Irukaya Coffee Shop: A Principled Sanctuary


CNN Travel recently published a story about a unique (and surely controversial) coffee bar in Japan that is either too new or too elusive to have made Oliver Stand’s Tokyo list. Irukaya Coffee Shop (Google translated to Dolphin?) is a windowless, 4 seat, reservation only shop run by Hiroshi Kiyota.

The shop maintains a strict set of rules on its Japanese Excite blog that include:

– Please refrain from lingering on one order—order again within 1 hour.
– No groups larger than 2 people
– No pictures
– No Smoking
– No mobile phones
– No take-away
– No children
– Reservation only during open hours
– Rule breakers are asked to leave 

The article details the writer, Nicholas Coldicott‘s  visits to Irukaya, including Kitoya’s humble demeanor, the competition-worthy signature beverages on the menu and the extensive list of rare whiskeys that can only be ordered alongside coffee.

Finally, he poured the brew into two cups, alternating so each shared the top, middle and tail of the coffee. He tasted one cup, then served me the other. “Yubisaki,” he said. “Drink it as you would a whisky. It should take around 20 minutes … On paper, the rules look forbidding, but the longer you spend in Irukaya, the more they make sense. It’s not a place you go for a caffeine fix. It’s a sanctuary that happens to serve java. Most of the rules are in place to keep things tranquil. – CNN Travel

While this is sure to ruffle some feathers as being pretentious and off-putting, it sounds like an incredible experience. Where Penny University meets the Soup Nazi, wrapped in Japanese tranquility—sign me up.

Read the full article on CNN Travel

5-7-39 Inokashira
+81 (0) 90 3042 4145
open 2 p.m.-midnight, closed Wednesday

Photos: Julen Esteban-Pretel for CNN

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  • Reply Chi 12/06/2012 at 4:38 pm

    While I understand the idea of taking your time and perfecting the craft, I don’t know, I feel like projects like intentionally shuns people and makes it less accessible for people maybe sort of interested in coffee to start participating. I know when I started and went to my local cafe, I was very much lucky enough to have the owner express interest in explaining concepts to me. They could have simply been snobby and NOT invited to me their ‘club’, but he helped me understand.

    This reeks of exclusivity just for the sake of exclusivity. It reminds me of the one secret bar I was invited to, once in my life – it was a sort of cheesy, all-knowing kind of air.

  • Reply Chi 12/06/2012 at 4:39 pm

    Yikes. Apologies for the grammar/spelling errors, my computer is hitching a fit.

  • Reply Joe 01/07/2013 at 1:31 am

    I went there. It’s awesome! You do need to speak Japanese or go with a Japanese friend. It is hard to find and he doesn’t speak any English.

    Yes it’s pretentious but that’s part of the fun! Great whiskeys too.

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