there seem to be a lot more cafes and boba shops around this area and so they are more convenient to go to if i am meeting people.

are kissatens in japan, as a general rule, very smoky? cigarette smoke can be bothersome. starbucks forbids smoking in japan and that can be attractive if you want to go somewhere to chat or to drink.

two articles: <a href="http://www.accj.or.jp/document_library/Journal/1053154795.pdf">1</a>, <a href="http://www.japantoday.com/e/?content=feature&id=65">2</a>. article 1 brings up a couple interesting issues.

japan definitely has a deep rooted, refined tea culture. yet starbucks and cafes are thriving. are they thriving along with the tea culture, or is it more either or? according to the article, they say that traditional kissaten have "declined by more than 30% over the last 30 years, with now only 102,000 left in the country." it sounds like either/or and that cafes are winning...

will cinnamon buns and donuts take the place of manju and mizu-yokan? how many people have coffee makers at home? although i do not know the true numbers in america, id guess that more than half of all households in the us have at least one coffeemaker. are they as ubiquitous in japan?

it also seems that starbucks is doing quite well. the article states that there was a forecast of 500 starbucks shops opened by march 2004. (the article was written in jan 2002). my husband told me in july 2003 that starbucks had failed in japan. i do not know which is true. but i will assume that he was mistaken, that starbucks is still around. (he said that starbucks did things the american way in japan and that they did not cater to local tastes and said that is why they did not succeed. maybe they changed their tactics? maybe he heard wrong?)


"Bibimbap shappdy wappdy wap." - Jinmyo

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When I first came to Japan 15 years ago kissatens were very popular and it was a nice leisurely way to spend an afternoon either with friends or with a book.

Since the arrival of starbucks and chain othr coffee shops I don't think I have been to a kissaten more than twice. I find the coffee both neither very good and very expensive. A cup of coffee in a kissaten in Japan is in the $6 -$7 range about twice that of a chain shop like starbucks. I rarely even see kissatens anymore I really don't think they can even compete with the large chains. I have to admit though that I know nothing about how well starbucks is doing in Japan, I am curious now though...

In my opinion the Yokohama/Tokyo area has too many of these type of shops, often different chains on opposite corners of intersections, but o matter which one I wander into they always seem to be busy.


<p><strong>Kristin Wagner</strong>, aka "torakris"

Manager, Membership

<a class="bbc_email" href="mailto:kwagner@egstaff.org" title="E-mail Link">kwagner@egstaff.org</a></p>

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>are kissatens in japan, as a general rule, very smoky?

That depends on the customers, but I guess almost all kissaten permit smoking. I don't smoke and am very sensitive to cigarette smoke, which is the major reason why I don't want to go to a kissaten.

>two articles: 1, 2. article 1 brings up a couple interesting issues.

Thanks! I read them both with interest.

>japan definitely has a deep rooted, refined tea culture. yet starbucks and cafes are thriving. are they thriving along with the tea culture,

Oh, yes. I, for example, drink green tea at home and drink coffee outside the home.

>will cinnamon buns and donuts take the place of manju and mizu-yokan?

That won't happen in Japan. I like these two types of sweets and I am not alone.

>how many people have coffee makers at home?

According to one online source, 46% of the housefolds have one (but the year not mentioned).

http://www.ktv.co.jp/ARUARU/search/arucoffee/coffee4.htm

(Japanese only)

>it also seems that starbucks is doing quite well. the article states that there was a forecast of 500 starbucks shops opened by march 2004.

According to Starbucks' page, the number of its shops in Japan in 2003 is already 503.

http://www.starbucks.co.jp/ja/company_history.htm

>my husband told me in july 2003 that starbucks had failed in japan. i do not know which is true.

Maybe he heard wrong. But it is true that Starbucks went into the red in fiscal 2003, because of the high pace at which it had opened new shops.

>he said that starbucks did things the american way in japan and that they did not cater to local tastes and said that is why they did not succeed.

Hm... It's the american atomosphere that attracts the Japanese the most.

torakris,

>A cup of coffee in a kissaten in Japan is in the $6 -$7 range

What was the exchange rate then? I remember that a cup of coffee cost 300 to 400 yen twenty years ago.

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I, for one, used to be a fan of Doutor coffee. From my perspective, it's perfect - a nice cup of coffee for 180 yen, a nice, refined atmosphere, light meals, and the absence of waiters or waitresses. The only drawback is that it permits smoking.

To learn more about Doutor Coffee, visit here:

http://www.doutor.co.jp/english/index.html

http://www.doutor.co.jp/ir/jp/report/inves...ivguide2001.pdf

(pdf file)

An excerpt from the second link:

Most of the coffee industry processes beans by roasting, a method that can be adapted to mass production.

