On the whole, I’ve always found bars more interesting to shoot in than restaurants. In most cases it tends to be quite a bit easier too. There’s the atmosphere for starters, plus the simple act of spending longer in a place makes it possible to feel fully at home. Being a very visible foreigner, and a far from common type of customer, it gives everyone else the chance to get similarly comfortable as well, meaning there’s generally little or no concern when the camera does eventually come out. Staying for an extended period of time also offers more in the way of conversation, and the opportunity, on some occasions, to hear about the sometimes very long lives of those behind the bar.
Of course none of that means old school restaurants don’t have any charm, because they most certainly do — they are just a bit harder for me to photograph in that’s all. Now and again though I do manage to get a few shots away, and below is a selection of those efforts from over the years. Several of them have appeared on Tokyo Times before, but these are re-edits, and location-wise they are a mix of Tokyo and beyond. I should also add that some of them are long gone, but thankfully a good few are still serving up the same delicious food with no changes to the dishes or decor whatsoever.
I love these so much but now I wanna eat Japanese food so bad! 🙂
Thank you. Must admit, when putting them together I was reminded of the meals I’d enjoyed. All of them good.
I would like to visit all of them but number 1 looks like the most fun.
Hard for me to pick as I have very fond memories of quite a few of them, but you definitely couldn’t go wrong with number 1.
Great pics — of the people along with the places in which they were working, eating, hanging out, etc. 🙂
Thank you. Yeah, always nice to get photos of people just going about their day as usual. Well, usual for them, but they were special days for me.
The advantage with restaurants is that there is usually room to move enough to get to the toilet. Bars are often so small that if you are at the end of the counter then you are stuck there for the evening. Environmental Health would have a field day with some of them although I have never been ill after eating in some pretty grubby places. The delicious aroma of yakitori always attracts me in!
That’s so true. Been in many bars where a trip to the toilet involves squeezing past everyone else. Even forcing people to move in some places. Somewhat comedic the first visit, increasingly less so on subsequent trips!
Likewise. Been in some that have been really quite filthy, but no issues whatsoever. However, did get sick from a relatively fancy chain izakaya once, and another time from a department store bakery. Both appeared clean, but the food clearly wasn’t fresh…
Ah, and what about the one where the toilet was, by some unwritten agreement, deep within a pachinko parlour a little way down the street. What an adventure that was 🙂
Ah yes, that’s one of only two places I know that utilise a nearby pachinko parlour for toilet facilities. Quite a novel experience, isn’t it?
Another superb collection of photographs of organically grown premises. The sixth one down brings back especially happy memories.
On our own we would never have ventured in, but with Lee as a guide, it was so worthwhile and such a friendly experience.
Here is a snapshot of one moment in the life of that establisment – it is a small part of a photo we took inside of a collection of other visitors photos of previous events that the owner displayed on the wall.
It is sad to think that the distilled essence of millions of such moments over the decades is suddenly snuffed out when the doors close for the last time and later whne the building is razed.
Thankfully a small shard of these places will continue to exist in the photographic collections of yourself and others.
Thank you. Very happy to hear that visit remains in your memory. An incredible place, isn’t it? As interesting on the inside as it is on the outside. That was quite a group in that photo as well.
Happy to say it is still going strong. Passed by fairly recently. But yeah, when the time comes so much will be lost forever…
The quality of the food in these places is almost always very good, if not excellent. Interesting, isn’t it, that the proprietors all seem to be older folks? Some of them were clearly happy to accommodate you taking a photo! Did you share any of the photos with the subjects?
It is. Cheap, but almost always really good. And yeah, all too often it’s older people, and as their children understandably don’t want to take over from them, the business will go when they give up.
They were. No issues at all having their photo taken. But no, I haven’t. Something I keep meaning to do but still haven’t. Really should do as the opportunity to do so won’t last forever.
I am sure they would appreciate seeing the photos you took. Cheers!
This theme and your photos of haikyo are my most favourite. They seem to evoke various emotions from the viewer and makes you feel like you’ve lived a parallel life living in the abandoned structures and eating at the same bars. Very powerful.
Thank you very much. That’s really good to hear. For my photos to evoke and kind of feeling in others is fantastic, and to hear that is even more encouraging. That has made my day.
Kieran Hayward says
Hi Lee, there’s a real sense of humanity in this series of images, their expressions drew me in & through the image, lovely work.
Thanks a lot Kieran, that’s really good to hear. Everything I could hope to achieve when taking a photo.