Koenji’s newest mixed-use café feels at home.
As soon as you step through the door and up the vintage poster-trimmed stairs into Koenji’s SUBstore, it feels as if the eclectic café has always been a neighborhood staple. After all, where else other than Koenji could a business selling pour-over coffee and Indonesian food meld so perfectly with a record store, art gallery and music venue, and put it all in one room? From the way the place has been embraced by locals who regularly fill up DJ nights, film screenings and live jazz shows at the venue, it’s surprising to learn that SUBstore only opened in March 2016.
The business owners, married couple Andhika Faisal and Kumi Takaba, have a surprising backstory as well. A native of Indonesia, Andhika (or Andi, as he goes by) was a graphic designer who worked in the Japanese fashion industry before he decided to follow his heart and start an alternative record store in Jakarta in 2014. His concept, a casual mixed space where people can gather over their love of art, took off and soon he opened a second and third location in Bandung and Bali. It was just a matter of time before Andi and his wife, Kumi, who is Japanese, took aim at Tokyo’s bohemian hub, Koenji.
The living room layout of SUBstore adds to the casual, homely feel of the place, as do the owners’ friendliness and warm smiles. The food, a mix of Indonesian classics and standard bar fare, supplements the theme of inclusive hospitality. The highlights of the menu are the nasi campur, a traditional Indonesian platter of rice, meats, tempe and vegetables served with a very flavorful side of spicy chilis, and nasi gila, literally “crazy rice,” a mixture of rice, sausage, chicken, beef and eggs. The bar, facing racks of vinyl records, is stocked with a variety of imported beers and bottles of liquor that will cover all standard cocktails.
Not to overlook the original concept of the place – SUBstore’s name and logo were inspired by legendary Seattle-based record label Sub Pop, after all – the variety of records adorning the racks is as wide as it is deep into each genre. The prices are pretty fair as well, with many LPs starting as low as ¥500, and some of the rarer vinyl going for less than ¥2,000. There are CDs, cassette tapes and used books here as well, and quite a collection of vintage toys and posters – paraphernalia and regalia – all making SUBstore feel like that favorite neighborhood hangout that’s always been there, and always will be.