japan

Best Kōhī

The japanese expression for "Coffee" is Kōhī ( コーヒー). Coffee is almost becoming as popular as the green tea. I guess you'll find more coffee bars in and around Tokyo, than tea-shops. Which actually comes in handy for myself. 

Before traveling back to Japan, more precisely to Tokyo, I informed myself in advance, which coffee places i'd would check out on my daily walks through the city. 

There was the place called "Mighty Step's Coffee Stop".  I first found out about it, through a video on the video-platform Vimeo. Click on the following link, to watch the beautifully produced video "DRIP FOR U". I was really looking forward to visit this store in Tokyo. It took us around 40 minutes to get from our hotel front porch to the the mighty step's bar. On my first visit, the shop was closed. What a bummer! Two days later, I tried to convince my friend to get back, because I really wanted to bring back home a cup with the shop's branding on it. I still didn't own a coffee cup from Japan in my mug collection.

After we walked in, we were warmly welcomed by the two baristas working at the shop. I was astonished how beautiful the tiny store was set up. The owner had put so much love and soul into that coffee bar, that was located in the entrance of a barber shop. 

"Mighty Step's Coffee Stop" offers different type of coffees, depending on its origins, and different flavours of ice-cream. The whole  package is beautifully served on a wooden tray as you can witness on my photo above. 

I walked by a lot of different bars, but this one got my whole attention within a heartbeat. The coffee-bar is located in Nihonbashi and only walking distance away from the Mitsukoshi-Mae metro station. 

On our daytrip to Kamakura, which is only an hour-train-ride away from the busy city of Tokyo, I randomly discovered a coffee spot called "Farm for you". The organic place was divided into a restaurant, coffee roastery, and a bakery. We just grabbed a cup of coffee from the outside, to enjoy the summer weather from the porch of the shop.

Once again, I could witness with how much love the barista, surrounded by different chemexes, a coffee roaster, and all sort of accessories, made the coffee for the customers. A cup of coffee was about 500 yen, and it was worth every single copper coin. Of course the coffee tasted best, with a piece of carrot cake! What a lovely place! Delicious columbian coffee!


MIGHTY STEP'S COFFEE STOP

4-3-14 Nihonbashi-Honcho, Chuo-ku, Tokyo


FARM TO YOU

由比ガ浜2-4-43
KAMAKURA, 神奈川県 〒248-0014

Second Line / Soulbar {Shinjuku, Tokyo}

On my 2nd trip to Tokyo, I booked my hotel in the Shinjuku area. Shinjuku is famous for its nightlife block called "Golden Gai". It's a whole block filled with bars, most of them are dive bars. Many of those places can only host a handful of customers, and are very limited in size. 

I heard about bar called "Curtis", which reminded me of the soulsinger Curtis Mayfield, it sounded like the right place to start my evening as a solo traveler. Due to a total lack of free-wifi spots in the area of Shinjuku, I wasn't able to get the right adress of "CURTIS" while walking through the tiny alleys of Tokyo.

Outside of a building I saw the wooden sign "SECOND LINE". In New Orleans -Second Line- is called the dancing crowd, which follows the brass band during a street-parade. I totally got the idea behind the bar name, and felt this would be a great substitute for "Curtis Bar".

I went downstairs to the basement, and entered the first door on the left. It was small bar, very dark, with 2 people sitting in a corner on a round table, and two other customers sitting on the counter. I took place on the counter as well, and the bar owner started to introduce himself in pretty good english.

A pretty big collection of vinyls, soulmusic playing in the background, dimmed lights above the tables, and I was watching the owner cutting ice blocks with an ice-pick for my drink. You could notice that the owner Masaaki Matsuzaki put all his heart into that bar. He told me I should call him Matcham.

Matcham introduced me to a couple of customers, which kept me busy for every night I visited his bar. We talked about records, about Japan, New Orleans and about our lives. Rarely I've been to a bar, that reflected so much passion.

After I visited "Second Line", I turned back every night for a drink or two for my next 4 nights in Tokyo. I'd recommend this place to evey music lover, and everyone who's looking for a laidback but classy place to start the evening in Tokyo.

