3 Spots to Instagram in Shin-Okubo, Tokyo’s Koreatown

Shin-Okubo is known as Tokyo’s biggest Koreatown and while it is perhaps most famous for K-pop goodies, cosmetics and street food, it also features a plethora of cafes and bars that will add flavour to any Instagram account. I decided to hit up three spots that I felt had the most unique vibe, with my South Korean friend living in Japan helping me to vlog the experience.

Watch the vlog

If you prefer to get your information in print though, read on!

Spot #1: 2D Cafe Shin-Okubo

The 2D Cafe in Shin-Okubo is, true to its name, made to look like a flat, two-dimensional illustration. The monochromatic comic world setting is achieved by painting the edges of white furniture in black, and having no other colour in the decor. Unfortunately, the food does not follow the theme, with the exception of a newly added 2D slice of strawberry shortcake.

2D Cafe Shin-Okubo

The cake, costing 770 yen per slice, is pricey to say the least but its novelty cannot be overstated. You can get a 50 yen discount off the cake if ordering it with a drink.

2D cake for the 'gram

The rest of the menu comprises of bubble tea and a range of colourful desserts like shaved ice and “croffles” (croissant waffles), all of which contrast greatly against the black-and-white background. The eye-popping optical illusion makes for great Instagram posts, with the official 2D Cafe Shin-Okubo account very active in sharing if tagged.

Enjoying a 2D cake in the 2D Cafe Shin-Okubo.

While the cafe’s interior looks almost exactly like the the South Korean chain Greem Cafe, which strangely also has a branch in Saudi Arabia, it does not seem to be part of the franchise.

Getting to 2D Cafe Shin-Okubo

Address: 新宿区百人町1丁目7-5 座ビル1F

Spot #2: Jinsei Sakaba

If you’ve ever walked through Shin-Okubo, chances are you’ve seen this Korean-style izakaya. With its atmospheric lanterns and Ghibli vibes, Jinsei Sakaba is the brightest thing on the street. Open for 24 hours, this place is constantly bustling and full of people waiting outside. I remember noticing it for the first time during the COVID-19 state of emergency in 2021, because it was one the few places that stayed open despite government requests to close early.

Jinsei Sakaba, the ultimate Instagram spot in Shin-Okubo

The otherworldly atmosphere doesn’t stop at the exterior either, with a multi-layered eatery on the second floor reminiscent of a fantasy treehouse. K-pop music plays nonstop, creating a modern cosy space away from everyday life.

The second floor of Jinsei Sakaba

The izakaya, famous for chijimi (Korean-style savoury pancakes) and makgeolli (Korean rice wine), boasts over 100 items on its menu. We ordered a half seafood half kimchi chijimi to share, and it was legit delicious. My South Korean friend praised both the food and the ambience of Jinsei Sakaba, which she said really reminded her of an authentic suljjip (Korean-style pub). She also told me that they would usually call the savoury pancakes jeon, as chijimi is a dialect.

Half seafood, half kimchi chijimi at Jinsei Sakaba

Bookings cannot be made after 16:30 on weekends and holidays, so you just have to line up with everyone else. When we went just before 6pm on a somewhat rainy Saturday evening, the wait time was around 30 minutes. Like with most busy dining establishments, there is a two hour stay limit.

Getting to Jinsei Sakaba

Address: 新宿区百人町1丁目1-20 グリーンプラザⅡ 1棟

Spot #3: CAFE iN

I found this Shin-Okubo cafe somewhat on a whim when browsing hashtags on Instagram, but was completely enamoured from the moment I saw photos of its futuristic interior. Like something out of a K-drama, it features a combination of live reeds, clear tables and romantic lights. Not to mention a range of interesting desserts including massive slices of cake, croissants, and, to my surprise, pavlova.

Inside Cafe iN

When I say the cake slices are massive, I mean it. One slice could easily fill three or four people. We shared a sweet potato cake slice between us and couldn’t finish it. (But then we had just eaten a 2D cake and chijimi before).

Massive slice of cake at Cafe iN

Another unique item in CAFE iN is a free receipt printing machine. No, it doesn’t print receipts, but rather takes an instant photo of you and prints it on receipt paper. The quality of the print is as you would expect, but it is good fun and who can say no to free photos?

Photos printed by the receipt printing machine at Cafe iN.

But what I enjoyed most about the cafe was its vibe. It encompassed everything I liked: EDM music, moody lighting, futuristic decor — all the perfect ingredients for chilling. It also made for a great setting to shoot cinematic videos and photos.

Cinematic photos at Cafe iN

Some side notes:

  • While the cafe is pronounced and listed on websites as CAFE iN, its actual name according to the logo appears to be CAFE !N. I can’t figure out if this is supposed to be an exclamation mark or a stylised upside down “i.”
  • Haru & Oneday, a cafe in Seoul owned by Super Junior’s Donghae, also features live reeds and the exact same receipt printing machine. The cake slices are similarly massive, but maybe this is common in South Korea. I am not sure if the two cafes are connected, or if one was “inspired” by the other.

Getting to Cafe iN

Address: 新宿区大久保1丁目-12-27 アイオスビル2F

Looking for more places perfect for Instagram outside of Shin-Okubo? Check out the archive of posts.

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