Exploring Japan’s ‘Jazz Kissa’ Cafe Culture: Vibes and Snaps

Exploring Japan’s ‘Jazz Kissa’ Cafe Culture: Vibes and Snaps

Diary

Exploring Japan’s ‘Jazz Kissa’ Cafe Culture: Vibes and Snaps

japan-kissa-cafe-jazz-純喫茶ラテン-old-fashion-place-coffee-voigtlander-nokton-28mm-f1.5-1.5-asph-vm-m-mount-lens-reflx-lab-800t-push-1600
純喫茶ラテン in Kyoto, Voigtlander Nokton 28mm f/1.5 ASPH VM, Reflx Lab 800 push to 1600
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VINYL RECORD MUSIC BAR 『P.M.SOUNDS KYOTO』in Kyoto, Leica M10 Monochrom, Dallmeyer Kinematograph 2" f/1.9 (50mm)

Vinyl, high-end audio systems, and the environment—three key elements that created the unique and niche Jazz Kissa cafe culture in Japan. There are still some unique bars and cafes in Hong Kong that I’m trying to discover after my search for Kissa in Tokyo and Osaka. Or you could say the book that Philip Arneill recently published about “Tokyo Jazz Joint” (also his article in The Guardian) rekindled my interest in jazz and vinyl. These hidden gems make me feel calm and create a timeless capsule, separating me from social media disturbances and the outside world.

japan-kissa-cafe-spot-hamamoto-coffee-himeji-toast-brewing-steam-glass-leica-m10-monochrom-m10m-dallmeyer-kinematograph-2inch-50mm-f1.9-1.9-50-bnw-bokeh-petzval-rangefinder-digital
Hamamoto Coffee in Himeji, Leica M10 Monochrom, Dallmeyer Kinematograph 2" f/1.9 (50mm)

“‘Kissa’ is an abbreviation of the Japanese word kissaten, which literally translates to “tea drinking shop” but is used as a vernacular shorthand for coffee shop.” – SCMP

I stumbled upon Jazz BIGBOY in Tokyo by accident when I was last in the city. The choice of music and the conversation between the owner and I are still deeply imprinted in my mind. I haven’t had such an interesting encounter for a long time because what I did, of course, was to take a few photos but at the same time, spent a long time just sitting and listening to the music , I was like time was frozen on my own terms. I haven’t been present for a while.

Then 2 months later, I had the opportunity to visit Osaka and Kyoto. So, I told my friends we have to try out some jazz cafes or bars. After some research on @Jazz_Kissa, a very useful map that you could use to find all the nice and finest places, I made my shortlist:

Bird/56

Situated in one of the busiest districts in Osaka. After checking out Shinsekai, an interesting retro area, we came to Namba. It’s not difficult to find this bar; we walked up the stairs and immediately heard the nice jazz music in the bar. The bartender welcomed us and allowed us to sit at the bar. My friends ordered drinks and I ordered a whisky. The bartender looked at my Leica camera and said he also has a Leica M6 and Summilux 35/1.4 lens. What a coincidence! The bar is very cosy. I later discovered that the owner passed away last year. I hope this place will be able to continue operating in the future!

Bird/56
1 Chome-6-18 Namba, Chuo Ward, Osaka, 542-0076, Japan

japan-kissa-cafe-spot-bird56-bird-56-namba-jazz-vinyl-nara-osaka-interior-leica-m10-monochrom-m10m-dallmeyer-kinematograph-2inch-50mm-f1.9-1.9-50-bnw-bokeh-petzval-rangefinder-digital-bill-evans
Bird/56 in Namba, Leica M10 Monochrom, Dallmeyer Kinematograph 2" f/1.9 (50mm)
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Bird/56 in Namba, Leica M10 Monochrom, Dallmeyer Kinematograph 2" f/1.9 (50mm)
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Bird/56 in Namba, Leica M10 Monochrom, Dallmeyer Kinematograph 2" f/1.9 (50mm)
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Bird/56 in Namba, Leica M10 Monochrom, Dallmeyer Kinematograph 2" f/1.9 (50mm)
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Bird/56 in Namba, Leica M10 Monochrom, Dallmeyer Kinematograph 2" f/1.9 (50mm)

