Eki-citing Tokyo: The one-stop travel haven, JAPAN RAIL CAFE TOKYO
If you’re reading this article, you’re probably familiar with JAPAN RAIL CAFE in Singapore. Opened by JR East in 2016, it was also part of the commemoration of the 50th anniversary of Singapore-Japan diplomatic relations (SJ50). JAPAN RAIL CAFE has now expanded to three locations in Asia: Singapore, Taipei, and Tokyo (東京都 Tōkyō-to). At this point, you might find yourself wondering: are these branches all the same, or are they different in their concepts?
Get some travel advice from the Travel Information Counter
The friendly staff are always happy to help! (Image credit: Tokyo Station City)
JAPAN RAIL CAFE TOKYO, like its Singapore and Taipei counterpart, is designed as an integrated concept: a one-stop destination where you can get advice on your travel plans, gather for good food, and check out the latest seasonal delights—it is even used as an event space to showcase various pop-ups or tourism events! For many travellers, JAPAN RAIL CAFE Singapore serves as a good starting point to begin planning and discussing ideas for their trip. JAPAN RAIL CAFE TOKYO, on the other hand, seeks to be the respite at the midpoint of the trip, with the Travel Information Counter giving advice to those currently in the midst of travelling. Realised that you might have planned one too many days in Tokyo? How about a day trip to somewhere near Tokyo? Or perhaps you want to extend your trip to check out Tohoku (東北 Tōhoku)? The Travel Information Counter can provide useful suggestions, and help tweak your trip to give you the fullest experience during your Japan trip. Oh, you can definitely also purchase your JR EAST PASS and JR tickets here, too!
Immerse yourself in regional events
Lively events, workshops, and performances are held from time to time at the cafe’s event space. (Image credit: JAPAN RAIL CAFE TOKYO)
Another trademark of JAPAN RAIL CAFE is the idea of seasonality—JAPAN RAIL CAFE TOKYO occasionally organises events where you can experience Japanese food and culture of various regions right within the cafe’s event space. With an ever-changing rotation of new featured regions, every visit may yield a new surprise. If you’re interested, you can contact the staff of JAPAN RAIL CAFE TOKYO to find out more details about future events.
Check out some meibutsu from across Japan
Check out the meibutsu (名物 regional specialties) available and experience tastes from across Japan. (Image credit: JAPAN RAIL CAFE TOKYO)
While you’re there, be sure to check out the retail corner that has an ever-changing line up of goods depending on the featured region. If you’re lucky, you might even chance upon some really rare omiyage (お土産 souvenirs) that might be really hard to come by in Tokyo.
Bring your palette on a journey
This bento box embodies the goshiki (五色 five colours) concept of Japanese cooking, bringing harmony and vibrancy to the meal. (Image credit: Jeremy Jee)
Of course, one of the best parts of JAPAN RAIL CAFE is undoubtedly the food. At JAPAN RAIL CAFE TOKYO, their menu changes throughout the day, from breakfast up till dinner—so there is something new to look forward to every time you visit. I really enjoyed the Wappa Rice Lunchbox Teriyaki Chicken (わっぱ飯 照焼チキンん Wappameshi Teriyaki Chikin) for ¥1,500 including a drink of your choice. The meal is served in a Magewappa (曲げわっぱ bent woodware), a traditional bento box from Akita (秋田県 Akita-ken) made using a technique originating from more than a 1,300 years ago. It involves Akita cedar (秋田杉 Akita sugi) that is cut thinly, boiled, and then bent to produce the elegant shape of the bento box. Although you may be eating it hot at the cafe, Magewappa also has the added benefit of absorbing moisture to preserve the taste of the food. The meal itself features a juicy chicken thigh, served on a bed of rice alongside soboro (そぼろ ground chicken), iri tamago (炒り卵 scrambled eggs), and grilled negi (ネギ leek). Accompanying it is a trio of appetisers: tamagoyaki (玉子焼き rolled omelette), kamaboko (かまぼこ fish cake), and mentaiko (明太子 pollock roe). With so many different components, tasting each and every one of them feels like your tongue is on a journey through Tohoku as you jump from item to item, savouring their different tastes.
Brew some green tea
Watch your drinks being brewed right in front of you. (Image credit: Jeremy Jee)
As a cafe, JAPAN RAIL CAFE TOKYO pulls no punches when it comes to its variety of drinks and desserts. If you’re a tea connoisseur, you might want to check out the Green Tea Brewing Set (急須で淹れるティーペアリング Kyūsu de Ireru Tī Pearingu) for ¥1,500, including wagashi (和菓子 traditional Japanese sweets) on the side.
(Image credit: JR EAST CROSS STATION Co., Ltd.)
