Photo by Toby M

The Best New Cafe in Tokyo’s Hip Harajuku: Sophisticated Sarutahiko

COVID-19 has undeniably stolen a lot of Tokyo’s thunder in 2020. The Olympics has been postponed and likely downsized to 2021. This leaves stadiums, stations, stores and all manner of special preparations unseen by the conspicuously absent 40 million or so international visitors anticipated to pass through the capital this year. Equally, Tokyo’s anti-coronavirus measures meant many changes and new openings in the city went unnoticed by residents too….

On March 21st, with the old station pending demolition, the new Harajuku Station held a low key “grand” opening. With residents already alert to the danger of a pandemic erupting in Tokyo, the iconic station’s rebirth surely received limited attention. As a direct result of this, the most exciting new cafe in Harajuku also went unattended.

I’m talking about speciality coffee store Sarutahiko Coffee’s newest cafe, “The Bridge”. So called because it is situated on the second floor of Harajuku station overlooking the intersection with Omotesando and the bridges leading to Meiji Jingū shrine. Now that Tokyo’s state of emergency has ended, we headed down to get a cup of what is widely recognized as some of Tokyo’s best coffee.

Photo by Toby M

The Rise of Sarutahiko Coffee

But first, a moment to brew on the rise of Sarutahiko Coffee. Sarutahiko Coffee opened their first store in Ebisu in 2011, just after the Great earthquake and Tsunami that struck Eastern Japan. The store’s high quality and exquisitely flavorful coffee quickly drew long lines. Sarutahiko responded by drawing up expansion plans.

Over the past 9 years, the store has opened up satellite coffee shops across Tokyo, including Akihabara, Chofu and Shinjuku Station. Each location is sophisticated, exploiting minimalist design, wood panels, and branding based on iconic images of Japan. It evokes an artisanal image, often associated with Japan, to reflect the care with which Sarutahiko put into their perfectly crafted cups of coffee and tenderly roasted beans.

Any readers who have yet to sample a cup of Sarutahiko coffee should begin searching for the nearest store or vendor and finish reading this article on the way there. The coffee is delicious. Their bitter,not sour drip coffee and rich espresso infused beverages are to coffee connoisseurs what Apple is to hipster tech enthusiasts. Sophisticated, easy to enjoy, and now with the opening of the “Bridge”, crossing over to mainstream.

“The Bridge”:connecting a beautiful space with beautiful tastes

The Bridge juts out from the second floor of Harajuku station, it’s tall glass windows and Sarutahiko Coffee sign clearly visible from the streets below. Patrons sip their coffees at counters looking down on the bustling intersection between Harajuku and Omotesando, inviting passersby up to enjoy the coffee and the view.

It’s excellent position means the spacious interior is awash with natural light. The atmosphere inside is calm and relaxing, furnished with light wooden benches and tables, and plenty of plants.

Photo by Toby M

The main seating area is separated by a narrow space that contains more seating and the bar where the drinks are created. Beyond that, the entrance and service counter are more dimly lit as if bathed in lantern light. This creates the effect of a traditional Izakaya lined alleyway, warm and inviting for customers when they first enter.

Photo by Toby M

The plentiful seating and comfortable interior make it all the more easy to relax with the fine selection of coffees and food on offer.

The Bridge offers drip coffee and espresso based beverages, in addition to various signature coffees unique to the store. The standard coffees are delicious and we would particularly recommend the “Seasonal Caramel Latte” which balances the rich flavor of coffee with an equally rich, not too sweet caramel sauce, and milk that is always steamed to the perfect temperature. ¥550 + tax for a medium size.

For those hoping to enjoy a coffee free cafe experience, there are frappes and assorted teas on offer also. Sarutahiko’s menu can be viewed here.

The Bridge’s Exclusive Coffees

‘The Rise of Sarutahiko’ Blend

For true coffee connoisseurs however, The Bridge’s “The Rise of Sarutahiko” blend and whisky barrel aged coffee are must trys. The Rise of Sarutahiko is a blend of the highest quality beans sourced from various countries, which have undergone anaerobic fermentation. The result is a deep coffee with a broad pallet of overlapping floral flavors. We sampled a cup and can honestly say we have never tasted a coffee as exquisite as The Rise of Sarutahiko.

Photo by Toby M

Whisky Barrel Aged Coffee

The whisky barrel aged coffee too is an extremely flavorful coffee. Sarutahiko age this coffee in whisky barrels, allowing it to absorb flavors of vanilla, cinnamon and dried fruits before it is roasted. This results in a smooth coffee with a slightly sweet aftertaste that can be savored like a quality Japanese whisky.

The Harajuku Blend

The Harajuku Blend was developed in collaboration with station staff, including the station manager to commemorate the opening of the new Harajuku station. This coffee is an intoxicating roller coaster of flavors that will surely offer a new experience to coffee fans.

The Bridge also has a wide selection of delicious sweet and hot sandwiches available for customers to enjoy with their coffee. Next to the entrance, assorted cakes and croissants stand in line like tempting battalions of saccharine soldiers. We tried a pan au chocolate which was buttery, crisp and filled with melty delicious chocolate.

Photo by Toby M

Sarutahiko Coffee also serves ice cream cups by TikiTaka. There are many flavors to choose from including Japanese ones like “Nihonshu Dassai”, sake flavor, or “Japanese caramel”. These ice creams can be enjoyed by themselves or in combination with coffee, affogato style.

Photo by Toby M

“The Bridge”:towards a new world of coffee

Sarutahiko’s backstory is undoubtedly one of great success, and “The Bridge” marks a celebration of all that, but also the start of a new chapter.

Positioned at the intersection between Harajuku’s pop-culture paradise, Takeshita Street and symbol of sophisticated luxury, Omotesando, The Bridge’s location is symbolic. It marks Sarutahiko Coffee’s transition from a sophisticated speciality coffee store known mostly by patrons into the popular conscience. Whilst maintaining it’s independent coffee house roots, Sarutahiko is simultaneously becoming Tokyo’s mainstream coffee store.

The Bridge Details

  • Address:東京都渋谷区神宮前1-18-20 原宿駅2階
  • Access: 2nd Floor of Harajuku Station, accessible via lift or stairs to the right of New Harajuku Station’s central ticket gates.
  • Opening Hours: 09:00 ~ 21:00
  • Prices: Coffees range from ¥400 ~ ¥1100 depending on size, type and speciality.
  • Link: Sarutahuko Coffee Official Website

By - Toby M.