Japan’s Pop-Up Cafés: Cornering the Market on Advertising

japanese pop up

If you’re all about Ecto Cooler and Captain America Cool Ranch Doritos, I’m about to blow your mind. Because while other countries may have some cool tie-ins for IPs, Japan pretty much blows all of us out of the water. The reason? Pop-up cafés.

There are plenty of “subculture cafés” in Japan, some devoted to specific companies or shows (Capcom has its own café, as does the Gundam franchise). But once in a while, when a big project is coming out or celebrating an anniversary, the studio will hit up a local restaurant or subculture café for a brief takeover. For the next handful of weeks, everything — from the decor to the menu items — is themed to one of your favorite shows.

For example, an entire floor of Isetan Shinjuku department store was recently taken over to celebrate the 50th anniversary of Monkey Punch’s Lupin III. Patrons could buy Zenigata’s Stakeout Burger, Lupin’s Homemade Gnocchi Bolognese, and a variety of other dishes, served in a setting similar to the gang’s hideous. Four cream soda mixers emulated the colors of his famous jackets, and desserts were served with his calling card indicating his intention to steal them! The department store also sold high-end cosmetics with custom Fujiko theming and displayed real-life versions of the green, red, pink, and blue sports jacket ensembles.


Disney’s Tokyo branch got in on the action, too, featuring special Rogue One themed drinks and desserts. One, a coffee jelly Death Star floating on a bed of blue syrup, came with a side of caramel milk. Pour the milk on the Death Star, and — just like the Rebels — you “destroyed” it!

These different café stops can be pricey. Some require you to reserve seats in advance, and most of them only have limited amounts of each item and may well run out. But it’s worth mentioning that most of these treats come with coasters, postcards, and other goodies themed to the IP in questions. Also, expensive reservations tend to come with some very nice take-homes — like special plates or mugs.

Will we ever see this level of branding overseas?! …Who knows? Companies are beginning to get more creative with their advertising, but it may be a while before Starbucks has a week-long Doctor Who makeover or your favorite restaurant offers Iron Man themed desserts before a premiere. But we can hope.


(And hey, if there are any restaurant owners listening?… Free idea. Run with it.)

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