Your indispensable guide to one of Tokyo’s hippest neighborhoods
Guide: Shiori Kotaki | Photography: Keisuke Tanigawa and Kisa Toyoshima
Once known as the “Wall Street of Japan”, Nihonbashi’s Kabuto-cho neighborhood has shed its stuffy, formal reputation to embrace contemporary culture and become one of the most exciting districts in Tokyo. Here are some of the hottest new cafes, bars, restaurants, shops, and galleries in the area.
Visit the hippest former bank in Tokyo
No venue better epitomizes Kabuto-cho’s recent transformation than K5, a former bank turned into a chic boutique hotel, brewery bar, third-wave coffee shop, and cutting-edge eatery. What was once the Daiichi National Bank, which was the country’s first bank when it was constructed in 1923, is now home to the dimly-lit B bar, run by Brooklyn Brewery, Caveman – an innovative restaurant whose globe-trotting menu focuses on seasonal ingredients and cooking methods such as smoking and fermentation – and Switch Coffee, renowned for its large variety of single origin drip brews. Yard Works, meanwhile, offers a gorgeous selection of plants, which are artfully arranged to create a kind of urban jungle. A boutique hotel occupies floors two to four.
K5, 3-5 Nihonbashi Kabuto-cho, Chuo-ku, Tokyo. +81 3 5962 3485. Hours vary, hotel check in from 3pm, check out until 12 noon.
Enjoy the finest seasonal cuisine
Chef Kyohei Nishi, formerly of Shibuya’s Roijura bistro, is the culinary mastermind behind this ambitious contemporary bistro, where the food is characterized by attention to detail, as well as a focus on seasonal ingredients and natural wines. Soak up the cool, casual vibe and grab a seat at the counter, earning yourself a front row seat as Nishi and his team prepare their singular take on modern French cuisine.
This obsession with seasonality extends to every aspect of the menu, with dishes adapting to the time of year through subtle tweaks to their preparation and ingredients. The vast wine menu – over 200 bottles, of which eight or so can be ordered by the glass – can seem a little intimidating at first, but staff are on-hand to guide you towards the perfect choice to accompany your meal.
Neki, 8-1 Nihonbashi Kabuto-cho, Chuo-ku, Tokyo. +81 3 6231 1988. 11.30am-3.00pm (last orders 2pm), 6pm-10pm (last orders 9pm), Mon-Sat.
It’s said that Japanese and Swedish design have lots in common – the minimalist aesthetic, the clean lines and neutral tones, the natural materials – and this import from Stockholm joins the K5 micro-complex in the local ‘Japandi’ (a composite of Japanese and Scandinavian) style scene. Stockholm Roast was born in the suburbs of the Swedish capital before opening up at Omotesando Commune in Tokyo a few years ago.
After a name change – they now go by SR – and a move to a renovated antiquated unagiya restaurant in Kabuto-cho, the Swedish coffee maestros are keeping locals happily caffeinated with some of the best cups of joe in the Japanese capital. Four to six varieties of carefully sourced beans are available, and prepared as drip coffees or espresso drinks, depending on your preference. If you’re sitting in, you can peruse the info sheets to learn more about the beans and their unique flavors, although take-out is available for those in a hurry. After 5pm SR morphs into a sophisticated evening venue where the staff mix up potent coffee cocktails and serve craft gins (just ask the staff if you fancy such a tipple during the day).
SR, 9-5 Nihonbashi Kabuto-cho, Chuo-ku, Tokyo. +81 3 6434 0353. 8.30am-11pm Mon-Fri, 1pm-11pm Sat, 1pm-6pm Sun.
Sip natural wines
Sharing an old unagi restaurant with Stockholm Roast (see above) and Omnipollos Tokyo (see below), this cozy bottle shop and bar wasted no time in developing a stellar reputation for its vast selection of natural wines, mostly from Italy and France. According to many oenophiles, natural wines – with nothing added, and nothing taken away – are the real deal, but to the uninitiated they can be an acquired taste. Therefore newbies should consider ordering one of the 5-10 varieties by the glass before plumping for a whole bottle.
After selecting your tipple, check out Human Nature’s original apparel and the hand-picked selection of zines on sale, and if you get a chance have a chat with the owner, who’s passionate about natural wine and determined to create a countercultural hub that has a positive impact in the community. The Human Nature team are rightly proud of their sound system – the music sounds incredible here, especially when they turn the volume up – and they’re always happy to find perfect pairings for their natural wines from the sizable snack selection.
Human Nature, 9-5 Nihonbashi Kabuto-cho, Chuo-ku, Tokyo. 3pm-10pm daily.
Enjoy a beer in trippy surroundings
SR isn’t the only hip Swedish import housed in the famed former unagi (eel) restaurant, Matsuyoshi. A cross between a craft brewery and an experimental art project, Omnipollo was founded by brewer Henok Fentie and artist Karl Grandin in Stockholm in 2010. While the traditional exterior with its elegant wooden beams has been preserved, the interior is a trippy, topsy-turvy delight with the walls appearing to melt away and clever use of light and color.
