I’ve posted the top photo before. It’s a tiny, generally not so well known spot that is fascinating due to its array of little bars, along with the sounds of music and voices one can hear from within.
Unbeknownst to me for the longest time, they are also gay bars. Admittedly I’d only seen men going in and out, but in most karaoke and snack areas, that’s generally the case anyway. A place where for many decades — and Japan still has a way to go — customers could be themselves rather than the versions society demanded.
It’s an element that makes the street even more interesting, and when passing through during one of my photowalk tours a few weeks ago, a bar owner was amused when he saw us taking photos of the signs, coloured doors, and what turned out to be his bicycle. Arriving early to set up for the evening, he invited us into his place for a look around, as well as treating us to a couple of songs. One a traditional enka number, and the other a far more familiar Hank Williams track.
Having lived overseas for a long time with his foreign partner, he had returned to Japan where they set up home in a more rural area. Cancer, however, cut his soulmate’s life short, so he took the bold move of selling up and opening his own bar. A place where he has the chance to sing, be himself, and in words of his that also sound like the lyrics from a Hank Williams song, “not feel so lonesome.”
I found this a very interesting and moving story. Thank you for sharing these slices of Japanese life.
You are very welcome. It was a privilege to be in the position to tell it.
What an amazing privilege and stroke of fortune to be invited into this man’s life for a few minutes.
With one short encounter the canvas of his life and times is broadened beyond the wonderfully clear but tiny window through your lens to reveal layers and depth.
Just one small point. You forgot the link to the audio 🙂
Yes, so happy we happened to be there at that time. A lovely fella and a real treat to be invited in for a chat and some music. Such a pity the reason for his move was a desperately sad one, but at least the bar benefits him as well as his customers.
Haha, good call. Alas I can only concentrate on one thing at once, and dealing with the tricky light was that thing. Was only when we left that the thought of recording it (or not as it turned out) occurred to me…
Such a heartwarming post. First, that gay men in Tokyo have some places to gather where they can be comfortable. Second, that the one bar owner has forged a path forward for himself after the tragic loss of his partner. As you well know, that is no easy task to accomplish in life.
Thanks for going back. And thanks for sharing such a heartwarming story.
Thank you very much. Yes, despite the sadness, there’s also a real sense of hope and resilience in his story. And indeed the area itself. Definitely an aspect I took from it.
Great photos and accompanying story, as per usual! 🙂
Thank you very much. Really pleased to be have been able to tell this one.