Nagoya: Sipping in the morning coffee shop culture

The Japan News
An English version of Chiroru’s menu is seen under the shop’s morning service which includes coffee, toast and a hard-boiled egg for ¥430.

NAGOYA — Aichi Prefecture is mostly famous for being home to major corporations such as Toyota Motor Corp. and ceramics manufacturer Noritake Co., but it also has its own cultural identity. In addition to its corporate image, the prefecture is also known for its lavish weddings, hatcho miso soybean paste and a breakfast culture referred to as “morning service.”

When you order your morning coffee at a shop in Nagoya, you are also served buttered toast and a hard-boiled egg. This is common practice in some coffee shops in Aichi Prefecture and the Tokai region. For morning service, or sometimes simply referred to as “morning,” customers are served complimentary toast and eggs after purchasing a drink.

One theory suggests that the custom originated northwest of Nagoya in Ichinomiya, which has a thriving textile industry. However, because of all the noise from the machines in the factories, vendors would often conduct business meetings at coffee shops.

In the early 1960s, a coffee shop in the city started offering hard-boiled eggs and peanuts with coffee in the morning as a service for such customers.

According to an Internal Affairs and Communications Ministry survey, Nagoya households spent ¥10,320 per year at coffee shops from 2019 to 2021 on average, coming in third nationwide behind Tokyo’s 23 wards, which ranked second, and Gifu City.

Coffee shops, or kissaten, which have a more old-fashioned interior and a relatively older clientele compared to cafes, have been on the decline in Japan since the rapid spread of modern cafes such as Starbucks around 2000. In Aichi Prefecture, however, coffee shops are still going strong.

The Japan News
Exterior view of Chiroru coffee shop in Nagoya City

In addition to the city’s deeply rooted coffee shop culture, “morning service might have become popular because people from Nagoya like a good deal,” said Yoshiaki Kato, 57, owner of Chiroru coffee shop in Nagoya.

Chiroru, which was established in 1963, offers a 3.5-centimeter thick piece of toast as part of its morning service. The shop opens at 7 a.m. and serves toast and a hard-boiled egg with a deep, dark-roasted coffee, which is common in Nagoya. The retro interior with its dark red color is said to attract young people and foreign tourists as well.

“I hope customers enjoy this space, which is different from modern cafes because you can relax and immerse yourself in your own world,” Kato said.

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Exterior view of Morning Cafe Lyon in Nagoya City with a sign announcing that Morning service is available all day long.

Morning service is generally only served in the mornings, but Morning Cafe Lyon near JR Nagoya Station offers it all day.

When Kazuyuki Kawai took over the business around 2000, he realized it would be difficult to run the coffee shop if his only customers were the local businessmen, so he decided to offer morning service all day to attract tourists who look forward to having it in Nagoya.

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Kazuyuki Kawai serves Morning Cafe Lyon’s morning service, which includes an Ogura Pressed Sandwich.

The unique service became known nationwide during the 2005 World Exposition Aichi. Today, tourists still line up on weekends before the shop even opens. The most popular item on the menu is the Ogura Pressed Sandwich, which is filled with Nagoya’s famous sweet red bean paste.

Nagoya’s coffee shop culture, which offers unique foods such as toast topped with ogura sweet red bean paste and spaghetti on a griddle, is beginning to spread to other parts of the country.

Komeda, a major Nagoya coffee shop chain that first opened in 1968, has gained popularity for its morning service and creative menu. Since 2019, it has opened shops in all 47 prefectures.

However, the coffee shop industry has been struggling with young people going to cafes and the spread of convenience store coffees. The pandemic has also significantly impacted the industry. According to Tokyo Shoko Research, a record 100 coffee shops nationwide were forced to shutter their doors in 2021.

The Japan News
The interior of Kissa Gururi in Nagoya

At the same time, young people are struggling to change the coffee shop scene in Nagoya. Kissa Gururi, which opened in the city in February, has a modern interior but a retro coffee shop menu. Popular items include brightly colored cream sodas and spaghetti topped with ketchup served on a griddle.

Of course, they also offer morning service.

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Hidetaka Ota serves colorful cream sodas and pudding.

“We’re not a kissaten, we’re just a coffee shop,” said Kissa Gururi manager Hidetaka Ota, 46.

The shop is popular among young people, who want to post retro menu items on their Instagram, as well as older people, who come to the shop on weekdays for the morning service.

“I want to evolve Nagoya’s coffee shop culture,” said Ota, enthusiastically.