Japan's Fine Coffee Chains: Takakura Machi

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Japan has a lot of cafes and coffee shops, many which are one-of-a-kind and have their own charm and quality about them.  However, many of those do not open until 10:00 am or later, and for a lot of travelers, that is too late for that morning and breakfast necessary to fuel an entire day's worth of activities.  Further, sometimes it is nice to be able to walk into a place with familiarity and good expectations, which chain Restaurants can offer in lieu of an element of uniqueness.

As such, my wife and I have always been on the lookout for places that are easily accessible, open early, provide the right level of comfort and charm, and still manage to offer great food and coffee.

Last week, my wife wrote about Hoshino Coffee, so I would instead like to introduce you, the reader, to Takakura Machi Coffee.  Opening at 7:00 am every day, this is a wonderful place to start your day.  The concept behind Takakura Machi is simple: take classic options and perfect them.  Meanwhile, the store offers a cozy, postwar era atmosphere with comfy couches and chairs.  Playing on the speakers were piano versions of classic Ghibli movie soundtracks.  All in all, it was an inviting set up.
The breakfast menu is straight forward: you order a drink and pick a set to go with it.  Each set has a price that is simply added on top of the cost of your drink.  For example, a piece of toast and a hard boiled egg is complimentary, meaning 0 yen added.  A pancake is 400 yen extra.  Eggs Benedict are 700 yen extra (and so on).  

Some Starbucks loyalists may argue that Starbucks offers the best coffee, but Takakura's options are fantastic.  Do not expect cute latte art or a laundry list of options, but the coffee is pure and delicious.  My wife opted for the Cafe Au Lait, which is topped with homemade whipped cream and kuromitsu (brown sugar syrup).  The result is a delicious drink that is neither too sweet nor too bitter.  I am simple at the core, so I opted for the plain black coffee, which was fresh brewed, full-bodied, and smooth.  For food options, I opted for the toast and hard boiled egg (free is always a good price!) and we split the pancakes.  While the toast and egg were good, it was the pancakes that stole the show.
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These ricotta pancakes came out relatively quickly and were absolutely delicious.  Topping the pancakes was a dusting of confectioners sugar, with créme fraîche and kuromitsu syrup on the side.

In total, the meal cost 1300 yen, or basically 400 yen more than the cost of just two tall specialty lattes at Starbucks!
Takakura Machi Coffee can be found in Kanazawa, Sagamihara, Hachioji, and a number of other cities throughout Honshu (see their website for other options).

Mike B