Kojo – Tokyo, Japan - Gastro Obscura

Gastro Obscura


This subterranean spot might be the epitome of Japan's baroque, retro coffee houses. 


Kissaten are a style of Japanese coffee house inspired by a now-retro, European influence. The original shops appeared before World War II, revealing Japan’s impression of Europe during the Shōwa period (1926–1989). Many continue to exist in an era that doesn’t recognize wi-fi, alternative milks, or to-go orders. Ornate, sparkling lighting fixtures, European art, and classical music typically fill the space. 

Located near Tokyo’s Ueno station, Kojo may be the most ostentatious of these specialty cafes. Inside, you’ll find a Yamaha Electone organ, a Tutankhamun mask, crystal chandeliers, and a massive, art deco stained glass window. Huge slabs of rock and fake plants divvy up the room, making Kojo feel like “a mixture between a mountain cave and a southern European church,” according to a reviewer on Japan Travel.

Today, these stylized throwbacks stand in contrast to the country’s recent influx of third-wave coffee shops (many of the Starbucks variety). After hopping off the train at Ueno, wander into this portal to an antiquated Euro-dream, pondering bygone design infatuations over a Vienna coffee.