I’ve seen a lot of this cafe on Instagram. The shots alternate between stunning latte art and fashionable young people. In these photo portraits all but their eyes are obscured from view by a coffee cup. It’s almost always one of these two picture variations, but somehow they are always arresting. These shots intrigued me and I wondered if the coffee was as good as the Instagram account. So, I went to check out Life Size Cribe.
The coffee at Cribe is a medium roast. Plenty of chocolate flavors can be picked up in the espresso, but notes of orange and lemon zest still cut through, making it a pleasant and easy drinking shot. The lattes, ornate and beautiful, are especially creamy and the espresso stands up well to the sweet, thick milk. Not bad at all.
Life Size Cribe was opened in March 2015 by Paul Bassett Coffee graduate Kazuki Yoshida. It’s clear once you get Kazuki talking that his Life Size Cribe is part of him. The name of the shop is his life philosophy. Cribe is his own word meaning “crib to life.” It’s a sort of riff on cradle to death. Life is so much more important than death, he explains. “Life Size” is his way of saying that you should live your life as it is, not bigger, not smaller. One should be themselves and not pretend to be anything else. Certainly something to ponder as you sip on your latte.
This little shop is well designed, with bench seating along the customer wall leading to a small communal seating area with small tables. Out front of the shop, by a hanging bicycle are more tables and chairs. The shop is a hit with locals; someone is constantly waiting at the register while Kazuki concentrates on each individual drink. He smiles and apologizes for the wait (which isn’t very long) but never is nervous or flustered. The clientele also seem laid back, many laughing to each other loudly as they sip down their lattes. Kazuki moves quickly in his workspace and I manage to interrogate him about his shop between customers.
Kazuki roasts his own coffee at Glitch Coffee in Jimbocho. Glitch operates as a sort of share roaster. “There are mutual benefits to this,” he tells me. “You teach and learn from each other. You can introduce new flavors to one another. You can also access more beans when buying them as a group.”
Kazuki, originally from Saitama, came to Kokubunji for college. He fell in love with the town and made a very strong group of friends through his passion for hip-hop dance. After 3 years of working at Paul Bassett he decided that it was time for Kokubunji to have it’s own specialty coffee shop. And so began Cribe. He built it to be a secret fort for him and his B-boy friends, he told me with a child-like smile. But still, all are welcome. Grinning widely he says, “Hello,” Konnichiwa, as people walk in. “I never say Irashaimase” the standard greeting at most shops in Japan, he notes. “I want everyone to feel like friends here.”
Kazuki mans the shop alone 6 days a week. Often his day off is still filled with cafe related work. But he keeps smiling and putting his heart into each drink. I note how cool he is under pressure and he mentions that the busy pace of Paul Bassett mixed with his experiences in dance battles have given him very calm nerves. At his heart he is a dancer, and he wants to make coffee another extension of himself. Latte art fits in to this as well. It adds artistic balance to his coffee. Latte art competitions are his new dance battles.
Kokubunji is a bit off the map for many Tokyoites. Though it still is well within the city boundaries the hour train ride from central Tokyo makes the trip unthinkable to many. After all, why go way out to Kokubunji when there is so much excitement so close together around the Yamanote line? If you’re a coffee lover there is a good reason: Life Size Cribe.
Life Size Cribe is located at: Kokubunji, Honcho, 3-5-5, Tokyo