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Hamamoto Coffee

Probably the best toast I have ever had in Japan or in my whole life. We spent a night in Himeji exploring the empty city with the nice Himeji castle as a background. The dynamic range is too much that I couldn’t capture it with my M10 Monochrome, but instead, I enjoyed it with my eyes. The next morning, we looked for places for breakfast. I had pinned this cafe on Google Maps but hadn’t intended to visit it at first. We stumbled across this shop by chance and grabbed two bar table seats and looked at the menu for food. The whole experience was enjoyable; it successfully separated me from any outside world by enjoying the famous almond toast. I highly recommend you order one to try. Coffee brewers are busy moving around in front of us, boiling water, changing filters. Watching them, you couldn’t sense any rush or pressure; they were performing seamlessly at high speed, following their own rhythm. This is a must-visit place, and Himeji is now my favourite city in Japan.

Hamamoto Coffee
Japan, 〒670-0922 Hyogo, Himeji, Nikaimachi, 49

japan-kissa-cafe-spot-hamamoto-coffee-himeji-toast-brewing-steam-glass-leica-m10-monochrom-m10m-dallmeyer-kinematograph-2inch-50mm-f1.9-1.9-50-bnw-bokeh-petzval-rangefinder-digital-staff
Hamamoto Coffee in Himeji, Leica M10 Monochrom, Dallmeyer Kinematograph 2" f/1.9 (50mm)
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Hamamoto Coffee in Himeji, Leica M10 Monochrom, Dallmeyer Kinematograph 2" f/1.9 (50mm)
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Hamamoto Coffee in Himeji, Leica M10 Monochrom, Dallmeyer Kinematograph 2" f/1.9 (50mm)
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Hamamoto Coffee in Himeji

Ongaku&Coffee

Originally, I didn’t pick this spot until we were so close to the Kintetsu-Nara station, which is an hour train ride from our hotel in Umeda. We planned to check out Nara Park that day and photograph some deer and wanted something out of the city. Kissa 52 was my first choice based on Google Maps’ photos and its appealing look. However, I wanted something more authentic and unique. I checked the Instagram page for this Ongaku & Coffee place; the owner seems like a serious coffee person with a vinyl turntable. The main focus is VINYL. So we went there at 11 am. It was closed. My immediate instinct told me not to leave and just wait a bit longer because from my heart I knew this owner has his own standards. At 11:10 am, finally, a tall slim guy in a black padre priest Amish hat flipped the closed sign over. The jazz music he played was very nice and perfectly matched the quiet, cozy environment. The dark wood furnished place makes me feel like I’m in a wild west cowboy scene from the movies. The coffee was carefully brewed with high quality, and the donut was a highlight! It takes some time because it’s operated by one person only.

Ongaku & Coffee
10-2 Komyoincho, Nara, 630-8371, Japan

japan-kissa-cafe-spot-ongaku-and-coffee-jazz-samba-nara-osaka-interior-leica-m10-monochrom-m10m-dallmeyer-kinematograph-2inch-50mm-f1.9-1.9-50-bnw-bokeh-petzval-rangefinder-digital
Ongaku&Coffee in Nara, Leica M10 Monochrom, Dallmeyer Kinematograph 2" f/1.9 (50mm)
japan-kissa-cafe-spot-ongaku-and-coffee-glass-nara-osaka-interior-leica-m10-monochrom-m10m-dallmeyer-kinematograph-2inch-50mm-f1.9-1.9-50-bnw-bokeh-petzval-rangefinder-digital
Ongaku&Coffee in Nara, Leica M10 Monochrom, Dallmeyer Kinematograph 2" f/1.9 (50mm)
japan-kissa-cafe-spot-ongaku-and-coffee-jazz-samba-vinyl-turntable-audio-system-nara-osaka-interior-leica-m10-monochrom-m10m-dallmeyer-kinematograph-2inch-50mm-f1.9-1.9-50-bnw-bokeh
Ongaku&Coffee in Nara, Leica M10 Monochrom, Dallmeyer Kinematograph 2" f/1.9 (50mm)
japan-kissa-cafe-spot-ongaku-and-coffee-nara-osaka-interior-leica-m10-monochrom-m10m-dallmeyer-kinematograph-2inch-50mm-f1.9-1.9-50-bnw-bokeh-petzval-rangefinder-digital
Ongaku&Coffee in Nara, Leica M10 Monochrom, Dallmeyer Kinematograph 2" f/1.9 (50mm)
japan-kissa-cafe-spot-ongaku-and-coffee-jazz-samba-vinyl-nara-osaka-interior-leica-m10-monochrom-m10m-dallmeyer-kinematograph-2inch-50mm-f1.9-1.9-50-bnw-bokeh-petzval-lady-drinking-coffee-enjoy-monochrome
Ongaku&Coffee in Nara, Leica M10 Monochrom, Dallmeyer Kinematograph 2" f/1.9 (50mm)

