Oasaka, Joso district.
You may notice the small sign in the middle of this picture reading "Juso Torys Suntory". This lane is located in the Juso red-light district in Osaka. Here is the sole survivor of a long bygone era, when Suntory whisky bars, named torys bars could be found all over Japan. Of the hundreds of Torys bars that dotted most of Japan in the 50s' and 60s', you'll find today only one remaining : the Torys bar of Juso, Osaka ...
Let's have a look at this recent Suntory history : As we know, Shinjiro Torii, Suntory's founder was at the same time a passionate whisky lover
and a smart entrepreneur. After the war, as whisky was getting trendier in Japan, he wanted to speed the access of ordinary Japanese (especially of the hard-working salarymen) to his whiskies and decided to open countless bars across the country, named "Torys bars" where (mostly) men could have an after-work relaxing time drinking whisky. The first of these bars were opened in 1955 in Osaka and Tokyo and were to become a staple of post-war Japan. How many wives have patiently waited for their husband to come home while he was sipping glass after glass in a crowded Torys bar with his work mates... To give you an idea of the success of these whisky bars in Japan, consider the figures : 1500 such Torys bars were established in the 50s' and early 60s'... Many Suntory commercials were shot to promote the trendy drink since that era, like this one. This other one seems to show the flushing effect of whisky, even the house glows at the end (and the gender roles...the wife serves and the husband gulps.
The commercials on the right feature Coppola and Kurosawa enjoying Suntory whisky during the shooting of Kagemusha. Kurosawa seems to have enjoyed the sponsorship of Suntory, and we can even say that 2 generations of Copollas have had a crush for Suntory whiskies if we consider the thread of Lost in Translation, whose director is Sofia Coppola...Listen to the amplified sound of the ice cubes knocking together in the commercial. Uncle Torys, the character created by Ryohei Yamagihara for the Suntory whiskies commercials in the 1950s' was an icon of postwar Japan. After years working with Suntory, Ryohei Yamagihara brought his talent to the Mitsui OSK Lines, a Japanese cruise-ships and freight-ships company. A Ryohei Yamagihara Museum is devoted to his artistic work there.
I read somewhere that this bar is a time capsule straight from the late 50s' and we could check it by ourselves : nothing seems to have changed, the bar, the stools or the wall covering. There's only maybe the flat TV hanging above for to distract the eventual lonely drinker. It is a very narrow bar going deep into the building. Its dim-lit lighting makes you feel relaxed even before you ordered the real stuff.
The prices for a glass of whisky go from 340 Yen to 3890 Yen. The Yamazaki 12-Year Single Malt for example costs 980 Yen. I set my choice on a Suntory Royal 15 Years at 770 Yen while B. chooses a macerated kaki drink, a 11°-alcohol tile-colored, lightly sugary drink. This is a traditional fermented beverage in Japan and it is made in winter because of the low alcohol. After we chatted a few minutes while sipping our glass, he offers us to try his "owner's cask". B. is careful with the hard spirits but I say yes! of course. Suntory's owner's cask is a Single Malt whisky that Suntory releases by the cask to buyers ready to pay the money for it. Mr Eiji Egawa bought an Owner's Cask 1993 for 1 000 000 Yen (6350 Euro or 9640 USD) with the help of a 100 of his patrons and they shared the precious spirit. Owner's cask prices go from 500 000 Yen to 30 000 000 Yen depending of the millesime and the type of whisky. I am thrilled by the offer and I sip it with relish. This is a 57° proof, nothing, no water added and it gets down the throat pretty well.