The much-ballyhooed Tokyo debut of Oakland's Blue Bottle Coffee Co. in February galvanized Kiyosumi-shirakawa's reputation as the city's coffee epicenter, turning the area into a magnet for caffeine-addled day-trippers. Taiju Hayashi certainly isn't going to complain about the extra business he's been enjoying at Arise Coffee Roasters, which sits on a street corner just meters away from the Californian import, but he confesses that he misses the days when a queue didn't form outside his shop every weekend.

"It's a drag if the regulars can't get in," he says.

To be fair, the hurdle for qualifying as a regular here is pretty low. Hayashi treats first-time visitors with a mixture of warmth and good-natured curiosity that's instantly disarming. The few seats inside the shop — a bench and a couple of armchairs — form a semicircle facing the counter, which is perfect for striking up conversations with other customers. By the second time I went, I already felt like I was part of the gang.