Old Tokyo in an old bar

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.

old and dirty Tokyo 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.

old and dirty Tokyo bar

old and dirty Tokyo bar

old and dirty Tokyo bar

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.

old and dirty Tokyo bar

In equally basic settings.

old and dirty Tokyo bar

A set-up that not only suits him, but also his very comfortable and content customers.

old and dirty Tokyo bar


    • says

      Yeah, it was a great little place. It looked like it may have potential, but it exceeded all expectations. Definitely be going back.

  1. Squidpuppy says

    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.

    • says

      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.

      • matt says

        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.

  2. AF says

    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.


    • says

      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.

  3. Judy Izumi says

    Can you tell me where this bar is located. I want to eat and drink there. And maybe snap a photo.

    • says

      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.

    • says

      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!

  4. LAObserver says

    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.

    • says

      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.

  5. 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.

    • says

      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…

    • says

      It was. Exactly the kind of places we were hoping to find. In fact we pretty much hit the jackpot.

  6. 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 Café, 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 Café (http://www.katyamccoy.com/).

    In fact, I had my first taste of real ramen at a Japanese restaurant a couple blocks away from the café. 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.

    • says

      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.

  7. Sean says

    Fun series of photos, wish I could have seen one of the food. What kind of stuff does he serve up?

    • says

      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.

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