A little Tokyo bar that an old lady also sleeps in

Despite the city’s modern, neon-lit image, small, old and cluttered bars are not a rarity in Tokyo. Quite the opposite in fact. It’s just finding them that’s all, as they are often tucked away down side streets near the capital’s more suburban train stations. Although even when a potential drinking spot has been spied, it’s generally impossible to say what it will be like on the inside. Now and again of course the exterior suggests it’ll be interesting, but invariably it’s just a case of opening the door and hoping for the best. Amazingly, however, the best is very often what you get: whether it be an ex-French chef cooking up a storm; an establishment where the bathroom absolutely beggars belief; or a cozy little concern packed full of character but not necessarily particular when it comes to cleanliness.

And this place, to happily prove the point, was no exception.

tiny dirty Tokyo bar

Like so many others, it too has the clutter and memories of many a year. An impressive fifty to be exact. But what really sets it apart is the old lady who basically lives in the small space by the end of the counter. A counter that itself only seats about six, although even that would be a push.

tiny dirty Tokyo bar

And from her position there, she regularly scowls at and berates her son — now (supposedly) in charge of the operation. A lovely fella who, from years of practice, cleverly gives the impression of listening to her, when in reality he clearly isn’t doing anything of the sort.

tiny dirty Tokyo bar

Tokyo bar in what’s basically a shed

In what is little more than a converted shed situated beside a suburban station’s bicycle parking space, several men of a certain age regularly gather to drink and eat. The place probably seats about seven. Any more would be uncomfortable cozy. And the toilet is in another shed at the other end of the bike park.

But these aspects are simply a part of its charm. As is the owner, who for the last twenty years or so has served drinks, chatted amiably and cooked simple, very reasonably priced food. All done after a daytime cleaning job at a nearby private school. A tough life it would seem, but one she simply gets on with.

Tokyo bar kitchen

Tokyo red light lunch spot

Despite the red light, these fellas were after nothing more unseemly than a quick sit down and some sustenance. But as well as food, they obviously like a bit of atmosphere; something this alleyway has in abundance. So much in fact that it almost feels like another world when compared to the chain restaurant clogged main street a mere few metres away.

Tokyo red light alley lunch spot

Tokyo alley drunks

These two colourful characters may well have been incredibly drunk by mid-afternoon, but they are almost certainly not what one would call lightweights. Quite the opposite in fact, as the bars in this alleyway — and indeed the surrounding area — are open from late, til very late; meaning that more than likely they had been knocking back the booze since the night before. An impressive feat that makes their inebriated state simply expected, rather than anything even approaching a surprise.

Tokyo drunks