Before we went to Tokyo for the first time, a friend recommended us the Lion Cafe. She described it as an amazing experience but with so much to do we didn’t get round going there. It was on top of our list this time though, so after going to Miyagi Fox Village and Hakone, after nearly a week in Japan, we finally went.
The Lion cafe is not far from Shibuya Station but even with our best friend the pocket WiFi and Google maps we struggled to find the right street/alley way. If you’re going there after dark, keep your eyes opened and you should spot a sort of fake looking castle imitation building with a medieval lion street sign. You can’t see inside from the outside so when you go in you step into a different world.
So here are the few rules, it’s cash only, no pictures, no phone. And no talking. You are here to disconnect and enjoy the classical music. A lot of people were here alone, with a book, or snoozing. It is quite dark inside so for your eyes own benefit I wouldn’t choose it as a reading spot. But just turn your phone off, sit back and enjoy.
All the seats are turned facing the speakers and the music is playing loud. When you sit down, they bring the menu for you to just point out what you would like and they will bring it without talking.
It was a mixed crowed when we went, young and old but mostly men. People didn’t come here to be cool, it’s not a hype spot like it would become in London or Paris, it’s a genuine bubble from the world. On a winter afternoon, after a busy day, after Shibuya’s non stop traffic of cars, people, sound and light, it felt very special. I could suddenly picture myself coming here if I lived in Tokyo, it felt so completely Japanese – something I can’t put into words – and like home at the same time. This is actually how I feel about Japan in general, I am still amazed that such a far away country with a completely different culture on every level can feel so much like home. I feel completely happy and safe there, always welcomed and the Lion Café embodies all of this.
So is it worth it? It was definitely one of our favourite things we did in Shibuya and I regretted not going sooner so we would have had time to go back. It felt like a genuine experience, what “real” people would do contrary to, let say, a hedgehog cafe. I am looking forward to going back to the Lion Café.