Experience what it’s like to brew fresh Japanese green tea from scratch, and how the taste of the green tea complements the sweetness of the kuro daifuku (くろ大福). For your first two cups, you’ll enjoy the cafe’s tea of the day (本日のお茶 honjitsu no ocha) brewed using a teapot (急須 kyūsu). With the leaves in the teapot, pour in the hot water from the flask, turn the hourglass around, and await the prime time for your perfectly brewed cup of tea to be ready. For the third cup, you can spice things up with iri genmai (煎り玄米 roasted brown rice) to change up the taste.
(Image credit: JR EAST CROSS STATION Co., Ltd.)
If you’re not in the mood to DIY, but want to sample a range of expertly-brewed teas, then try out Senchadō’s Five Types of Green Tea Tasting Set (煎茶堂の緑茶5種飲み比べ sencha-dō no ryokucha go-shu nomi kurabe) for ¥1,500. Enjoy the pure unadulterated taste of the tea without any sweeteners. While the set provides you with five types of tea leaves, you actually get to enjoy six different kinds of flavours. The five types of tea leaves are: the tea of the day, hojicha (ほうじ茶 roasted green tea), gyokuro (玉露 refined green tea), fukamushicha (深蒸し茶 steamed green tea), and matcha (抹茶 green tea). If you ever wondered what tea leaves taste like, the set also comes with edible gyokuro tea leaves (食べる玉露茶葉 taberu gyokuro chaba) that are salty in taste. Lastly, the set also comes with some genmai (玄米 brown rice) to brew genmaicha (玄米茶 brown rice tea), producing the sixth taste. Truly the ultimate crash course in becoming a Japanese tea connoisseur.
Dig into some unusual parfaits
Just look at all those layers! (Image credit: Jeremy Jee)
You might also want to check out their Otona no Kaoru Parfait (大人の香るパルフェ), which comes in matcha or hojicha flavours for ¥1,350, including a drink. Desserts described as otona (大人 adult) are usually less sweet and more refined in taste. The parfait comes with a scoop of gelato, fromage, genmai, genmai flakes, kanten (寒天 agar agar), and topped with a monaka (最中 sweet cracker).
For a more complex flavour profile, the maccha version comes with basil cream and strawberry sauce, while the hojicha version comes with wasabi (わさび) cream and white-wine infused grapefruit jelly. They also offer classics like Ogura Toast (小倉トースト Ogura tōsuto), a Nagoya dish with anko (餡子 red bean paste) and butter on toasted shokupan (食パン), as well as anmitsu (あんみつ), a traditional Japanese dessert with anko, mochi (餅 rice cake), and fruits.
Kick back and relax with green tea cocktails
A wide selection of sake, wines, and more. (Image credit: Jeremy Jee)
After a long day’s travel, it might be great to just kick back and relax over some alcohol to let loose. Apart from a great selection of Japanese alcohol, there is also a unique selection of green tea cocktails: green tea beer, hojicha whisky and soda, green tea gin and tonic soda, tencha (甜茶 green tea) vodka and soda, and hojicha whisky on the rocks. You can also pair your drinks with a variety of traditional bar snacks such as edamame and karaage.
Enjoy some serenity in a tatami room
(Image credit: JAPAN RAIL CAFE TOKYO)
Possibly the best part of JAPAN RAIL CAFE TOKYO is simply that it serves as a relaxing respite from the hustle and bustle of Tokyo Station (東京駅 Tōkyō-eki). Within the heart of the station, you can get easy access to a taste of Japanese tradition and culture as you sip on a warm cup of green tea while sitting in the tatami (畳) room. If you’re looking to get some work done, or do some light reading, there are also plenty of counter seats, power plugs, and free Wi-Fi.
Getting to JAPAN RAIL CAFE TOKYO
(Image adapted from: Tokyo Station City)
If you’re looking to check out JAPAN RAIL CAFE TOKYO, it’s really easy and convenient to get there. Once at Tokyo Station, just head out from the Yaesu Central Gate (八重洲中央口 Yaesu Chuōguchi) and take the left passageway after you exit. Simply follow that passageway and you will see JAPAN RAIL CAFE TOKYO on your left. Don’t hesitate to stop by, and take a break the next time you’re in Tokyo Station!
JAPAN RAIL CAFE TOKYO
Address: 1-9-1 Marunouchi, Chiyoda, Tokyo 100-0005
Nearest station: Tokyo Station (東京駅)
Opening hours: 8am–10pm (Mondays–Fridays), 8am–9pm (Saturdays–Sundays and PH). Travel Information Counter closes at 4pm daily.
Tel: +81 3 6269 9787
Note: In view of the current State of Emergency in Tokyo, the cafe is observing shorter operation hours by closing at 8pm daily. The Travel Information Counter closes at 4pm as usual.
This article is written in collaboration with Tokyo Station City. All information stated is accurate as of 15 Aug 2021.
Header image credit: Jeremy Jee