Although many retailers prefer newer construction, there are some stores in Japan that specifically look for the older, character-filled properties to complement their brand. Sterile retail space is being eschewed for pre-war or 1960s vintage buildings and homes that can be converted and renovated into trendy, one-of-a-kind spaces.

Cafe Conana Jiyugaoka

Cafe Conana, Jiyugaoka

In April 2015, Cafe Conana opened a branch in Jiyugaoka, Meguro-ku. The cafe is in an old terrace house that was completely renovated with exposed ceiling beams, and a light and bright interior. Dropped ceilings were removed to expose the skeleton of the house. Rafters were painted white, and natural wood has been used throughout.

The cafe has just over 100 sqm in floor space and an outdoor terrace.

Address: 1-3-21 Jiyugaoka, Meguro-ku, Tokyo

Nakamura Tea Life Store Tokyo

Nakamura Tea Life Store, Taito-ku

This is an organic tea shop with a company history dating back 95 years. The store owner chose the 60-year old building because of its charming exterior and opened in this location in January 2015. The interior is decorated with old tea chests first used by the company in the early 1900s.

Address: 4-20-4 Kuramae, Taito-ku, Tokyo

Gift lab garage Tokyo

Gift_lab Garage Lounge & Exhibit, Koto-ku

Located on the ground floor of a 1933 apartment building in the trendy Kiyosumi-Shirakawa neighbourhood. Originally part of the building’s garage, the store owner converted it into a cafe/gallery/shop space. It opened in November 2014.

Address: 1-3-13 Shirakawa, Koto-ku, Tokyo

Eagle Building Tokyo

L’atelier de Dress up everyday, Chuo-ku

In April 2014, this brand opened a retail store on the ground floor in the Eagle Building – a concrete office building which was built shortly after the 1923 Great Kanto earthquake.

Address: 1-13-9 Nihonbashi-bakurocho, Chuo-ku, Tokyo

Omotesando Koffee

Omotesando Koffee, Omotesando

Located on the 1st floor of a traditional-style house in the backstreets of Omotesando. Although it features a cool and contemporary counter, the interior of the 80+ year old home has been carefully restored and kept in the kominka style. The original store lease was only for 1 year as the owner of the house planned to tear it down. However, this was back in early 2011, and the shop is still operating and has since become a well-known destination for tourists.

*Update: The house was later demolished, with Koffee Mameya opening in a newly built building on the same location.

Address: 4-15-3 Jingumae, Shibuya-ku, Tokyo

Patisserie a la Rive Osaka

Patisserie a la Rive, Osaka

A cake shop and cafe that opened up in the Yamauchi Building (c1930) in October 2014. The building is registered as a National Tangible Cultural Property

Address: 1-1-4 Tosabori, Nishi-ku, Osaka