Fancy a cuppa at a retro “Tangible Cultural Property” cafe?
Possessing historical and cultural value, architectural structures designated as “Registered Tangible Cultural Properties” are irreplaceable assets that continue to be preserved for posterity. Still today, they carry on their history as they continue to serve as part of our daily lives. These long-cherished structures are often used as cafes where people can spend a leisurely afternoon, feeling almost as though they have slipped back in time.
Taisho Roman Tea Room (Aomori Prefecture)
Commissioned by a business mogul during the first half of the 20th century, this tea room is tucked inside a Western-style house in the Fujita Memorial Garden.
It is located inside a large hall and sunroom with stained glass windows and chandeliers from the time when it was first built. It exudes the retro atmosphere of the Taisho period (1912-1926), which was known for its intertwining of Japanese and Western aesthetics.
stained glass window
Recommended items on the menu include galettes made with buckwheat flour from the Shirakami region and apples from Hirosaki in Aomori Prefecture, as well as apple pies for which you can choose between seven different types of apples and pie crust.
Address: Kamishirogane-cho, Hirosaki City, Aomori Prefecture
Access: 3-minute walk from the Shiyakusho-mae bus stop (Dotemachi Loop Bus from JR Hirosaki Station)
Hours: 9:30 AM-4:30 PM (Last order 4:00 PM)
Closed: Open every day
Cafe Towa (Chiba Prefecture)）
Located in Nagareyama City—said to be the birthplace of mirin (sweet rice wine)—is a warehouse owned by long-established restaurant Sasaya where Cafe Towa can be found. After the warehouse was renovated, it was designated one of the Nation’s Tangible Cultural Properties under the name “Sasaya Warehouse.”
Sasaya was originally a tailor for “Echigoya,” a draper’s shop that later became Japan’s first department store, Mitsukoshi. With over 150 years of history, it still operates as a bedding store on the same premises as the cafe. The warehouse registered as a cultural property is said to be the reconstructed warehouse of “Mikawaya,” another draper’s store with which Echigoya had made transactions in the past.
Popular items on the menu are sweet potatoes covered in syrup made from boiled-down mirin, along with a butter cake filled with mirin-boiled apples and cream cheese.
Address: 1-155 Nagareyama, Nagareyama City, Chiba Prefecture
Access: 5-minute walk from Nagareyama Station (Sobu Nagareyama Railway)
Hours: 10:30 AM-5:30 PM
Closed: Tuesdays and Wednesdays
Nagoya Japanese Cafe Sozanso (Aichi Prefecture)
This Japanese-style cafe is located inside a historic building originally built as the reception hall for the Nagoya Pan-Pacific Peace Exposition in 1937. At the exposition, the reception hall also served as an exhibition hall showcasing Japan’s lumber industry. For this reason, high-quality wood such as that taken from cypress trees is generously used as part of the structure.
It is acclaimed for its “modern Japanese-style architecture” that emphasizes the harmony of traditional Japanese-style rooms and Western furniture. In the fall, visitors can enjoy Japanese desserts while gazing out at the beautiful garden lush with red autumn leaves.
Be sure to try the monaka (wafers) ice cream and the creme brulee made with seasonal tea leaves.
monaka ice cream
Address: 1001 Tokugawa-cho, Higashi-ku, Nagoya City, Aichi Prefecture
Access: 10-minute walk from Ozone Station (JR), 15-minute walk from Ozone Station (Meijo Line on the Nagoya Municipal Subway)
Hours: 10:00 AM-5:00 PM（Last order 4:30 PM）
Closed: Mondays *Or the following day when it falls on a national holiday
Mole & Hosoi Coffees (Osaka Prefecture)
As the surrounding area used to be a financial district, this cafe similarly used to be an underground bank vault of an office. The entrance doors are still the thick, heavy doors of when they were originally built.
The decor of the Maya and Inca civilizations of South America line the interior creating a unique atmosphere throughout.
The cafe offers a different selection of sandwiches during lunch hour and later afternoon. Visitors can also savor its desserts, its famous croque monsieur, and specialty coffees.
Address: B1F Shibakawa Bldg., Fushimi-cho, Chuo-ku, Osaka City, Osaka Prefecture
Access: 1-minute walk from Yodoyabashi Station (Subway)
Weekdays 11:30 AM-8:00 PM (Last order 7:00 PM)
Weekends 11:30 AM-7:00 PM (Last order 6:00 PM)
Holidays 12:00 PM-7:00 PM (Last order 6:00 PM)
Nagasaki Jiro Café (Kumamoto Prefecture)
Formerly “Nagasaki Jiro Bookstore,” one of the oldest bookstores in Kumamoto Prefecture, established in 1874, the building now houses a bookstore on the first floor and a cafe on the second. The current structure was designed in 1924, vestiges of that time still visible in the chic interior such as the triple-arched windows.
We recommend the “coffee zenzai” (sweet red bean soup), a delectable collaboration between aromatic coffee and azuki beans. The cafe is also known for the charming view of the street trolleys that run just outside its front doors.
Address: 2F, 4-1-19 Shinmachi, Chuo-ku, Kumamoto City, Kumamoto Prefecture
Access: 1-minute walk from Shinmachi Station (Kumamoto City Tram)
Hours: 11:26 AM-6:00 PM (Last order 5:26 PM)
Closed: Open every day
Art Space & Cafe Okura Shimizuyu (Oita Prefecture)
Once a locally beloved public sento bath from the 1950s to the 1970s, the facility has since been renovated into a cafe and art gallery. It was also a rice granary back in the Edo period (17th-late 19th century).
The division between the men’s and women’s baths remains as part of the cafe’s layout, as well as the original baths, faucets, and retro signs. Their popular menu is the “seasonal kobachi” (small dishes) set that uses seasonal vegetables. The main dish is handmade udon made with water from Taketa, a famous type of mineral water said to be the best in the Kyushu region. For dessert, you can enjoy matcha tea and seasonal sweets.
Address: 507 Taketa-machi, Taketa City, Oita Prefecture
Access: 5-minute walk from Bungo-Taketa Station (JR)
Hours: 11:30 AM-4:00 PM
Cloesd: No fixed holiday
*The information herein is as of May 2021.