Japanese-style listening lounges: The latest trend to hit Toronto nightlife

One of the best parts about living in a city as diverse as Toronto is being able to experience cultures from around the globe without even leaving home. Over the past few years, the latest tradition that Torontonians have been embracing is that of the Japanese teahouses.

In the 1920s, “kissatens” first began popping up around Japan where writers and intellects would gather for tea and coffee. During the Second World War, when American jazz music was banned across the country, music lovers would sneak out to the jazz kissa “speakeasies” to hear the classic music on vinyl sound systems. 

Now, nearly a century later, these kissatens are becoming popular here in Toronto, giving the city’s audiophiles a place to sip a cocktail or coffee—or even enjoy a full meal—while focusing on the tones of hi-fidelety music playing over state-of-the-art sound systems.

The Little Jerry


Before the trend began making its way around the city, The Little Jerry might just have been the first hi-fidelity vinyl listening bar in Toronto when they opened in July of 2019. If the name conjers up Seinfeld flashbacks, the joint is just as familiar and comfortable as any episode.

At this neighbourhood joint, the sound system consists of a pair of Klipschorn Corner Horn with Volti VX Crossovers, Sound Physics Labs Synergy Horns, Klipsch La Scalas, OJAS Bookshelves customized with Azura Horns. These speakers are powered by a three-level stack of tube amps (Luxman SQ-N10, Kaiju Bottlehead 300-B, and Dynaco ST-70), and the sound source is a pair of modded Technics SL-1200 turntables with Jelco TS-550S tonearms routed through a Condesa Carmen V Mixer.

The dining room is completely sound-treated with absorption panels, bass traps, and dispersion panels to ensure that you can still have that over-dinner conversation while feasting off The Little Jerry’s rotating menu andthe city’s largest selection of by-the-glass wine options and over 40 local beers — though you likely aren’t coming here for conversation, as surely your attention will be glued to the nightly guest DJs and record collectors who spin soul, disco, jazz, ambient, and even classical music well into the evening.

915 Dupont


If you prefer to do your listening in the daytime hours, over a coffee —or even an afternoon whiskey on the rocks (nobody’s judging) — 915 Dupont might be more up your alley — which is exactly where you’ll find this gem. Like the Japanese speakeasies where the listening lounges began, 915 Dupont is not easy to find. In fact, it’s just tucked away in an industrial building not far from Ossington Avenue and you have to enter through a little curtain.

This café only just had its soft opening this month. But, you might have visited for an allusive chess club that’s been secretly meeting there for who-knows-how long. Toronto is slowly discovering this secret hideaway, making it a popular spot for remote workers to bring their computers for the afternoon, with soothing vinyl-only tunes and fresh coffee feeling their work. The café is already welcoming a roster of entertainment over their sound system, including guest DJs spinning nothing but jazz vinyl, live guitarists and even some comedians. Though still in its early stages, 915 Dupont is already showing signs of being Toronto’s next not so best-kept secrets.



It’s only been around a mere month and yet Kissa has already become a staple for a King West night out. Taking its name right from those Japanese teahouses, Kissa offers an ambiance like no other, from the subtle tunes of the 80s, 90s and early 2000s.

At Kissa, the vinyl-powered vintage sound system was custom-built by Sounds Better using custom vintage JBL speakers powered by Bryston Amps and combined with a D&B Sound System that is connected to a Master Sounds Radius 4V Analogue Rotary Mixer.  

The built-in DJ booth at the back of the dining room will draw all your attention to the more than 2,500 vinyl records that decorate the wall behind, including all your favourite albums from The Beatles, David Bowie, Fleetwood Mac, and, yes —because its located in the 6ix — Drake. The rest of the room is as classically inspired as the music, with dazzling crystal balls, textured velvet touches, and mirrored walls for an intimate appeal. As for the menu, the Izakaya-style dishes bring a touch of Japanese flavour and tradition to King Street, while the Japanese-inspired cocktails are one-of-a-kind with a light and airy texture that matches the smooth atmosphere set by the music.

Article exclusive to STREETS OF TORONTO