Doutor’s direct-heating method of roasting coffee beans means that we sometimes suffer slightly in terms of productivity. However, this trade-off is more than acceptable, considering the difference in taste. This kind of large-capacity, direct-heating equipment was not used anywhere in the world, so we had to invent the method on our own.

Doutor’s roast has become the Japanese coffee standard because of our devotion to flavor, and also because of the way we approach branding.

Note: I am not affiliated with Doutor coffee.

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I used to go to Doutor quite a bit before the arrival of starbucks and the other chains. at one of the larger supermarkets I shop at they have a small food court with a McDonald's, Doutor, takoyaki/taiyaki and ramen. I would often eat there with the kids, who ate McDonalds and I would enjoy a sandwich and coffee at Doutor, since it is a fairly large food court the smoking area is off in area and there are also seats outside so I can enjoy it relatively smoke-free.

There is one kissaten chain all around Tokyo that is sort of a men's kissaten, teh two that I have been in (with my FIL) have walls that have turned yellow because of all of the years filled with cigarette smoke. The customers tend to be almost entirely men and they all seem to be pouring over the gambling/horse racing newspapers....

Can't remember the name......


<p><strong>Kristin Wagner</strong>, aka "torakris"

Manager, Membership

<a class="bbc_email" href="mailto:kwagner@egstaff.org" title="E-mail Link">kwagner@egstaff.org</a></p>

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There is a kissaten near us that we go to a few times a month. The coffee is pretty good, but it's expensive. And despite the fact that we've been frequenting the place for over five years, we have never been acknowledged as regular customers. I don't expect all the staff to shout "Maido" when we enter, but it would be nice if the 'master', who is always there, would at least give us a nod of recognition.

So the only reason we go to this place is because out here in suburbia, there is no choice.

I'm really not crazy about kissaten in general, for a number of reasons:

- Too expensive.

- Too smokey.

- Some seem very cliquey and exclusive, and can give a very cold reception to people who just walk in.

- A lot of them are really old. And in a grungy way, not a charming way.

- If you stray from the house specialties, the drinks and coffee can be terrible.

This last reason is the most important. If the shop has a small menu and makes it obvious what their specialty is, I can usually enjoy a good cup of coffee. But too often the menu is long, and in that case I somehow always order their worst drink.

I'm a big fan of Italian-style coffee drinks like espresso, cappuccino etc, and when I first came to Japan I used to be fooled by kissaten who listed such drinks on their menu. Before I learned my lesson, I would go ahead and order a "cappuccino" or "espresso" and be served something entirely different. Once it tasted like one of those instant powders, another time it was simply a cafe au lait with whipped cream on top, another time it was a tiny cup of regular, but very strong, coffee. The worst was at a fancy kissaten that didn't include prices on the menu (should've known this was a bad sign). I ended up paying 1600yen for a "cappuccino" that was nothing more than tiny cup of weak cafe au lait. I eventually did learn my lesson, and began to make sure there was actually an espresso machine in view before I made my order.

Even still, these places managed to screw up. The staff had no idea how to use the machines, and invariably the drinks were too cold, the milk was scalded, there was no foam, coffee grinds galore, too weak etc.

So I was thrilled when the first Starbucks opened up in Tokyo (what, seven years ago?). You can say what you want about the quality of Starbuck's beans and drinks, but one thing they are good at is consistency. The staff are generally well-trained and know how to make a decent coffee. They may not make the best cappuccino in the world, but it's still a cappuccino.

The non-smoking thing is great too, and I like that most Starbucks have outdoor seating.

Starbucks has also had positive effects on other coffee shops- many places now have non-smoking sections, and most shops have either dropped the fake cappuccinos from the menu or learned to actually make them properly.

There are other good chains and independant shops (I love Ben's Cafein Tokyo) in Japan. But Starbuck's reassuring uniformity, non-smoking policy, and outdoor seats keep me coming back.


My eGullet foodblog: Spring in Tokyo

My regular blog: Blue Lotus

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Next to Doutor, I like Renoir (ルノアール) the best. It's a coffee shop chain committed to providing customers with relaxation. Typically, a Renoir coffee shop is spacious, is relatively quite, and is equipped with good sofas (good enough to take a nap in). I highly recommend Renoir if you are going to stay in a coffee shop for a few hours and are willing to pay about 500 yen for a cup of coffee. Renoir is dismissed by young people as corny and a place where business persons would go, but that's exactly why I like it. I can be free from rowdy young people and talkative schoolgirls. A Renoir coffee shop is called an oasis in a city.

