Tokyo gives the impression of being impatient to modernise, yet look down most side streets, or wander away from the city’s main thoroughfares, and it can be a very different world indeed. A world that quite unashamedly seems to have little to do with the present, let alone the future. Just like this wonderfully old and grubby little bar.
A going concern for 34 years, the sprightly 78-year-old owner now looks after the place alone after his wife died a decade ago — cooking food, serving drinks and generally being lovely.
A far cry no doubt from the kitchen he once cooked French food in, but after an altercation with his boss, he opted to go it alone, opening the no-nonsense izakaya (Japanese pub) he not only runs, but also lives above. Where almost everyday he makes far more basic fare.
In equally basic settings.
A set-up that not only suits him, but also his very comfortable and content customers.
Yeah, it was a great little place. It looked like it may have potential, but it exceeded all expectations. Definitely be going back.
When I was a kid in small town Midwest USA, there was a tradition not too unlike this one, of local “taverns” always within easy walking distance that served familiar drinks, and offered a hot dish, or three. Fish fry, sandwiches, pickled eggs, trotters (pig’s feet – yeah, I know…), some suds and a shot of Ol’ Grandad. Most of these are long gone. Now we’ve got “dives” or the current version of “fern” bars, and pretty much nothing in between. Sigh.
Yeah, it’s a real shame to lose such places, as they are not only filled with character (and characters), but they also offer the kind of home from home that most of their modern incarnations don’t.
The really sad thing about places like this are that with most of the owners getting on in years, they won’t exist for too much longer. It’s only thanks to the incredible longevity that the Japanese enjoy that they last as long as they do. In fact one I went to last year (the photos are here) has already been shuttered up. The old lady lived there as well, so presumably she’s either died, or at best had to go in a home or live with her children.
I agree. Even in many developing countries these small hut places are being crushed by giant soul less outlets all in the name of modernisation.
Yeah, and the terrible thing is that once they’ve gone, they’ll never ever come back…
That is one great smile over there. Some features of attraction only appear after a certain age and the same goes for ladies too. Although I know that women fight against wrinkles I can’t stop thinking that those marks also give gentleness to the face (women can even get a sweet and sexy look if they received wisdom together with the age).
As a side note a I think how interesting it is to see a guy working hard without his wife. I would feel almost too sad to take a picture.
Yes, the signs of age only make his smile more appealing. That said, he does look remarkably well for 78.
When he mentioned his wife the sadness was there for all to see. Poor fella. Fortunately he has his regular customers to keep him company which hopefully helps.
Judy Izumi says
Can you tell me where this bar is located. I want to eat and drink there. And maybe snap a photo.
It was near Musashiseki Station on the Seibu-Shinjuku Line. Will have to check the street view for a pinpoint location as we wandered around a lot before spotting in, but there aren’t a huge amount of interesting places by there.
Hans ter Horst says
Cool place, the master looks like quite the character!
It was, and he is! Great place with loads of character. Super relaxed too. We ended up pouring our own beers and just letting him know when we’d got a fresh one. Never experienced that before!
Looking at the adornments on the walls behind him, brings to mind a question. Do the large beverage companies offer free colorful ads (like the attractive girl holding a beer) to smaller establishments like this one ? To my American mind, it would be good advertising to be seen in such a small place as this one.
Yeah, I’m pretty sure they do. Like you say, it’s good advertising. I’ve seen a few re-released retro posters about of late. Very interesting to see the differences, both in advertising changes, and also the changes in physical appearance. Or at least the change in physical appearance they deem desirable.
Mark Esguerra says
Very nice post. I love finding these little mom and pop spots throughout Tokyo. The people that run it seem to always be happy. Great images to capture his positive and pleasant demeanor.
Thanks. He was a genuinely lovely bloke. Glad that comes across.
Yeah, they are wonderful places to visit, aren’t they? Always interesting, and always different. Something that can’t always be said for a lot of their modern counterparts…
It was. Exactly the kind of places we were hoping to find. In fact we pretty much hit the jackpot.
Looks cozy! I would definitely love to drop by if I were living in the area. (I’m not in Japan)
It is. A very comfortable place. Immediately felt at home there.
Bernadette Marchetti says
I find that coffee shops are sort of taking over for the local pub haven. At least, in Pittsburgh. Don’t get me wrong, Pittsburgh has always traditionally been a blue-collar town so pubs will always be the place many workers go after a long day. But Pittsburgh is also very much a college town, so coffee shops are EVERYWHERE. They provide a really great place to study (and sometimes sleep). I’m so thankful that not all of then are Starbucks. My favorite is called the 61C CafÃ©, which got its name from the bus route (61C) that goes past it. There’s this chick that frequently takes pictures up and down the neighborhood around and within the 61C CafÃ© (http://www.katyamccoy.com/).
In fact, I had my first taste of real ramen at a Japanese restaurant a couple blocks away from the cafÃ©. The pictures you frequently take of places like these remind me so much of my neighborhood. Not so much the people or fare, but the feeling of making everyone feel like they’ve been going there for years even if it’s only the first time.
Thanks for the link. Always interesting to see someone else’s home/neighbourhood.
The chain bars/restaurants/coffee shops are everywhere here too, but likewise there are still plenty of independent places. Long may that continue too.
Glad to hear that photos like this remind you of where you live. Just goes to show that despite being in a very different country, with a very different culture, we are all basically the same.
Fun series of photos, wish I could have seen one of the food. What kind of stuff does he serve up?
I never thought to photograph any of the food. The old fella and the place itself were too enthralling.
It was your standard Izakaya fare really. I don’t recall exactly what we ate — we ended up drinking way too much — but there was definitely yakitori, tofu, chicken katsu, chijimi. Oh, and some pickles too.
Amazing Pic Lee, the old man seem to be enjoying his job very well. Thank you for sharing this photo series 🙂
Thanks! Yes, he really was. Great food and a genuinely lovely bloke, A tough place to beat.