The Kitassen in Japan represent a very distinct coffee culture true to Japan. It means “third place” or third home, as your first would be your actual home and the second your workplace. It has always been an in-between place where you can just be. In a country where real estate is pricey and rare, it is a
Close to the Shibuya Crossing, this is one of Tokyo’s prime kitassens which was opened in 1989. A heavy door opens to a wooden counter lined with highchairs where you can watch the meticulous coffee brewing process which follows a traditional hand-poured drip technique.
The inner space also has a large communal table for an afternoon stop. The café is engulfed in a classic Jazz soundtrack.
Located in Sugamo, or the neighbourhood known as the “Grandma’s Harajuku” , Café Sky is a huge Elvis shrine. It is a major symbol to the Sugamo generation, an elderly bunch with a love for Western influences.
The Elvis paraphernalia is impressive between the life-size posters, faded photographs, and ticket stubs. It is a total extension of the people running the kitassen. It was established shortly after the death of Elvis after the song, I Believe In The Man In The Sky.
A brief Kitassen history
The Kitassen are from the Showa- era (1926-1989) where an economic boom spurred the coffee houses and their development. The salarymen needed a place to unwind and had time for the first time for a tiny bit of leisure.
In parallel, Western media was also influencing popular media and the Kitassen took a similar form to European and American coffee houses. Of course, they always add their own sense of traditionalism. Salary men can be seen snoozing there and where students pull all-nighters.
With today’s rise in international coffee outlets like Starbucks, the Kitassens have become a sacred space where jazz music can be heard while remaining traditionally Japanese.