They say there’s no such thing as a free lunch. Well, then how about a free breakfast? The overwhelming majority of people in Nagoya, Japan’s “coffee kingdom,” will give a resounding “yes” to that question. The free breakfast menu there is simply called the “morning,” and is offered at neighborhood coffee shops, typically between 7am and 11am. Customers receive breakfast free of charge when they order a drink. The price of the drinks, which doesn’t go up, is around ¥500 in most places. The breakfast items vary widely depending on the coffee shop, but a typical complimentary breakfast consists of a thick slice of toast, a hard-boiled egg and yogurt, giving you a lot of energy for the day. For an extra ¥200-¥300, you can upgrade your breakfast with a mini-salad, soup and more topping options for your toast, such as jam.

How Come Breakfast in Nagoya is Free?

The free breakfast offer is widespread in the greater Nagoya area and is deeply rooted in local people’s lifestyle. Nagoyans are known for their thrifty spending habits. They meticulously seek a good deal on day-to-day expenses, so they can save money to splurge on big-ticket items and special occasions.

The free breakfast culture in Nagoya originated in Ichinomiya city, to the northeast of Nagoya, where coffee shops were used by businesspeople as meeting venues to avoid the noise of nearby factories. During the 1950s, as a show of appreciation for customers’ continued patronage, coffee shops started offering free boiled eggs and peanuts with coffee in the morning. This service spread to other cafés and eventually became standard at coffee shops throughout Nagoya and surrounding cities.

More recently, morning breakfast culture has been enjoying a renewed boom among younger generations and in other locations. One great example is Komeda Coffee Shop, a nationwide chain with roots in Nagoya that now operates stores in all 47 prefectures in Japan. However, many of the local mom-and-pop coffee shops retain the old charm, taste and hospitality of Nagoya that big national chains may not offer.

3 Best Local Nagoya Coffee Shops With Free Breakfast

Coffee Shop Ran

An excellent introduction to Nagoya’s morning breakfast culture, Coffee Shop Ran, located near Nagoya Station, should be your first stop. It’s in a quiet street not far from the main street lined with skyscrapers in the Marunouchi area, Nagoya’s primary business district. Surrounded by office buildings, Coffee Shop Ran is frequented by local businesspeople, who come by to eat breakfast and read the newspaper before going to work, giving visitors a chance to blend in with the local atmosphere and feel the city’s everyday energy.

The free breakfast here is comprised of a simple thick slice of toast with melted butter on top and a hard-boiled egg on the side. Ran’s signature original blend coffee is brewed in a siphon, one cup at a time. Seeing the coffee slowly dripping down a glass tube is a little spectacle of its own, should you sit beside the counter on the ground floor.

Café de Sara

Fifteen minutes from Nagoya Station on foot, Café de Sara (stylized as Café de SaRa) is at the corner of the Shikemichi area, a section of a merchant town that thrived during the Edo period (1603-1867). It still retains a cluster of old buildings that together appear like a movie set. Renovated from a 100-year-old townhouse, this café mixes a traditional Japanese atmosphere with a bit of Western essence in regard to the furniture.

All drinks come at a flat rate of ¥500 on the morning menu. For the free breakfast, customers have two options. The egg toast breakfast plate consists of a 3-centimeter-thick slice of toast covered with an overflowing layer of crushed egg paste mixed with mayonnaise and a small cup full of fresh plain yogurt and homemade fruit jam. The second option is the black sesame and black sugar toast breakfast plate. It comes with two cute little cups, one filled with crushed egg salad, and another filled with fruit jam.

Café de Sara’s complimentary breakfast dishes are not just a good deal and tasty, but also very Instagrammable. You can take cute photos of a morning breakfast rich in color and texture, surrounded by chic tableware and antique furniture.

Bucyo Coffee

Nagoya’s food culture has many unique dishes referred to as “Nagoya meshi.” A fine example is Ogura toast with butter and a sweet red bean paste (called ogura). It is the epitome of Western-Japanese eclecticism and Nagoyans find the combination of the sweet red bean paste and the saltiness of melted butter irresistible. A 20-minute-walk from Nagoya Station, Bucyo Coffee offers this fusion food as a free breakfast and more.

Entering, visitors are greeted with an overflowing aroma of coffee and the unique ambiance of a downtown vintage clothing store. The signature red bean paste on the toast is homemade and has a gentle flavor containing less sugar than you usually find in Japanese traditional sweets. The rich flavor of butter coating the bread and the little mountain of red bean paste on top of it achieves a gentle harmony in your mouth. It’s a must-try in Nagoya.

This article is a collaboration between TW and Akita International University, Global Communication Practices (graduate school).