Milonga Nueva – Tokyo, Japan - Gastro Obscura

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Gastro Obscura

Milonga Nueva

This retro café is a remnant of Japan’s post-war Argentine tango craze. 


The Jimbocho district of Tokyo is known for its decades-old cafés. Viennese coffee was first introduced to the Japanese public in 1953 at the Ladrio, one of the java joints situated in a narrow alley. The rich, potent concoction quickly became a favorite spot of countless authors, artists, publishers, bibliophiles, and college students, who liked it as it stayed hot underneath the thick layer of whipped cream as they sat discussing for hours on end.

That same year, the café opened a sister location right across the alley named “Milongo,” which advertised itself as an Argentine tango café. It may seem like a niche genre today, but post-war Japan was in the midst of a dance craze at the time. Its influences are also evident in some of the popular music of the later Shōwa era.

Milonga has maintained its musical theme over the years, even after the fever all but died out elsewhere. To this day, it keeps on playing Argentine tango music on vinyl, filling the warmly lit room with comfortable Latin crooning and phonographic crackles. 

The café underwent a major renovation in 1995 and renamed itself as Milonga Nueva: the new Milonga. It was now home to charcoal-roasted coffee and numerous brands of beer from around the world, even while the music remained. To this day, the interior is decorated with an impressive collection of vintage LP records, books, bottles and coasters.

In 2023, the Milonga Nueva had to relocate due to the original brick-walled building growing deteriorated from age. Fortunately, it did not stray much farther, spiritually or physically. Even though it’s now housed in a newer building, the vibe hasn’t changed drastically; Argentine tango still plays all day, and the menu boasts smoky coffee and a good selection of beer, along with its famous pizza, Japanese-style curry, and biscotti. 

Know Before You Go

The cafe is closed on Wednesdays.

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August 30, 2023

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