To most people, modes of transport such as trains and airplanes are things that simply move you from A to B. However, for a surprisingly large number of people, these things that ‘simply move you from A to B’ can be so much more – they can be things of beauty and fascination; things that don’t even have to be actually ridden on to be enjoyed. Below, is a selection of train and airplane themed cafés and restaurants to awaken the travel bug that lives in all of us.
The word hane refers to the wing of an airplane, and if you’re looking for a place that evokes a sense of air-travel in the city, this is it. Whilst exhibiting a collection of airplane-related memorabilia (such as model airplanes, picture postcards, stickers and flight timetables) that the owner has been steadily collecting since his school days, the café also retains a good sense of space. Furthermore, the concept behind the café’s interior design, which includes a sofa, white walls and wooden floors, is that of an airport lounge – there’s even the occasional airport or in-flight announcement mixed in with the background music. They also offer a particularly decent food and drink menu, including freshly ground coffee. (Full details & map)
Propeller Cafe (Chofu)
As implied by the name, Propeller Cafe caters to airplane buffs – which, considering its location, tucked away in a corner of Chofu Airport, isn’t really surprising. However, unlike Haneda or Narita airports, Chofu Airport is by no means a large facility – on the contrary, it’s a small, relatively relaxed airport used mainly by ten-seater aircraft either heading to or from the Izu Islands to the south of Tokyo, or by light aircraft engaged in flying sightseeing trips or patrolling the airways. In addition to boasting a flight simulator, Propeller Cafe, located within the airport’s small terminal building, also offers a distant view of an airport hanger that’s actually in operation, and the excitement of being in an actual airport. Plus, because it’s also a café that caters to both pilots and mechanics, there may even be a chance to start up an enthralling conversation or two. If you like hamburgers, go for the ‘Propeller Burger’ – reputed for being big enough to make ‘your jaw drop off’. (Full details & map)
It’s been 46 years since the Tokaido Shinkasen opened in 1964, and 47 years since Niagara curry house opened in 1963. In line with the words ‘Tetsudo Mudo no Mise’ (or, ‘Shop with a Railway Feeling’) displayed above the entrance, the interior is jam-packed full of railway-related memorabilia. Many of the items you’ll find here really do date back to when the restaurant first opened, with a vast collection of destination and station nameplates decorating the interior from wall to wall. By the entrance, you’ll find a meal ticket vending machine offering a number of items including a cho-tokkyu (super express) spicy menu (based on an orthodox Japanese-style curry) and a variety of different topping options such as hamburger, katsu (deep fried pork cutlet), and ebi-furai (deep fried prawn). Customers sitting at one of the restaurant’s passenger-car-style seats (from actual trains) have their order delivered via an entertaining model railway delivery system. Plus, there’s also a particularly interesting restaurant manager (or should that be ‘station manager’?) who wears a railway cap. (Full details & map)
Little TGV (Kanda)
Located in Akihabara, a district in Tokyo once famed for its electronics, and now better known as a place that caters to anime and manga fans, Little TGV is a cross between a maid café and a kind of railway themed izakaya (Japanese-style pub). In addition to exhibits such as a model railway and a television showing railway videos, you’ll also find hard-working female staff dressed in railway cosplay uniforms. Each of the drinks on offer here carries a special railway related name, such as ‘Ginza Line’ (cassis orange) and ‘Hanzomon Line’ (violet fizz). Additionally, the restaurant also offers a number of train-themed special services, including one in which a member of staff will write any station name that a customer who orders omuraisu (omelet with rice) requests, using tomato ketchup. At first blush, you might be thinking that this is probably a café popular only with male customers however, the café does in fact, also draw a fair share of female clientele. (Full details & map)
Bar Ginza Panorama (Ginza)
In Japan, there’s a strong tendency to think of model railway sets as children’s toys. However, in the UK, model railways are often regarded as things that are better appreciated by adults –exactly the sort of people that the designers of Bar Ginza Panorama had in mind. Inside, you’ll find an elaborate display of model trains, all neatly presented on individual shelves inside glass showcases, and even a model railway that runs along the bar. If you're looking for a space in which to relax and unwind with a drink, whilst gazing at a variety of different trains running up and down their model tracks as you remember how it felt to be a kid again, then this is the bar for you.
In addition to standard cocktails, Bar Ginza Panorama also offers a number of special cocktails, including one named ‘Asakaze’ (named after a famous old limited-express sleeper train service) and another named ‘Doctor Yellow’ (named after the high-speed test trains used on the shinkansen train routes). Plus, if your bring along one of your own model trains, in addition to allowing you to run it on their tracks, in the same way that some bars offer to hold a specific bottle of alcohol for you, Bar Ginza Panorama also offer a service through which they’ll even look after it for you. (Full details & map)
Text and photos by Shiro Nishizawa
Translated by Brin Wilson