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A Day in Kuramae: 5 Unique Shops in Tokyo's 'Brooklyn'

A Day in Kuramae: 5 Unique Shops in Tokyo's 'Brooklyn'

Date published: 3 December 2019
Last updated: 26 June 2020

Tokyo's Kuramae is conveniently located near Asakusa – only one stop away on the subway, or a pleasant stroll along the Sumida River. Kuramae’s tranquillity provides a unique balance to Asakusa’s busy tourist atmosphere.

Since the beginning of the Edo Period, Kuramae was home to numerous warehouses and commercial distribution centers. But in recent years, those industries have faced economic hardship and have gradually left the area. In their place, many young writers have begun to call Kuramae home, renovating and revitalizing the old warehouses and giving the district new life.

Shops and cafes started opening in the midst of the declining hustle and bustle, and Kuramae began to exude a more literary atmosphere. In addition, the many bridges spanning the Sumida River add a sense of history and design to the area. The bright and beautiful scenery, teamed with both nostalgic and modern elements have earned Kuramae the romantic title of “Tokyo’s Brooklyn.”

Here are five charming shops you can’t miss when visiting Kuramae:

・ Nui. Hostel & Bar Lounge – Delicious morning coffee & breakfast
・ Dandelion Chocolate – San Francisco chocolate with a distinct flavor
・ Leaves Coffee Apartment – The Corner coffee shop
・ Kakimori – Custom made stationery
・ Koncent – Adding fun and creative design to your everyday life

Splendid Coffee Journey: Nui. Hostel & Bar Lounge

Splendid Coffee Journey: Nui. Hostel & Bar Lounge

Just around the corner from the exit of Kuramae Station on the Oedo subway line, a seemingly ordinary building is home to a well-known youth hostel.

Located on a quiet street corner, you’ll find a place whose large windows create a bright, warm atmosphere. You’ll hear several languages spoken by numerous guests who are eager to chat over a cup of coffee. This is the Nui. Hostel & Bar Lounge. Since opening in September of 2012, it has been a popular spot for tourists.

The youth hostel, transformed from the warehouse of a 300-year-old toy company, maintains the warehouse’s original sense of openness, and the rustic wooden textures found throughout provide undeniable warmth to its simple decor.

The hostel provides accommodation on the 2nd through 5th floors, while the wide, open ground floor is not only a hall for dining, rest and communication, but also a cafe and lounge bar. From morning to evening (08: 00 - 18:00) the fragrance of coffee fills the air, and in the evening (18:00 – 1:00) drinks are served, furthering Nui’s reputation as a place to relax, day or night.

Nui. Hostel & Bar Lounge is a great place cafe for a cup of coffee and breakfast. Even if you aren’t a guest, you can share charming stories and cultural exchanges across borders with the travellers who are passing through.

Upper left, Croissant 200 yen; Upper right, Apple pie 100 yen, Chocolate danish 200 yen; Lower left, Bacon, eggs, salad & toast/croissant plate 500 yen; Lower right: Granola 450 yen
Café Latte, 450 yen

The high-quality coffee beans and brewing method offered by Nui: Hostel & Bar Lounge is provided by Onibus Coffee, a well-known coffee shop in Setagaya, Tokyo. The hot latte is has a delicate, slightly bitter taste, and is a very satisfying start to any morning. In addition to the latte, there is also Japanese-style coffee and hand-made coffee brewed with deep-roasted beans available.

Light breakfast options are also available daily: croissants, apple pie, chocolate danishes, cereals, and a boiled egg or salad French breakfast set. The croissant with coffee is one of the more popular offerings. The croissant’s surface is golden and crispy, the inner layer is fluffy and soft, and is highly recommended!

For a wonderful experience, take a seat in a comfortable corner in the store for a short break and a cup of coffee. Converse with travellers from near and far, share travel information, plan the next leg of your trip, or watch local life pass by the floor-to-ceiling windows. The music played in the store only adds to the happy ambience, and the staff members always have a cheerful greeting for the customers.

    • Address 2-14-13, Kuramae, Taito-ku, Tokyo, 111-0051
    • Hours: 08:00~18:00 (CAFE TIME)

Flavor of San Francisco Chocolate: Dandelion Chocolate

Although there are many coffee shops in the area, another kind of shop stands out among them: Dandelion Chocolate. Using San Francisco’s Bean to Bar chocolate brand’s high-quality ingredients and strict manufacturing process, the shop has attracted chocolate-loving tourists from all corners of the globe. Without a doubt, it’s must for any visit to Kuramae.

Dandelion Chocolate is a well-known Bean to Bar chocolate store in San Francisco, USA. It was founded in 2010 and opened its first overseas location in Tokyo in 2016.

The shop, found in a refurbished 60-year-old cargo packing warehouse, is situated next a quiet park in Kuramae. The first floor offers customers the chance to see the chocolate production process, and to indulge in Dandelion’s desserts and beverages while relaxing in a small seating area.

