A visit to the deep sea cafe

By Motoko Kakubayashi 09/04/2014

With dozens of crustaceans bustling over displays and food, this cafe knew how to stand out in one of the most trendy neighborhoods in Tokyo.


Inside the Shinkai Cafe (Deep Sea Cafe) in Tokyo
Inside the Shinkai Cafe (Deep Sea Cafe) in Tokyo

From February to last Sunday, the Japan Agency for Marine-Earth Science and Technology (JAMSTEC) opened a special cafe inside major department store Tokyu Hands in Shibuya.  In an area most famous for attracting teenagers and young adults to its shopping malls and night life, JAMSTEC certainly chose the right place to promote its science to a new crowd.


I decided to go and check out this limited-time-only cafe last week, although I admit it took some courage to leave my apartment.


First, with my jeans and sweater look, I was clearly out of place in Shibuya surrounded by girls wearing the latest spring fashion and guys who clearly took better care of their hair than myself.


Then there’s the fact that Shibuya is crowded.  More than two million people use Shibuya station every day, making it one of the most crowded train stations in the world.  I remember bringing a kiwi friend to Shibuya once, and while waiting at the crossing he asked me whether an event was going on because there was such a huge crowd on the other side of the road.
“They’re just waiting to cross the road,” I said.


Anyway, after finally reaching the Shinkai (Japanese for ‘Deep Sea’) Cafe, it was fantastic to see photos of critters like the flapjack octopus, Opisthoteuthis californiana, on the walls, toys in the shape of giant squids, and models of JAMSTEC’S deep sea submersible, the Shinkai 6500.


The food was fun with a deep sea theme.


First to come was my Shinkai latte, topped off with a giant squid picture.  Giant squids have become famous in Japan, especially after a team from public broadcaster NHK and the Discovery Channel successfully caught footage of a live giant squid on camera, and following a popular deep sea exhibition at the science museum in Tokyo last year.

Giant squid pictured coffee
Giant squid pictured coffee

Then came my Shinkai curry plate recreating a hydrothermal vent environment.  This deep sea hotspot is found around volcanically active areas.  The water from the vent is rich in minerals, attracting lots of organisms like the crabs and shrimp covering my curry dish.

Shinkai curry dish.
Shinkai curry dish.

The marine research institute had also been holding weekly talk events and workshops for kids and adults too.


I still have to contact JAMSTEC about whether they plan on opening another cafe, but overall I found it to be a very entertaining and delicious experience.