The offbeat and playful nature of the design extends to Fentie’s brewing process. Looking around the world for unlikely inspiration, Omnipollo take flavors such as peanut butter cookies and mango lassi as inspiration for their IPAs, pilsners, pale ales, wild ales, and stouts – expect to find 11 rotating beers on tap, and on a hot day don’t miss the frozen beer, which tastes better than it sounds.
Omnipollos Tokyo, 9-5 Nihonbashi Kabuto-cho, Chuo-ku, Tokyo. 3pm–11pm Mon-Fri, 1pm-11pm Sat, 1pm-9pm Sun and national holidays.
Indulge in a cream pastry
Ease by name, easy by nature, this impeccably stylish pâtisserie from award-winning young pastry chef Keisuke Oyama is a haven of calm in bustling Kabuto-cho. The specialty here is the Amazon cacao choux a la creme, which benefits from the fruity flavor and refined bitterness of Amazon cacao. The counter seats offer a great view of Oyama preparing the 15 types of cake that go on sale each day. Some of his treats are only available to eat in, but if you are taking the pastries away Oyama has you covered. In his pursuit of excellence, he has paid close attention to his packaging, which is specially designed to ensure the food’s freshness is retained.
Pâtisserie ease, 9-1 Nihonbashi Kabuto-cho, Chuo-ku, Tokyo. +81 3 6231 1681. 11am-7pm (last order 6.30pm), Thu-Tue.
Remote work in style
Cafe Salvador Business Salon
Resembling an upmarket airport business class lounge, Cafe Salvador is taking full advantage of the current trend for remote working. It’s a simple system – you pay ¥300 per 30 minutes or ¥1,800 for the whole day, and for that you get access to desk space, unlimited drinks, comfortable and spacious sofas, and a library full of books to get your creative juices flowing. There are also larger tables available for groups.
In addition to the inclusive drink selection, a number of light meals are available such as salads, sandwiches, and simple curries. And, if the weather’s nice, the outdoor terrace is the perfect spot from which to watch the world go by.
Cafe Salvador Business Salon, Tokyo Shoken Kaikan 1F, 1-5-8 Nihonbashi Kayaba-cho, Chuo-ku, Tokyo. +81 3 5623 3107. 7am-10pm Mon-Fri, 9am-8pm Sat, Sun and national holidays.
Explore the home of Fintech
Kabutocho and nearby Kayabacho are fast becoming Japan’s primary launchpads for financial startups. At the moment around 50 companies call the neighborhoods home, but with the Japanese and Tokyo Metropolitan governments’ vocal desire to transform Tokyo into Asia’s leading financial city that number will need to grow. Enter FinGATE, a new business incubator that aims to support the growth of financial startups including independent asset management companies and fintech companies.
FinGATE supports the companies’ growth by providing secure and convenient office infrastructure as well as business ‘matchmaking’ services which introduce like-minded startups and more established companies to help turbocharge growth.
Get ready for Kabuto
Scheduled to partially open in summer 2021, this sprawling complex will mix business with pleasure with a combination of shops, conference halls, and business lounges. By 2022 it is hoped that the complex will boast a direct link to Kayabacho Station on the Tokyo Metro.
Kabuto One, 7-1 Nihonbashi Kabuto-cho, Chuo-ku, Tokyo (probable address).
Go office window shopping
Here’s one for architecture buffs – or historians of the Japanese banking industry. Built on the former site of the estate of Shibusawa Eiichi, considered the father of Japanese capitalism, this famed structure has carried the history of the securities industry on its shoulders.
Today it is rented out as a leased office space – but it’s well worth a look even if you’re not in the market for a workspace because the classic exterior from the time of its completion in 1928 remains in fine condition today.
Nisshokan, 1-10 Nihonbashi Kabuto-cho, Chuo-ku, Tokyo.
Venture a little further to a spectacular food hall
There’s something for everyone at Commissary, a stylish new food hall where five restaurants offer their delicious dishes to an appreciative crowd. A short walk from Kabuto-cho, here you’ll find pizza by the slice from, ahem, Pizza Slice, authentic Mexican tacos from Kitade Tacos, Chigaya Bakery’s justly famous donuts, Our Craft’s experimental beers, and Mind Spa’s first-rate coffees.
Commissary, Nihonbashi Life Science Building 2 1F, 3-11-5 Nihonbashi-honcho, Chuo-ku, Tokyo. Hours vary by store.
Sleep in style
Located across the street from the Commissary, BnA (short for ‘Bed and Art’) WALL is part of a micro-chain of boutique hotels. Like staying inside an art gallery, each of the 26 rooms is unique and designed by one of 14 different local artists and creatives including collective magma whose room is pictured above.
The bar lounge in the lobby offers original lu rou fan (minced pork rice) and gyoza dumplings, seasonal sake and a wide variety of non-alcoholic cocktails – all of which can be enjoyed while taking in the huge muralled wall that gives the hotel its name.
BnA WALL, 1-1 Nihonbashi Odenma-cho, Chuo-ku, Tokyo. +81 3 5962 3958. Hours vary, hotel check in from 4pm-2am, check out until 12 noon.