Adress: 

  • 新宿3-10-11, Shinjuku-ku, Tokyo, Japan
  • Facebook: Bar Second Line
  • Phone # : +81 3-3226-7890


Why JAPAN ?

I will dedicate my first travel blog-post to the beautiful country of the rising sun called JAPAN.

I first visited Japan in May 2014, and after a very short 5-day-journey across the Kansei region, I instantly fell in love with that beautiful country.

 

5 days only? Isn't that too short?

Well, I felt a little bit insecure visiting a country, where it wouldn't be easy to communicate with the people around me. I wouldn't be able to talk to most people, and couldn't read their letters and signs. I was on a budget as well. The 5 nights in Japan [2 in Kyoto, and 3 in Osaka] and the flight cost me around 750 euro [830 US$], bargain!, wasn't it? 

I had the maximum of a japanese experience i could have expected on that short trip, from delicious japanese food, to the geishas at the Gion area in Kyoto, to a traveler meet-up with locals and gaijins [foreigners] all dressed up in traditional Kimonos. 

photo by Frank Desiront

 

KANSEI AREA!

As soon as i left Japan, I knew i'd turn back very soon, for a long trip and of course visiting its capital Tokyo. I turned back in April 2015 for the sakura season [cherry blossoms], and started my trip in Tokyo. From Tokyo I moved on towards Kansei, and visited my friends in Osaka again. From Osaka you're pretty close to Kyoto, Nara, Kobe, and plenty of other smaller cities. It's just right in the middle of the country, and it only takes you 3 hours to reach Tokyo by Shinkansen [super-fast bullettrain], and 3 hours to reach Fukuoka on the west-side of the island. A 200 euro [230 US$] Japan-Rail Pass will give you access to infinite train-rides for a whole week. It is expensive for a one-week ticket. But as soon as you figure out that a one-way ticket from Tokyo to Osaka costs half the price [around 100 euro] of the JR Pass, you will notice that it's worth every cent. 

After having experienced the 2 most famous cities of Japan, Tokyo and Osaka. I'd definitely recommend the Kansei area for those who are planing their first adventure in Japan. Why? Well, it's just a totally different vibe than Tokyo. Less crowded, less busyer, more smiling people, and a lot more of cultural and traditional  sights. By the way Kyoto is considered the most cultural city of whole Japan. The city of Kyoto owns the most temples per city in Japan. 

If you plan on doing both cities on the same trip. I'd recommend visiting Tokyo on the first days of your journey. In case you'd start your trip in Kansei, you might get disappointed with Tokyo. Don't get me wrong! Tokyo is an a-m-a-z-i-n-g city! But it's just too busy, and it takes you forever to move around with public transportation.

All the clichees you've seen and heard about Japan, you will experience all of them in Osaka and Kyoto... except for the concrete jungle that Tokyo is best known for.

After my second trip to Japan, I'm already planning to turn back for a second time this year. But only visiting Tokyo for 5-6 days. It's such a huge city, that i've only discovered a tiny part of it on my first 5-days in Tokyo. 

I could go on, and write about Japan for a couple of hours, and fill pages with tons of words and photos. In the next weeks I will try to add single reviews to this blog, and more precise recommendations of the different areas I discovered in Japan.

 

Is it easy to get along without understanding a word ?

To be honest, japanese people [well most of them] are very bad in english! Once you start learning japanese, you will understand why they're so bad. It's just a total different grammar, the order of the subjects, verbs, objects are totally different, than most of the languages we are used to. They got 3 different alphabets [hiragana, katakana, and an endless huge symbol-alphabet called kanji]. Let's get to the point! It's very easy to move around Japan. Most menus have photos next to their common meals. A lot of restaurants have english menus, and all you need to do, is to point with your finger on what you want to eat. Your finger will be the most important tool in Japan.

The subway and railway stations have the english station-names on their rail-map. Most employees at the maininformation-desk speak english. The check-in staff at the hotels mostly communicate in broken-english, but they will understand anything you'll ask them.

Once you start going  out in japan around midnight, after a couple of drinks, lots of japanese people will overcome their shyness, and will try to communicate in english with you.

Everyone i've met in japan was super-friendly und very helpful. You will never feel lost in Japan... maybe just for a couple of minutes ;), til someone reaches out to help you.