VINYL RECORD MUSIC BAR 『P.M.SOUNDS KYOTO』

This was the last vinyl record bar I visited on the second-to-last day in Kyoto. We arrived around 8 pm. The music was nice, playing Tatsuro Yamashita’s vinyl at that time. However, the bar was full, and we couldn’t get a chance to sit closer to the audio system. It looks like they have a very high-end sound system, but I couldn’t enjoy it properly because the setting was quite “floating” and the vocals just couldn’t hit my head. Overall, it has a nice ambient vibe if you just want to chat with your friends.

VINYL RECORD MUSIC BAR 『P.M.SOUNDS KYOTO』
Japan, 71-21, Nakagyo-ku, Kyoto, 604-8031, Japan

japan-kissa-cafe-jazz-leica-m10-monochrom-m10m-dallmeyer-kinematograph-2inch-50mm-f1.9-1.9-50-bnw-bokeh-petzval-rangefinder-digital-vinyl-record-music-bar-pm-sounds-kyoto-drinking-2
VINYL RECORD MUSIC BAR 『P.M.SOUNDS KYOTO』in Kyoto, Leica M10 Monochrom, Dallmeyer Kinematograph 2" f/1.9 (50mm)
japan-kissa-cafe-jazz-leica-m10-monochrom-m10m-dallmeyer-kinematograph-2inch-50mm-f1.9-1.9-50-bnw-bokeh-petzval-rangefinder-digital-vinyl-record-music-bar-pm-sounds-kyoto-drinking
VINYL RECORD MUSIC BAR 『P.M.SOUNDS KYOTO』in Kyoto, Leica M10 Monochrom, Dallmeyer Kinematograph 2" f/1.9 (50mm)

純喫茶ラテン

I was drawn by the sign and the decor of this old-fashioned cafe in Kyoto. The toast and food are average, but it’s a nice place to take a rest during a long walk in Kyoto.

純喫茶ラテン
8 Yamatocho, Higashiyama Ward, Kyoto, 605-0802, Japan

japan-kissa-cafe-jazz-純喫茶ラテン-old-fashion-place-coffee-voigtlander-nokton-28mm-f1.5-1.5-asph-vm-m-mount-lens-reflx-lab-800t-push-1600
純喫茶ラテン in Kyoto, Voigtlander Nokton 28mm f/1.5 ASPH VM, Reflx Lab 800 push to 1600

My favourite jazz cafe and bar in Hong Kong is Bad Coffee and Liquor Club, it deserves a standalone post. As for my Hong Kong wishlist, I will be making visits to Kind of Brew HK and Visage One. If you know of any intriguing spots, not limited to jazz cafes, please share them in the comments below!

japan-kissa-cafe-spot-hamamoto-coffee-himeji-toast-leica-m10-monochrom-m10m-dallmeyer-kinematograph-2inch-50mm-f1.9-1.9-50-bnw-bokeh-petzval-rangefinder-digital
Hamamoto Coffee in Himeji, Leica M10 Monochrom, Dallmeyer Kinematograph 2" f/1.9 (50mm)
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Reflx Lab 800
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Reflx Lab 400D
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Metal Square Hood for Leica 35mm
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Metal Hood for Nokton 28/35/40/50mm

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