Tokyo’s tiny bars

Fancy bars are all well and good if you fancy a, erm, fancy bar. But for real atmosphere, and arguably a taste of real Japan, Tokyo’s seemingly infinite selection of tiny bars and eateries really take some beating.

tiny Tokyo bar


  1. Willy says

    That’s a goody. I often reminisce of those cozy little places … eating delicious, drinking delicious… and talking crap until the wee smalls or even later… That’s how I learnt to speak Japanese…I nice kinda education!

    • says

      I know what you mean. Bog standard izakayas are ok, but places like this are so much better. Each and every one unique.

  2. Marc says

    While I have never experienced this in Tokyo or any other large city in Japan, I have found that many of these smaller bars in smaller towns are not gaijin-friendly.

    • says

      I can well imagine. From my limited experience outside Tokyo, it’s either being treated like a long lost relative, or with the utmost suspicion. Rarely anything in between.

      • AV says

        Possibly not just a Japanese thing: I like these places and seek them out wherever – US, Britain, Spain, my own country – the welcome has always been as you describe: either surprisingly warm for a public space, or slightly scary. The suspense moment in the doorway is somewhat fun. Getting to be one of the usuals, much more so: learning Spanish from the early birds got me this terrific southern accent some years back & couldn’t even tell !

        oh well…

  3. says

    I’m 100% with you, those tiny bars, restaurants in Japan are ace and we are always on the look out for suggestions (like the Iseya restaurant you blogged about earlier.)
    But I have to agree with Marc that, fancy or shabby, the smaller restaurants can be a bit standoffish when a NJ comes at the door. IMO, they jump to conclusions that the NJ customer has no idea how to eat with chopsticks, bake an Okonomiyaki themselves or eat ramen as speedily as a Japanese (but without the slurping!) and they just cannot be bothered. The ugliest word in Japanese is 面倒くさい (mendokusai — cannot be bothered).

    • says

      Yes, get the wrong place and it can be a very different, even difficult situation. Pot luck really, isn’t it?

      As time goes by I think attitudes on the whole are slowly changing. Plus the economic situation seems to be playing a part. When times are hard and money is tight, many businesses appear more willing to accept different kinds of customers — even gaijin.

  4. MrSatyre says

    Wow, reminds me of a bar/club I visited somewhere (too long ago and too lost to remember where exactly!) on my first trip to Tokyo. It was up on the 4th floor and couldn’t have been any larger than 1o feet wide and about 30 feet long and was absolutely packed to the breaking point with loud drunks. I and a buddy were hunched over a tiny table with two Japanese girls and we were all jammed right up against a window with no glass or bars in it. I was completely torn between ogling the girls and biting my nails over the certain death drop if one more person crowded into the place and pushed us out!

    • says

      Blimey. That sounded like quite a place. The type of experience you are very glad you have had, but never want to repeat!

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