Apparently, I am so obsessed with samurai that I will literally travel to the other side of the world to visit the Sengoku Buyuuden cafe, a samurai themed cafe in Tokyo.
The Sengoku era, otherwise known as the ‘warring states’ period thanks to the samurai warlords who were constantly fighting for land and power, is one of the defining periods of Japanese history and is still immortalised in the country’s popular culture today. Japan also loves its themed restaurants (we would have gone to many more if we had more time and money), so a Sengoku themed cafe was probably inevitable…
One handy tip for finding the coolest places in Japan is ‘look up’ because there are so many hidden treasures in all those high rise buildings. The Sengoku Buyuuden cafe is located on the 4th floor of the T-Wing Building in Shinjuku which, thanks to Oana’s faultless navigation skills, was surprisingly easy to find. We weren’t sure what to expect as we rode up the elevator but as soon as the doors opened… we were greeted by the sound of the Sengoku Basara music soundtrack.
I kid you not. For those of you who don’t know, Sengoku Basara is just one video game/anime series about the samurai of the Sengoku era which, even though it has no regard for historical accuracy or realism, is my guilty pleasure anime. The cafe obviously knew what kind of audience it was catering for (ie complete nerds) and wasn’t at all embarrassed about it.
The decor is, in three words, absolutely bloody amazing. You’ll immediately see the lockers emblazoned with various samurai mon (crests), where you deposit your shoes (we got the Tokugawa). Step to the right and you’ll spot the amazing replica samurai armour of some of the most famous samurai, including Date Masamune and Sanada Yukimura, before being taken to your seat. Spears flank the chairs surrounding the bar, where we were sat, or you might be lucky enough to sit in one of the private rooms with a sliding door emblazoned with more samurai and their mon. Hardcore fans can try and name them all… which I struggled to do.
Oh, yes, I should probably mention the food. You would expect a restaurant to place so much emphasis on novelty to have a not-so-great menu but this is Japan, where genuinely bad food is hard to find. Overall, the food was satisfyingly filling and tasty enough, and we were the only non-Japanese diners, which is usually a sign that you’ve found somewhere good. We shared some delicious sweet potato chips, a very meaty pork and veggie hot pot and I also had some salmon rice, which admittedly was a bit too fishy for me. I think the menu missed a trick by not naming more of its dishes after samurai, but we did go for the ‘Date chicken thigh’ which filled us up nicely. How about adding some Sanada Salmon or Tokugawa Teriyaki to the menu?
The staff were extremely friendly and jubilantly shouted ‘yokoso!’ (‘welcome!’) every time someone came in. The menu is fortunately a picture menu, so you can always relying on pointing and repeatedly saying ‘onegaishimasu’ if you’re struggling with the language. You can also enjoy your food in the company of samurai armour and music from various samurai-themed anime and video game series. And, the best bit, tourists are given a free plastic katana to commemorate their visit! I obviously took the opportunity to take a photo…
I definitely recommend a visit to the Sengoku Buyuuden cafe if you’re a samurai fan. Directions are here so you can make a note of it for your own Tokyo trip.
Next on the blog… May’s Book of the Month!