Translated by Shannon McNaught
Tengoku - Asakusa's Retro Slice of Heaven
Written by miho
This article features Tengoku, a cafe located in Asakusa, famous for its unique, retro atmosphere and delicious pancakes.
When you think of Asakusa, you usually think of places like Sensōji Temple and Kaminarimon, right? When you bring food into the picture, images of Kagetsudō Melon Bread and the Japanese-style sweets along Nakamise-dōri Street are surely floating in your mind. Asakusa is a place for good sights and good food.
Sometimes you need a break from all that walking, though, and what better place to cure that than at a cafe? We will introduce to you one such cafe with a bit of a retro vibe.
Where Did That Name Come From?
This cafe is called Tengoku 天国, which means "heaven" in Japanese. "Like that heaven?" you may ask. Well, sort of.
According to Ms. Ueno, the owner of the cafe, she named it "Tengoku" because she thought it would be funny to hear people meeting there saying things like, "I'm waiting for you in heaven," or "I'm going to heaven after this."
As you might expect, there are some elderly customers who find no humor in the name. When the shop first started up, Ms. Ueno witnessed a group of ten elderly women gather in front of the cafe and exclaim to one another, "I don't want to go to heaven!"
But, that's not the majority of customers in the slightest. Tengoku gets all sorts of reactions from people. When one of the cafe's regulars ended up in the hospital, he reportedly said, "I'd give anything to eat pancakes from Tengoku again, but I'm not ready to go to heaven yet!"
Tengoku's Vibe and Characteristics
The cafe is designed to look like an old-fashioned Japanese cafe. That's why there aren't a lot of seats. It fills up pretty quickly once it hits the afternoon hours.
The menu is only available in Japanese, but there are pictures to showcase what you can order. Visitors to Japan have no problem ordering here.
Ms. Ueno can speak a bit of English, and she's even started to learn some Chinese from customers. This dedicated cafe owner studies for the benefit of her customers.
The cafe is mostly frequented by Japanese tourists, since it is famous nationwide. More and more ex-pats (foreigners living in Japan) and visitors to Japan have started to show up, though.
The once-trendy Astrological Roulette Fortune Teller is a hit with customers. Ask Ms. Ueno how to use it and give it a try.
One of the cafe's most popular items is the homemade pancakes (1,000 yen). It includes melty butter and sweet, sticky syrup.
They're slightly crisp on the outside but soft on the inside. Steam billows as your knife slices into them. You won't be able to stop eating once you start.
If you're looking for something more on the savory side, Tengoku's hot dogs are also a big hit. They are perfect if you are looking for a light meal.
Hand-drip coffee is also obviously a staple.
Tengoku's coffee cups are a little special. If you drink every last drop, you might see the characters 大吉 ("daikichi") on the bottom. This means you'll have good luck!
Not all of the cups have this harbinger of luck on them. Comparing cups is a great way to test your luck and pass time with friends.
Tengoku also sells a lot of cute and original souvenirs.
Give the capsule toy machine at the entrance a whirl. For just 200 yen a pop, you can win a fun-sized version of one of the cafe's menu items.
You can also pick up a bag of coffee beans for 1,500 yen. Its cute packaging makes it perfect as a gift.
Their knit hats are popular among European customers. A family of four from Canada bought one each!
In closing, we'd like to give you a message from Tengoku's owner, Ms. Ueno.
Ms. Ueno: "Tengoku isn't exactly an easy place to get to, so when you do come here, make it a memorable experience."
If you ever find yourself in Asakusa, make sure you stop by Tengoku ("heaven") where you're always welcome.
Address: Tokyo, Taito ward, Asakusa 1-41-9
Business hours: 12:00-19:00 (last order 18:30)
Credit cards accepted: cash only
Languages offered: Basic English
Other languages offered: Japanese
Nearest station: Tokyo Metro, Tōbu Isesaki Line, TX Asakusa Station
Access: 8 minutes from Tokyo Metro/Tōbu Isesaki Line Asakusa Station, 5 minutes from TX Asakusa Station
Price range: 1,000 yen - 2,000 yen
Official website: N/A