Urban Refuge

Back to Contents of Issue: February 2001

A café in the blue chip Marunouchi district that feels more like J@pan Inc than Japan Inc.

by Daniel Scuka and Eiko Nishida

THE MARUNOUCHI DISTRICT IS the home of gothic architecture in Tokyo, a fitting facade for Japan Inc.'s fabulously wealthy banks, insurance companies, and brokerages. But their towering columns, cold marble floors, and severe sandstone exteriors do little to soothe the casual passerby, which is why the Marunouchi Café (www.marunouchicafe.com) is such a hypercool anomaly. It welcomes and warms, letting harried office workers curl up on a couch, reconnect (or connect -- to the Net -- as the case may be), skim a great selection of magazines, sample some very mellow jazz CDs (George Winston, Candy Dulfer, Mari Ueda), or simply hang.

The interior is best described as antigothic; the pillars are still there, but they're purple. The ceiling is black; the alcoves bright pastels. There's nary a swath of marble in sight. Incredibly, there's no smoking, and visitors (the café doesn't really have "customers" -- that would be too formal) are free to bring a sack lunch or coin the vending machines quietly tucked in the corner. Of course, for those who simply can't let go, there're a couple of Bloomberg screens by one of the coffee machines.

Over 1,000 people drop by each day to check mail, surf, read a book, write a letter, or nap. One 26-year-old worker from a nearby brokerage said she was there for lunch and to check out a Web site. "It's very convenient, and I also want to go through some magazine back issues," she said. Another fellow, nose in a book, had come by expressly to escape the wired world. "I'm a contents editor in Akihabara," he said, "and I want to get away from the computer. I just found this place by accident -- it's great." We think you'll think so too.

urban refuge urban refuge urban refuge

-- Daniel Scuka and Eiko Nishida. Photos by Eiko Nishida.

Note: The function "email this page" is currently not supported for this page.