It’s fairly easy for me to look back fondly on all the minimal coffee stands and design conscious places I visited while in Tokyo, but let’s be realistic here. I spent a total of 10 minutes at Be A Good Neighbor Coffee Kiosk in Sendagaya, Shibuya. Despite this, such was the pleasure in such a thrifty, thoughtful coffee experience with a humble message attached to it that I fell for it and it is one I can’t wait to revisit.
The original of a trifecta of coffee stands by owner Mashiro Kajiwara, editor of one of my former favorite Japanese publications RELAX mag, it’s plain to see his training and foresight for the future of specialty coffee wasn’t misplaced. The others having been opened on the other side of Tokyo at Skytree and in buzzing Roppongi are testament to this vision. True to the stores name, there’s a warm casual welcome when you enter, which is always acknowledged as a foreigner in Tokyo. There’s no pressure to order and vacate despite the closet like size and standing at the thin timber ledge on the window to gather your thoughts for a few minutes felt normal. The stand is being as good as it can be to you.
There’s a choice of 3 single origin beans from the understated Kagoshima based, Viola Coffee brewed anyway you prefer. There’s no seating but if you linger you won’t be rushed out and the staff are happy to talk espresso. If coffee isn’t your thing there’s also a small selection of teas, cakes and scones for you.
‘A New Day Starts Here’ is the mantra at Be A Good Neighbor with it being on a wooden v-board out the front and above the espresso machine and I visited when it actually held some relevance to me. Being the last coffee kiosk I visited before I jetted off to Korea and said goodbye to the current incarnation of living in Japan Be a Good Neighbor left me with enough of an impression, even after only ten minutes, that I could see myself coming back and being welcomed with ‘Usual?’ as if I were a living next door myself.
There’s a weird place out there called Nui. Hostel & Bar Lounge. It’s filled with aesthetically pleasing design, where cement absorbs clean cut timber and steel. Where classical stools stand side by side with modern ones as if they are family. Where locals looking like a Yohji Yamamoto catwalk sit and converse with travelers in North Face jackets. It’d kind of be beautiful if I could step out side myself for a minute. Nui. Hostel & Bar in Kuramae, Tokyo is this place and if only I could leave my hesitations at the door, it could just be the best hostel in Tokyo.
Hang on. This place checks every single box I have for a place to stay while travelling. Cool people, Friendly staff, affordable rooms, good location… so why my hesitation? It’s because it is too perfect… I have to find a flaw and after thinking about it I find it in my own personal hang ups. ‘This is simply idiotic’ I pondered to myself while sipping on as good a flat white as anywhere, listening to some guy from Norway play on the piano in the common area, while girls swoon over his blond hair and blue eyes.
I’m jealous. I’m jealous that I have to share some beautiful shit.
So… let’s step outside myself for a second. There’s a bar, with any drink available that serves drinks until 3am. A kitchen with an awesome breakfast menu until 11am, that then serves lunch and dinner and all of it is just fucking delicious. Beds and a hostel area that feels more like someones home than it does a 5 story building in west Tokyo. Staff and locals that actually will talk to you and surprise you with their interest of what you’re doing there. It’s a hangout, bar, cafe, restaurant and hotel.
I was just about done with hostel life before I stayed at Nui. Hostel & Bar and to be honest, I still think I am. The majority of places just don’t have this level of polish and I did fork out a little bit extra for a single room by myself. The area is a little far from areas like Shibuya and Harajuku but don’t let that deter you. Nui Hostel & Bar is simply put, the first place you should look for accommodation in Tokyo if you enjoy backpacking, travel and design.
© 2014 Carey Ciuro