You’d like a teenage girl to serve you tea while dressed in a cutesy maid outfit? You got it. You want to dine on a gurney in an Alcatraz ER-themed restaurant or eat burgers surrounded by life-size anime characters? No problem. Just get yourself to Tokyo, the city seemingly teaming with 24-hour cartoon craziness and the embodiment of "wacky Japan."
But away from these Japanese stereotypes, there is a growing scene of altogether more grown-up concept cafés fusing areas to eat and drink with spaces for business meetings and relaxation.
Called “third spaces” (home and office are the other two), these hybrid cafés are aiming to sate the need of a busy, trend-hungry population with a one-stop shop for work and play.
With a decidedly up-market, relaxed vibe, it has been a hit since it opened, attracting a clientele ranging from young families to creatives having brainstorming meetings. There’s also been a focus on making it attractive to an older generation with the record and bookstore employing older experts with specific knowledge of genres to advice customers.
Japan’s great acceptance for new concepts and trends is one reason for the success of Daikanyama and other “third spaces,” believes Darrell Nelson, a Tokyo-based trend consultant with CScout Japan. But another is the need for a generation that grew up with 24-hour manga and internet cafés to find places to do business.
“They are looking for somewhere more suitable to be able to do business on the move, particularly those in the creative or freelance sectors,” he suggests.
“The way that business is done online today also means that no longer do people have to be tied to an office, which in Tokyo can be prohibitively expensive.”
Aside from adventures in the third dimension, new concept places to eat and drink are emerging all the time in Tokyo, often from unlikely sources. From a company that makes weighing scales and other medical equipment comes a restaurant that is part health food store, part doctor’s clinic.
At Tanita Shokudo customers first visit the glass-walled consultation room next to the food counter and fill out a nutrition questionnaire. A diet from the restaurant is then prescribed along with advice like how long food should be chewed to get the maximum nutrition. Table-top scales also ensure the correct amount of food is eaten.
It might sound nuts to some, but it’s expected to be a hit.
“Japan does well with these concepts because people are open to, and expect, new things, but also because Japan just really loves food and the rituals that surround it,” says Michael Keferl, CEO of CScout Japan.