Nothing beats relaxing outdoors on a warm weekend. Whether it’s with coffee and the newspaper in the sunshine or drinks with friends while admiring the city lights, being out in the fresh air makes it really feel like summer has arrived.
by Suzy Small
Unfortunately, Tokyo is not famed for its al fresco options. The closely packed buildings and smog that surrounds the main roads mean that it can be tempting to stay in the air-conditioning once the warm weather hits. The good news is, although few and far between, Tokyo has some great spots if you want to enjoy some fresh air drinking. Below, we’ve collected a cross-section of our favorites including beer gardens, swanky bars, and cafes. No matter where you live in Tokyo, or what your idea of the perfect weekend is, there’s something here for you to try next time the sun comes out.
Although only a short walk from the teenage insanity of Shibuya, Xex is definitely a bar for grown ups. The beautiful decor and subdued lighting make you feel instantly glamorous, and sitting out on the deck near the pool is reminiscent of Singapore or Bali. Sip on a cocktail and enjoy the live music, or summon one of the smoldering Italian waiters and order a pizza to enjoy under the stars. The music charge and reasonably pricey drinks mean that it’s not cheap, but it is very, very nice.
Daily 6pm-4am. La Fuente Building 3F, 11-1 Sarugaku-cho, Shibuya-ku. Tel. 03-3476-0065.
High above the expressways that slice through Azabu Juban, Monsoon is a little island of calm. The high ceilings of the wooden interior are bright and spacious, but the real secret of the restaurant’s appeal in summer is its balcony; a spacious, sunny deck with enough trees and shade to make it feel like a garden. Grab a table in the sun and enjoy some South East Asian fare from the menu — maybe a green curry or fresh spring rolls, washed down with a beer. The meals are very reasonably priced, especially the weekday lunch sets, and the relaxed atmosphere makes it suitable for most occasions. There are lots of families there during the day, and at night it’s popular with groups enjoying the view out towards Tokyo Tower. Be warned: balcony tables are a premium in the warm weather, so it’s probably wise to book.
Daily 11:30am-5am. 6F Festa Azabu, 1-7-5 Azabu-Jyuban, Minato-ku, Tokyo. Tel. 03-5775-6900.
Las Chicas is an old favorite with Tokyo’s foreign community, offering a rare quiet spot to unwind amid the bustle of Omotesando and Aoyama Dori. The menu is full of the kind of light fusion options that are more common in Sydney or California — lots of fish and salads, great burgers, and a good wine list. If you’re there in the evening you can follow dinner on the terrace with a drink at the adjacent bars, D-Zone and The Salon. Or drop in for brunch on Saturday or Sunday; between 11 and 3.30pm (good for late risers) you can enjoy eggs cooked every conceivable way, and French toast or muesli. Afterwards, stop by the Intelligent Idiot bookstore, upstairs in the same complex, to browse through one of the most reasonably priced selections of English language books in Tokyo (¥500 paperbacks!).
Weekdays 11am-11pm. Weekends 11am-11:30pm. 5-47-6 Jingumae, Shibuya-ku, Tokyo 150-0001. Tel. 03-3407-6865.
It’s not hard to understand why Canal Cafe in Kagura-zaka is one of Tokyo’s most popular date spots. Sitting on the deck and looking out on what, by Tokyo standards, is an unusually scenic waterway — you could almost be in Venice. Buy some coffee and cake at the self-service counter, and settle down at one of the tables to enjoy. The coffee is the push-button kind, but on a nice day the atmosphere more than compensates. The cafe is a great option for families, as there is even a basket of dry bread for kids to feed to the enormous koi carps. At night the romantic couples come out in force, as Canal Cafe morphs into an Italian restaurant with a wide selection of food and wine, as well as real coffee.
Open 11am-10:30pm. Closed Mondays. 1-9 Kagura-zaka Shinjuku-ku, Tokyo. Tel. 03-3260-8068.
Sign is possibly the perfect coffee shop. Appealing decor? Check. Close to fabulous shops? Check. Nice big deck for people watching? Naturally. During the day, you can take a break from the Daikanyama boutiques and enjoy a lunch set and a coffee while admiring the adventurously dressed passers by. At night the atmosphere is more bar-like, with DJs, reasonably priced drinks and lots of expensively coiffed youngsters. The location, right next to Daikanyama, makes it really convenient for even brief excursions. The food is modern pan-Asian, with a range of noodle dishes and salads using fresh ingredients, and is always well executed, but it’s the coffee and atmosphere that are the biggest draws.
Daily 11am-11pm. Daikanyama Sta Building, 19-4 Daikanyama-cho, Shibuya-ku, Tokyo. Tel. 03-3780-9570.
Tucked high up in the new Picasso 347 Building near Tower Records, 347 Cafe is a world away from the chaos of Hachiko crossing. The cafe is a sun trap split over two floors, and not only is there a leafy open-air terrace, it even has a swimming pool. No-one ever seems to use the pool, but looking out at the water is really relaxing and makes the place feel more like a resort in the south of France than an inner-city restaurant. As it’s open all day, 347 covers the whole range of options from lunch to dinner, including afternoon tea and cocktails. The food is a mixture of Provencal salads and sandwiches, and the regular cafe staples, and there is a wide range of cocktails and wine. It’s a lovely spot to stop for coffee and cake after shopping, or to take someone you want to impress with your insider knowledge of the city.
Daily 11am-11pm. 3/4F Picasso 347,1-23-16 Shibuya, Shibuya-ku, Tokyo. Tel. 03-5766-3798.