Each of Dandelion Chocolate’s products is reviewed by representatives of the world’s chocolate producing regions at various stages in the production process to ensure the highest quality and best flavor. Bean to Bar chocolate uses no artificial additives, and uses cocoa from a single source for each of its handmade chocolates.

Upper right: Cahabón, Guatemala 70%, 1,200 yen; Lower left: Costa Esmeraldas, Ecuador 70%, 1,200 yen; Lower right: Anamali, India 70%, 1,200 yen

Homemade pastries, desserts and drinks can all be enjoyed in the comfort of the shop, or taken out. For those who are interested in being a part of the chocolate making experience, in-store workshops are (reservation required).

Dandelion Chocolate has about seven kinds chocolate on display, with information on the origin, taste, roaster, place of manufacture, and how many cocoa beans are used in each. Chocolates with golden wrappers are imported from the San Franciso, while those in silver wrappers are produced the Kuramae shop.

Each of the varieties produced by the different manufacturing sites and makers has its own unforgettable flavor: Cahabón has a scent combination of grapes and caramel, accompanied by a delicate and subtle red wine flavor for an impressive taste. Costa Esmeraldas has the sweet, rich taste of a cherry brownie. Anamali has a fresh lemon aroma, which gradually turns into a raisin and a nut flavor.

Left: Kuramae Hot Chocolate, 630 yen; Right: S'more, 450 yen

The bright, spacious dining area on the second floor is suitable for meeting with friends or families with children. The menu includes a wide variety of drinks and desserts including hot chocolate, organic tea, s’mores, and cookies. No matter what you fancy, you’ll be satisfied with the delectable tastes and textures of your own unique Dandelion experience.

  • Dandelion Chocolate, Factory & cafe Kuramae
    ダンデライオン・チョコレート ファクトリー&カフェ蔵前
    • Address 4-14-6, Kuramae, Taito-ku, Tokyo, 111-0051, Japan
    • Hours: 10:00 - 20:00 (Last order 19:30)

The Corner Coffee Shop: Leaves Coffee Apartment

The Corner Coffee Shop: Leaves Coffee Apartment

Leaves Coffee Apartment opened in May 2016 and is located about 4 minutes' walk from Oedo Station on the Toei Oedo Line. The store is located on the corner of a crowded street. Leaves Coffee Apartment is found on the on the first floor of a space shared with another store, the "Mclean" burger shop. The shop's eye-catching storefront is a smooth concrete wall, decorated with a neon sign simply stating “Leaves Coffee” and a wooden bench to rest while you wait for your order.

In contrast to this strikingly stark exterior, the interior has a warm, wood-filled décor. Despite the small size of the shop, Leaves Coffee Apartment has gained a great reputation due to its friendly service and high quality coffee. Whether you’re a loyal customer or just passing through, you’ll be captivated by the fragrance and features of this shop!

Above, left to right: Colombia / Honduras / Kenya / Ethiopia Bottom left: | Hand Drip Hario V60 (Colombia), 450 yen; Bottom right: Hand Drip Hario V60 (Ethiopia), 450 yen

Leaves Coffee Apartment sources its shallow roasted coffee beans from the popular coffee shop Fuglen in Oslo, Norway. There are four flavors available: Colombia, Honduras, Kenya, and Ethiopia. The bar includes a flavor card for each, describing their distinct tastes. The organic beans from Tolima, Columbia have an almond chocolate taste, while those from Sidamo, Ethiopia have a light plum, cherry, and floral fragrance and a mild, sweet taste not unlike an herbal tea. Each variety available, combined with skilled brewing, result in a highly recommended tasting experience.

By ordering your coffee to go, you can take advantage of Leaves’ excellent location. A bridge crossing the Sumida River is only a few steps away, and offers a wide view of the river’s beautiful scenery. Crossing the river or a leisurely stroll along the riverside walkway provide an excellent way to enjoy the busy metropolis.

    • Address Fuanraifukomagata 105, 2-2-10, Komagata, Taito-ku, Tokyo, 111-0043, Japan
    • Hours: Tuesday to Sunday 10:00 to 18:00, closed Mondays
      (Lunch 11:00 to 15:00)

Handwritten Warmth and Happiness: Kakimori

Handwritten Warmth and Happiness: Kakimori

Kakimori, opened in 2010, is a Japanese-style stationery store known for providing customers with "customized notebooks" and their own "exclusive ink colors." Mr. Hirose, the owner, adheres to the spirit that has been passed down from generation to generation, has a passion for stationery and the joy of writing.

In addition to custom notebooks, Kakimori sells various brands of ballpoint pens, mechanical pencils, pencils, pens, ink, envelopes, letterhead, and Japanese stationery. In November 2017, the original store relocated to a more spacious location on the same block. Customers who come to the store can find their favorite stationery and enjoy the fun of making their own stationery in the store.