You may be in for a pleasant surprise if you stay there for long, say, one hour or longer; a waiter or waitress may bring you a cup of green tea free of charge.

Yesterday, I sent Renoir an inquiry, asking if they always offer this green-tea service and if they permit smoking.

Renoir's website:

http://www.ginza-renoir.co.jp/

A typical Renoir coffee shop:

http://r.gnavi.co.jp/g190411/


Edited by Hiroyuki (log)

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Thanks for the link, torakris.

I've been to Lion Kissa shown in the link several times. It's a strange atmosphere but I liked it.

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Renoir-never found it that relaxing. Maybe because with the arrival of all the new coffee chains in the last decade they've just given up. Every one I've every been to has been old and on the shabby side- I guess there's no point in renovating since they can't possibly compete with the other chains, and their little niche audience will keep coming.

Or maybe I didn't find it relaxing because of the seats (I can't believe you find them comfortable, Hiroyuki). They are so squishy and so low to the ground, staying balanced is a real challange. If I sit straight, my knees almost hit my chin, so I have to sit sideways, but with my legs open for balance. Not fun in a skirt.

Perhaps this is why you don't see many women at Renoir.

I used to teach private students at a number of Renoirs, and other than the smoke it's a good place for teaching. Quiet, good service. And yes, tea always comes when you finish your coffee.

Do you think Renoir will stick around for much longer?


My eGullet foodblog: Spring in Tokyo

My regular blog: Blue Lotus

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As I implied, a Renoir shop is not for everyone, nor is it for every occasion. As for the sofas, they are something you sit back and relax in, not sit straight up in. You often see tired-looking business people sit back and take a nap in them, don't you? A Renoir is an oasis for such people.

Let me add that Starbucks shops are not for me.

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I just started drinking coffee on one of my later stays in Japan during High School, so I was a big fan of the Kissaten. My favorite was in the Sogo in Hiroshima. It was this Amish-themed place, which I thought was just hilarious, though I can't remember the name. Fortunately, it wasn't nearly as silly as a something-themed place implies. Bet I have a picture somewhere, too. Of course, I also bet that picture is in CT. Anyway, the staff, entirely female IIRC wore these Amish girl outfits, which, again, was quite the amusing thing in my earlier youth. The kicker, and the thing that brought me back, after the iced coffee and snacks, was a 'blue and white'-style plate on the wall with an Amish country road scene with "Intercourse" written on it.

I remember going to a few Renoir-type but non-Renoir joints, and those were always varying degrees of nice, but that Amish place was always my favorite. It was like what Starbucks wants to be, as far as a nice place to sit and drink coffee, before I had probably even been in one.


Matt Robinson

Prep for dinner service, prep for life! A Blog

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Yesterday, I sent Renoir an inquiry, asking if they always offer this green-tea service and if they permit smoking.

A sales manager of Ginza Renoir kindly replied to my inquiry:

All our shops permit smoking. Some have smoking and nonsmoking sections.

All 100 shops under our direct management provide green-tea service, but some "Renoir" chain shops do not. As for the time tea is served, we instruct our employees to serve it when the customers have finished their ordered items, but in some cases, this will be slightly earlier or later.

Of course, you can ask for green tea, and we'd like you to feel free to ask for another cup.

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Hiroyuki- please don't take my dislike of Renoir personally.

I think people go to coffee shops for different reasons. To me, the coffee has to taste good and be reasonably priced. That's the most important thing. A nice atmosphere and good service are important too, but if the coffee's bad or overpriced, I won't be back.

So can I assume that for you, atmosphere is more important?

Also, I wonder if the Renoirs in Tokyo or other big cities are different from the ones found in smaller towns (assuming they can be found in smaller towns)? Maybe the Renoirs in Tokyo only look old and shabby in comparison, since Tokyo abounds with coffee shops?


My eGullet foodblog: Spring in Tokyo

My regular blog: Blue Lotus

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Looking at Renoirs homepage, I think this is the same place I was talking about when I mentioned a coffee shop being filled with men smoking and reading gambling/horse racing newspapers.

The two I have been in were very shabby and rundown, but the sofas were comfortable and the places were quite large and I do remember getting some green tea that hadn't been ordered....

It must have been the locations (I know for sure one was near Gotanda station) as it didn't look as nice as the pictures.


<p><strong>Kristin Wagner</strong>, aka "torakris"

Manager, Membership

<a class="bbc_email" href="mailto:kwagner@egstaff.org" title="E-mail Link">kwagner@egstaff.org</a></p>

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Hiroyuki- please don't take my dislike of Renoir personally.

