If you’re an aspiring novelist, freelance writer or just looking to study, finding a quiet spot to write in the world’s biggest city can seem like a pipe dream. But Tokyo is actually one of the best places in the world to be a writer, thanks to a thriving coffee culture and a love of bookshop-cafe hybrids.

You could, of course, pay a visit to Tokyo’s social-media-famous Manuscript Writing Cafe, which doesn’t let writers leave until they’ve hit their word goal—but the tiny space is usually booked out weeks or months in advance.

So if you need a more accessible place to put your head down and spend three hours staring at a blank page, check out these writer-friendly book cafes across the city—each of which has these essential characteristics for a productive work day:

Good seating, including seats for solo customers
Power sockets and WiFi
An atmosphere that encourages working

1. Forest Library (Shibuya)

Photo: George UnderwoodA cozy spot for book lovers.

A quiet writing spot next to Shibuya Scramble? It sounds like a fantasy—but while Forest Library (Mori no tosyoshitsu in Japanese) easily fills out during the busier parts of the day, at other times, it can be surprisingly chilled-out, and its windowless interior is a welcome respite from the insanity just outside its door.

Situated at the top of a tower block shopping center, Forest Library, as its name implies, allows you to freely read any of the many books that line its shelves and has plenty of group tables and counter seats to work at—plus some comfy sofa seats for an additional charge. And it gets extra points for having a front door hidden behind a sliding bookshelf.

You pay for the time you spend in the café rather than the drinks you buy (¥1,000 for 1 hour, ¥2,000 for one to three hours, and ¥3,000 for anything above that)—perfect for writers who require a constant source of coffee. Add a little extra to the hourly cost, and you can also get all-you-can-drink alcohol (if you’re a ‘write drunk, edit sober’ kind of person), and there’s a food menu including snacks inspired by the owner’s favorite books.

Udagawacho 23−3, Shibuya, Tokyo – Map

Hours: 9 a.m. to 10.45 p.m. 

morinotosyoshitsu.com

2. Daikanyama T-Site (Shibuya)

Photo: Pixta/ yu_photoWell-known in Tokyo, but a great place to focus.

This mega-bookstore near Shibuya, part of the Tsutaya chain, is a Mecca for bibliophiles—spread across three buildings and selling every kind of book imaginable, both Western and Japanese. Plus, it has more seating space for reading, working and writing than any other spot on this list.

The first floor has a Starbucks, while the second-floor hosts Anjin, a bar/restaurant/library mashup, and Sharelounge, a huge working space with a time-based payment system. Plenty of free seats are nestled among the shop’s many bookshelves.

Sharelounge is our pick for the best writing spot at T-Site since it’s built specifically for people who want to work and study quietly—although its value for money may depend on how many drinks and snacks you can fit into your time window. (There’s a well-stocked buffet that makes that easy, though). The first hour, without alcohol, costs ¥1,650, plus ¥750 for a 30-minute extension—or you can pay ¥5,500 for a full-day pass.

Sarugakucho 16-15 , Shibuya, Tokyo – Map

store.tsite.jp/daikanyama/english

Hours: 9 a.m. to 10 p.m.

3. Passage bis! (Jimbocho)

Photo: George UnderwoodLocated in Tokyo’s famous book district, Jombocho.

Here’s something a little different—a French-themed book cafe where each shelf is owned by a different person, essentially making Passage into a collection of hundreds of mini bookshops. This quirkiness extends up to the café portion on the third floor, Passage bis!, with its antique European-style decorations. As a result, it can sometimes feel like you’re working in a peaceful French country house rather than a bustling Asian city.

Passage bis! is another time-based venue, but slightly cheaper than similar places (¥500 for half an hour, ¥850 for an hour, with a discount for those buying books downstairs). Perhaps the cafe’s biggest boon is its location in Tokyo’s premier book district, with hundreds of other bookshops and cafes nearby. So if you want some variety in your work

day, you can take your laptop on a tour of Jimbocoho’s many other writing spots—or do some shopping and imagine your novel sitting on the shelves one day. If you’d prefer to pay by the drink than by the hour, we can recommend Paper Back Cafe or the Jimbocho Book Centre.

Kanda Jinbocho 1-15-3, Chiyoda, Tokyo – Map

Hours: 12 p.m. to 7 p.m.

passage.allreviews.jp

4. Dread Nought (Koto)

Photo: Dread Naught Books & CafeDread Naught is a popular cafe for writers and authors.

Bookshop cafe Dreadnought is smaller than other places on this list. Still, it makes up for it with local flavor and a cozy atmosphere, being situated in a (comparatively) sleepy neighborhood near Kiba Park. The staff may politely ask you to order another drink if you stay for longer than 1.5 hours on busy days—but on weekdays, Dread Nought is generally a relaxed, peaceful place to whittle away at your word goals.

The bookshop’s eclectic collection includes a whole shelf of books dedicated to UFO conspiracies, art displays from around the world and several large models of battleships that give the cafe its name—great if you enjoy a bit of inspiring quirkiness in your writing environments. You can read books at your seat without purchasing them, and the café provides some straightforward but inexpensive drinks and snacks.

Hirano 2-3-21, Koto City, Tokyo  – Map

Hours: Open: 12 p.m. to 8.45 p.m. (Mon−Fri, closed Tues); 11 a.m. to 8.30 p.m. (Sat−Sun)

www.dreadnought-2019.com

5. Mafumi Coffee (Chiyoda)

Photo: Mafumi CoffeeIs it really a cafe?

Down a side street near the Imperial Palace in Jimbocho, Mafumi Coffee is yet another cafe/library hybrid—but its dark interior, complete with bronze furnishings and somber music, reminds us more of a noir speakeasy than your usual book cafe—which may be exactly the tone you’re looking for if you’re more of an Ernest Hemingway than a Douglas Adams.

You can sit at the counter or among the bookshelves on the second floor while you sample the café’s selection of drip coffee, alcohol, and high-quality sweets. Admittedly, it’s a little pricier than other places on this list (¥700 for a basic coffee), but in exchange, you’re getting a more serious and upmarket vibe than you might find in other writing spots, plus a very central location.

Kanda Ogawamachi 3-1-7, Chiyoda, Tokyo – Map

Hours: 12 p.m. to 4 p.m. (Mon−Sat); 12 p.m. to 9 p.m. (Sun)

coffeemafumi.html.xdomain.jp

What are your favorite cafes in Japan? Do you know any hidden gems? Let us know in the comments!

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