Café Paulista opened in 1911 in Ginza and is the oldest Tokyo cafe still in business. It is said to be the origin of all kissaten (traditional cafes) in Japan. However, do not expect a building from 1911. The cafe at the current location opened in 1970 and quite some reconstruction has been going on since.
The cafe has a close connection with Brazil, not just with its name (paulista means “child of São Paulo”), but also in relation to its establishment. Café Paulista was founded by Mizuno Ryo to sell the Brazilian coffee he received for free from the Brazilian government for his contribution to the emigration of Japanese to Brazil. Mizuno Ryo opened in total 23 cafes all over Japan and in Shanghai, developing one of the very first coffee chains in the world.
Close up of the coffee cup with logo
The original building of Café Paulista was a beautiful white manor house (link to image on official website). In that respect, it’s quite sad that the current building is rather new and lacks any charm. At my first visit to this cafe, now more than 10 years ago, there was a bit of an older looking dark-brick front. Now there is a large canopy with “Café Paulista” in big letters.
The most popular coffee is here the Cafe Florestal (in Japanese mori no kōhī), made from premium organic coffee beans from São Paulo, which have a bit of sweetness to them. If you are into bitter and strong coffee, go for the Paulista Old. This is the more traditional type of coffee often served in kissaten and will certainly kickstart your day.
The marble counter on the second floor
The interior is decorated old style with leather seats, paintings, chandeliers, wood, and even flowers as you would expect from a kissaten (read more about kissaten in my article on Hakushaku). The cafe is divided in 2 floors with each a capacity of 50 seats:
- First floor: low leather seats, smoking floor (on weekdays, non-smoking during the weekend)
- Second floor: large marble counter, small tables for couples, non-smoking floor
John Lennon and Yoko Ono came to the cafe in the 1970s for 3 days in a row, which became sort of an anecdote. However, in Japan it is more know for the Japanese authors and playwrights who used to frequent the cafe such as Akutagawa Ryūnosuke (1892-1927), Minakami Takitarō (1887-1940) and Yoshii Isamu (1886 -1960).
The cafes logo outside on the left
Address: Nagasaki Centre Building 1F and 2F, 8-9 Ginza, Chuo-ku, Tokyo
Monday – Saturday: 8:30-21:30
Sunday and holidays: 11:30-20:00
Shimbashi Station – 6 minutes walk (Yamanote line, Ginza line, Toei Asakusa line, Yurikamome Line, Tōkaidō Main Line, Yokosuka Line, Keihin-Tōhoku Line)
Ginza Station – 7 minutes walk (Ginza Line, Hibiya Line, Marunouchi Line)
Budget: the popular Cafe Florestal is JPY 650
Web: http://www.paulista.co.jp/ (in Japanese)
Smoking: first floor smoking, second floor non-smoking (both floors non-smoking during the weekend)
Name in Japanese: カフェーパウリスタ