I never took your comments personally. I just posted what I felt to be true from my own experience. When I lived in Tokyo, I used to go the one located at Shibuya, near Tokyu Hands. I liked it because it was quiet and spacious. It wasn't smoky if I remember right. (As I mentioned previously, I don't smoke and am every sensitive to cigarette smoke.)

It's the atmosphere more than anything else - If I couldn't have a rest comfortably for some time, then I wouldn't go to a kissaten. I might as well buy a coffee can for 120 yen and sit somewhere.

I did a search to find that Renoir has shops in Tokyo, Kanagawa, and Chiba only.

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My favorite was in the Sogo in Hiroshima.  It was this Amish-themed place, which I thought was just hilarious, though I can't remember the name.
thats so interesting... i wonder how many americans would associate iced coffee with the amish.

when i think of amish, i think of delicious pies, chicken soup, jams, jellies and pickles. and of course, horse buggies and quilts!

though, i also think of beautiful, relaxing rural pennsylvania and ohio and thats definitely a good place to be when drinking coffee... parts of pennsylvania are just breathtakingly beautiful.


"Bibimbap shappdy wappdy wap." - Jinmyo

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I feel that kissaten are dying out, when I first came to Japan, they weren't all shabby. I used to go to Kyoto often in those days, and they had a number of "jazz kissa" - a great combination, as imported records were incredibly expensive in those days. Art COffee, Renoir...even Cosy Corner, they were immaculate, the staff were proud to be working there, and some of the smaller chains were astonishing - I remember one shop which had a stream winding across the carpeted floor...

The individually owned or Key Coffee level kissaten existed even then, and usually served only one type of coffee reliably....the flannel drip was the height of sophistication in those days. Food tended to range from pizza toast and doorstopper-size "morning sets" to sandwich sets and occasionally spaghetti. They always seem to be silent, dark, and smoky, though I'm not sure if that's the ideal or the fall from the ideal!

I used to wonder if video invader games killed the kissaten...anybody remember those strange tables with a TV screen suspended under the table-top, leaving you with nowhere to put your legs, nowhere to put your coffee, and no way to hold a conversation without a personal PA system!

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I have never been to Nagoya so I don't know anything about this, but:

kissatens and the "morning set"

from the blog watashi to Tokyo

she says that in Nagoya the kissatens offer free food with the purchase of just one cup of coffee (bread and other breakfast dishes).

Why doesn't this spread?? :biggrin:


<p><strong>Kristin Wagner</strong>, aka "torakris"

Manager, Membership

<a class="bbc_email" href="mailto:kwagner@egstaff.org" title="E-mail Link">kwagner@egstaff.org</a></p>

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In my opinion the Yokohama/Tokyo area has too many of these type of shops, often different chains on opposite corners of intersections, but o matter which one I wander into they always seem to be busy.

LOL! You should see the suburb I live in. There are 18 coffee houses in a city with a population of 60,000. 2 chains with multiple locations (Starbucks, Peets) and in some cases, 2-4 within a single city block. Half of those are Starbucks.

It's insane.


Cheryl

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I have recently been noticing a new influx of kissaten style coffee shops in my neighborhood. None of them actually use the word kissaten though. One has expandanded into selling foods as well (pasta and sandwiches) while the other two are still pretty much strictly coffee. These are pricey places where a cup averages 700 yen ($6.50) a cup and considering there is a Starbucks or Tully's not too far away I wonder how they are doing...

The other new thing in my neighborhood are the manga kissa (comic kissaten), at one time these were pretty much just manga but the ones around here have a little bit of everything. The bigger ones are multistoried and in addition to reading manga you can also browse the internet, get a masssage (in a massage chair), play video games or even play games like badminton and ping pong. You pay an hourly rate (the going rate around here seems to be 400 yen--about $3.60) an hour. This includes free drinks, though they are called kissaten the focus seems to be far from coffee....

An article on the new manga kissa


<p><strong>Kristin Wagner</strong>, aka "torakris"

Manager, Membership

<a class="bbc_email" href="mailto:kwagner@egstaff.org" title="E-mail Link">kwagner@egstaff.org</a></p>

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I have never been to Nagoya so I don't know anything about this, but:

kissatens and the "morning set"

My favorite use for the traditional kinjo no (neighbourhood) kissaten is the Morning Set. A nice thick slab of white toast, boiled egg, maybe a side of salad and an aromatic cup of coffee is the perfect way to start the morning. In my mind, a kissaten is distinct from either a Dotour chain coffee shop or Western-style Starbucks.


Baker of "impaired" cakes...

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