In this age of musical abundance, it’s hard to fathom that an LP once cost the equivalent of a few days’ wages in Japan. In the 1950s, audiophiles who couldn’t afford to buy their own music did their listening at coffee shops known as meikyoku kissaten (“musical masterpiece cafes”), which boasted high-end audio gear and extensive libraries of classical or jazz records.
Though they outlived their usefulness long before the arrival of YouTube and Spotify, a handful of these kissaten have endured. Their anachronism is part of the charm: They conjure an atmosphere of reverence that’s more befitting of a church than a coffee shop. At a few of them, you’ll get shushed if you try to have a conversation; it’s better to bring a book, sit back, and forget the bustle of the outside world for a few hours.