Top left: Cover, 200 to 3,400 yen (depending on material and size); Top right: Cover - Cocca (B6) 900 yen; Below: Notebook binding 150 to 350 yen

Kakimori’s custom notebook service allows customers to select the size and thickness of their notebook, as well as the cover material, paper type, binding method, and even the type of buckle to keep the notebook closed. The freedom to mix and match is endless!

Cover materials include paper, cloth, leather, felt, cotton cloth, and parchment. About 60 styles are available and range from simple colors – subdued or bright – to intricate Japanese patterns, plaids, and floral prints. Kakimori also collaborates with other brands to develop new products. For example, the material on the upper right photo above is a pattern developed in cooperation with the Japanese brand "Cocca".

To make your notebook even more unique, your name can even be imprinted in the cover. The simple production method has only a few steps from paper selection to binding, and the whole process takes about 20 to 90 minutes depending on how busy the shop is.

Top row: Kakimori Original pigment ink, 1,728 yen; Middle row: “Kyoto” ink, 1,512 yen; Lower row: “Shikiori Four Seasons, 16 Nights Dream” ink, 1,080 yen

The "Kyoto" series of inks that showcases the traditional colors and elegance of Kyoto, the "Shikiori Four Seasons 16 Nights Dream" series of inks that are full of Japanese seasonal colors, and the "Pilot Iroshizuku Color" that presents Japan's rich beauty.

Core bar (4C models / G2 models) 86 - 756 yen

Kakimori also sells ballpoint pen refills and around sixty pen models, including the British royal family’s Parker brand and Kakimori’s own original designs, respectively. Each has a special description and various types of paper are available to get a feel for each pen. Whether you’re creating your own notebook, in the market for a smooth-writing pen, or looking for ink, envelopes, or other stationery, Kakimori offers the perfect array of products suitable for immersing yourself in the joys of writing!

  • Kakimori
    • Address The first floor of Seika Building, 4-20-12, Kuramae, Taitou-ku, Tokyo, 111-0051
      View Map
    • Nearest Station Kuramae Station (Toei Asakusa Line / Toei Oedo Line)
      3 minutes on foot
    • Phone Number 03-3864-3898

Creative Design and Fun in Everyday Life: Koncent

Creative Design and Fun in Everyday Life: Koncent

Koncent is a lifestyle product store created by parent brand H Concept, whose goal is to deliver Japanese design quality and sensibilities to consumers and to spread it in everyday life. It’s a place that connects local designers, manufacturers, and customers.

In addition to the store located near Ekimae Station on the Toei Asakusa Line, other shops can found throughout Tokyo, Kanagawa, and Hokkaido in Japan, as well as Australia, Malaysia, and Taipei.

Koncent currently offers nearly twenty-five brands and about five hundred product types, including kitchen utensils, office supplies, home decorations, stationery, snacks, and small furniture items. This wide variety of value-priced items specifically showcases new items for the first month or two they go on sale, and customers can enjoy the attractive new product displays.

+d Kaze guru ma (Pinwheel Magnet) 550 yen each or 3 for 1,250 yen

For those with fond memories of playing with pinwheels as a child, the “Kaze Guru Ma” pinwheel magnet turns the toy into a chic home life ornament. These beautiful magnets are perfect for decorating message boards or simply keeping notes attached to your refrigerator, while adding color and childlike innocence to your day. A perfect gift, this pinwheel magnet was the 2017 H Concept Design Competition winner.

Upper: Soil GEM Diatomaceous earth mat [S] 5,000 yen / [M] 6,000 yen / [standard] 8,500 yen / [L] 12,000 yen; Lower left: Soil diatomaceous earth moisture teaspoon, 1,200 - 1,300 yen Lower right: Soil algae soil moisture-proof brick, 1,100 yen

Diatomaceous earth ("keisodo" in Japanese) and its moisture-absorbing and moisture-proofing properties have gained popularity in Asian countries in recent years. Since it is made of natural materials, and is easy to clean and reuse, it has become a “must buy” for tourists who visit Japan. Koncent carries a full range of Soil brand products, and allows customers to them out, so the Soil area of the store is always busy!

Animal Rubber Bands 300~500 yen

These cute animal-shaped rubber bands have a top selling item since their debut in 2002. They’re strong and keep their shape even after prolonged use. Available in a wide variety of animal shapes, they’re a hit with adults and children alike!

  • KONCENT Kuramae
    コンセント 蔵前
    • Address 1F, 2-4-5, Kuramae, Taito-ku, Tokyo, 111-0051, Japan
    • Hours: 11:00~19:00

These five popular shops are sure to make your trip to Tokyo unforgettable. Whether you’re a coffee or chocolate lover, or if you’re looking for something aesthetically pleasing to liven up your everyday life, you’ll certainly want to visit again!

Written by: Yu / English by: Gabriel Wilkinson

*This information is from the time of this article's publication.
*Prices and options mentioned are subject to change.
*Unless stated otherwise, all prices include tax.

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