Tokyo’s dark and dingy alleyways are often good hunting grounds — this one being no exception. I certainly got lucky, and the way this cat was eyeing a small hole in the wall, I suspect he may have done too.
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.
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.
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.
Convenience stores are everywhere in Tokyo. Inside their bright, modern interiors, they stock pretty much everything too. But their older, more traditional counterparts, are very different. So different in fact that it’s amazing they still exist. But exist they do. And they will no doubt continue to exist for as long as their owners do.
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.