The area of Yotsuya-Sanchome is typical for the outskirts of Shinjuku. It’s a neighborhood filled mainly with office buildings and a collection of pubs and restaurants to accommodate the office workers who spend their days there. Among this, walking the streets, you’ll find locals and passersby; people there for business, people living nearby, and travelers staying just outside of the city center.
This location is home to the new All Seasons coffee shop, newly opened as of November 2019. It is the brand’s second foray into sharing specialty coffee with the city of Tokyo. The shop is now managed by Yuji Otsuki of The Local, and their original Shinjuku cafe has grown into a popular spot for young people to meet and chat over desserts and specialty coffee.
The Yotsuya All Seasons is a warm space of white walls and wooden design features, located up a short flight of stairs on the second floor of a thin building just by subway exit #4. It consists of a few tables, a counter with a dessert display case, and stools overlooking the street below. The design feels warm and inviting, and is a comforting contrast to the bland greys of the buildings outside.
It’s a Saturday morning when I visit, and customers trickle in as soon as the doors open. First a group of tourists looking for a kickstart to the day, next a businesswoman looking for a quiet place to work, and then an old man taking a short break on a morning walk. For some it’s just coffee, for others it’s the French toast set.
“Yotsuya has a lot of office buildings because of its location just outside of Shinjuku, and there isn’t much in the way of specialty coffee shops,” says Yoko, the barista on the morning shift. “On the weekends we get a variety of people coming in but on weekdays it’s mostly business people and office workers. They come in on their breaks, or for coffee after lunch.”
The coffee on offer comes courtesy of the roaster at the original All Seasons in Shinjuku. On the day I visit there are options from Kenya, Guatemala, Peru, and Ethiopia, as well as a slightly darker-roast blend unique to the Yotsuya store.
Together with the specialty coffee selection, All Seasons offers a range of desserts and light brunch fare, ranging from Oreo cheesecake and tiramisu to French toast and quiche. They also offer a range of local craft beer and alcoholic drinks including Irish coffee. This goes hand in hand with slightly longer opening hours, a move they hope will encourage people to enjoy a new and interesting drink experience after work, or as a nightcap at the end of an evening.
“Since opening in November, it’s been a fun experience,” says Yoko. “This space is a little more relaxed than the Shinjuku store, probably because it’s still new. Staying open later than the Shinjuku store means we can serve a different drink experience, too; craft beer, Irish coffee, that kind of thing.”
What I like about my visit to the new All Seasons is that it seems to say something subtle about specialty coffee in this city: namely, it isn’t really trendy in Tokyo anymore. The space specialty coffee once occupied—in fashion magazines, online digests, and TV variety shows—has been taken up by bubble tea, which seems to be flooding the city with a few wildly popular shops and a whole lot of empty ones. Specialty coffee, on the other hand, seems to have found a home as just another part of the cafe experience. Single-origin coffee, lighter roasts, a wide selection of beans: it’s becoming just another part of the coffee experience, something Japan has enjoyed for generations, evolving with the generations and ever-changing city.
Yotsuya-Sanchome is also home to the Tokyo Toy Museum, it’s a short walk from the beautiful Shinjuku Gyoen National Garden, and it’s also a short train ride to the Imperial Palace. You could drop by All Seasons to start a morning, visit on your way back to the city center, or even grab a night cap before calling it an evening; all would be fun in their own way, and during whatever season you happen to be there. Here you’ll find a casual cafe with a laid back vibe, friendly staff, thoughtful food, and specialty coffee. Nothing more, nothing less.
Hengtee Lim (@Hent03) is a freelance writer based in Tokyo. Read more Hengtee Lim on Sprudge.