Kokubunji, on the west side of Tokyo, is a “shitamachi”, or downtown area. It’s a collection of restaurants, izakaya pubs, and bars crowding together down old, narrow streets frequented by the local community. And it’s down one of these alleyways that you’ll find Life Size Cribe, the local specialty coffee shop.
Tucked away in a side street off a quiet alley, Life Size Cribe makes its home in a little nook on the outskirts of the residential neighborhood. Graffiti is scrawled up one of the walls, and the bike stand out front is covered in stickers. Above it, a white pair of redecorated shoes hangs by a wooden sign.
Owner Kazuki Yoshida tells me the influence comes from his days in a breakdancing group before he started in coffee. “We called ourselves Cribe,” he says. “I like underground culture, so I chose a place that wasn’t a main street. I wanted my shop to feel like a secret hideout.”
Inside, I look around at the unique wooden counter, the roaster in the corner, and the bicycle parts hanging from the ceiling, while Yoshida tells me the word “cribe” comes from the term “crib to live.”
“The life-size part of the name,” he continues, “that’s really important to me. People always talk about lifestyle, but I always hear a trace of the ideal in that. What you want to be, how you want to live, that kind of thing. So for me, life-size means finding and making the most of your life as it is, right now.”
Yoshida says that long before Life Size Cribe, he worked for Doutor, and became enamored with the idea of the Italian barista. That brought him to espresso, which he drank with sugar until a chance meeting with Shuichi Sasaki at Paul Bassett, who asked him to try his espresso without the sugar.
“At the time, I thought espresso was too bitter to drink on its own,” he says, “but I wanted to be polite, so I did as he said. That espresso was like dark chocolate. It blew me away. I thought, this is what I want to do with my life!”
The experience marked a change in career focus for Yoshida, who bought an espresso machine for home, experimented on his own, and visited workshops whenever possible. Eventually, he did a stint at Paul Bassett, and after three years, left to open Life Size Cribe in Kokubunji, where he wanted to craft coffee for a variety of life sizes.
“If I was in Shibuya or Harajuku,” he says, “those are places where people dress to look and be a certain way. That’s not what I’m about, so I wanted to open in a place that’s just part of everyday life. I wanted to open a coffee shop that fits the community. It’s like, people don’t have to come to be anything special here; they can come in their pajamas or whatever.”
His coffee shop, then, is a chance to bring his personality, style, and love for specialty coffee to a community he loves, and give it something back. He says the best part of his job is taking the time to find the right coffee for each customer, and catering it to their taste and mood.
In many ways, Life Size Cribe is about finding a place to be yourself and finding harmony with the world around you. Yoshida’s love of bikes has made the local cycling community regulars at his shop, and his relaxed attitude has made the spot a popular place for a nightcap after a few drinks out.
His shop, then, is a testament to his personality—in life-size, if you will—and his passion for sharing what he loves.
Hengtee Lim is a Sprudge staff writer based in Tokyo. Read more Hengtee Lim on Sprudge.