We all love cafes, don’t we? They provide welcome respite from the hassles of daily life while you relax over a nice cup of coffee or tea, whichever you’re in the mood for. Well, one of our reporters at Pouch website learned of an interesting cafe located near Ikebukuro Staion in Tokyo and decided to investigate.

According to the shop website, the Sakura Cafe Ikebukuro is an open terrace cafe located on the first floor of the Sakura Hotel Ikebukuro, where guests from approximately 110 countries around the world stay each year. Open 24 hours every day of the year, the cafe offers a breakfast, lunch, afternoon (tea time), dinner and late night menu, and in particular, they have a breakfast buffet (called the “morning set”) that costs only 320 yen (about $4). That certainly caught our attention! They also offer a weekly selection of 4 lunch plates, each offering a dish from a different country. Sound interesting? Let’s hear what the reporter, Yayoi Washinomiya, had to say after making a visit to the cafe. Here’s her account:

The Sakura Cafe is about a five minute walk from the West Exit of the JR Line Ikebukuro Station, or three minutes from the C6 Exit. Those familiar with the Ikebukuro area may get a better sense of the cafe’s location and surroundings if we tell you that it’s near the Rosa Kaikan, an eight-story entertainment building that includes restaurants, a movie theater and sports facilities.

As some of you familiar with Ikebukuro may be aware, the area around Rosa Kaikan is known as what could be considered a somewhat shady nightlife/amusement district where you can find many massage shops (the kind employing young foreign women), 24-hour saunas and Pachinko parlors. In fact, you could say the area is a typical old-fashioned Japanese kanraku-gai (“pleasure town”). Now, the website says that the Sakura Cafe has the atmosphere of a cafe in Paris, but could that really be true of a cafe located in a “pleasure town”? We couldn’t help but feel a little skeptical of the website’s claim as we approached the actual cafe. And there we saw it, the Sakura Cafe & Restaurant, with the name written in large gold letters. Hmm, we guess you could say the appearance of the red awning and open terrace seating gives the cafe a bit of a Paris-like feel.

The cafe was serving breakfast at the time, and we already knew we wanted to order the “morning set”, so when the staff asked us whether we wanted the morning set, we eagerly answered in the affirmative. After paying the 320yen, you basically help yourself to the bread and also the jam and butter. You do have to toast the bread yourself and pour your own drinks, but we were delighted to find over 10 different varieties of tea bags, from the standard Earl Grey and Darjeeling to various flavored teas. Hot coffee and milk are also available. Oh, and there’s also the chef’s special soup of the day.

So, we took the drinks and bread on a tray and found a table outside. There are tables indoors too, but we decided to make use of the open terrace setting. The best part is that for the 320 yen, you can have all the bread, drinks and soup you like, and you can stay as long as you like, too. That’s definitely good value! There’s also wi-fi access, so you can surf the net or access your e-mail as much as you like while at the cafe.

It was about 10a.m. when we went to the cafe, and there were a good number of customers. There were some foreign tourists who most likely were staying at the Sakura Hotel, as well as a Japanese businessman working on his laptop. There was also a Japanese couple (who may or may not have spent the night at one of the “love hotels” nearby), and other customers included middle aged men and women who looked like they may be local regulars. The clientele seemed to be about half foreign and half Japanese.

We thought about attempting some communication and cultural exchange with the foreign customers, but then again, we didn’t want to alarm or scare anyone away, so for this visit, we just had our morning set quietly. But if this was at night, and everyone had a few drinks in them, it would probably be much easier for even shy Japanese customers to strike up a conversation or generally mix and have a good time with foreign guests. The cafe has a large screen TV in the terrace, so there’s probably great fun and excitement when they broadcast sports events like they did during the recent Olympics.

So, what did we think of the cafe? We would definitely be happy to go back again, since lunch or drinks hour at the cafe is also likely to be enjoyable, in a different way from breakfast. By the way, the Sakura Cafe also has shops in Hatagaya, Jinbo-cho and Harajuku. If you want to feel (even for a short while) as if you’ve been transported to a cafe in Paris, why not stop by for a coffee when you’re in the vicinity?

Original Article by Yayoi Washinomiya

Reference: Sakura Cafe website

▼You can choose from a variety of tea flavors.

▼There’s coffee and milk, so you can make your own cafe au lait!

▼The chef’s daily special soup – this was seriously good!

▼The menu outside the shop – sometimes a recipe shared by a foreign customer actually becomes part of the menu.

▼See the beers from around the world. We want to try them all!