Here is an off-centered neighborhood of Tokyo (Kita Senju) which seems to have hidden gems, at least for the unsuspecting foreigner, as the Tokyoite probably knows about the pleasures of this area. For a Parisian like me, all the neighborhoods beyond the Yamanote line are akin to the suburbs beyond the périphérique, and I am awakening to the fact that these areas are home to many islands of pleasures, Japanese style, including some that you could tag as red-light-district type...
This picture probably doesn't arouse a Japanese viewer's excitement, but from a European perspective, this pachinko parlor on the side and those neons signaling various venues and pleasures mean fun and happy drinking among an unrestrained crowd of salarymen and mixed-gender partygoers.
Kite Senju is a direct connection from either Ueno, Nippori or Nishi-Nippori, using the Chiyoda line, the Hibiya line or a JR train. Kita Senju is one of the busiest stations of Tokyo, and you know what a busy train/metro station means in Tokyo : lots of lights and venues so that the exhausted workers and employees can let the steam off before going back to their home where their wife has been waiting stoically all the evening while preparing dinner (another Japanese cliché, I know, but it always works...).
When we reached the place, I understood that we were in for a serious one, I didn't bring my tie and jacket but I almost felt like shy before sliding the door open.
This izakaya is an old classic in the field. It was founded in 1877, the 4th generation of a family business that could retain it's spirit and authenticity. If not warned, you'll not immediately spot the differences with an regular, generic izakaya, but there is a long history here, and if the outside was not enough to convince me, the inside did..
The place doesn't seem old in spite of the deep roots of this institution but the building was built in 2003. The asymetrical shoe-horse shaped counter is a good idea as it gives an interesting balance between the staff area and the patron's. At the other end of the room, you can guess the neon-lit kitchen lab where the izakaya's specialty dishes are prepared.
I don't have the list of all what is available here but I read (see link below) that a 600ml bottle of shochu cost somewhere around 1250 Y. This shochu is made by Miyanoyuki, in Miyazaki (Kyushu). This brewery also makes sake.
We ordered a jug of sake from Yamagata for 400 Y and a plate of nikomi for 320 Y (there are many different dishes, you need to read Japanese, they're displayed in vertical signs on the wall.
Soeaking of sake, it is said that in the aftermath of the big earthquake of 1923 in Tokyo, there was no water in the city and in shitamashi (the working-class neighborhoods), and the region of Yamagata sent for free lots of water to help the suffering population of shitamashi. People in these neighborhoods never forgot and many still drink only the sake from Yamagata by gratitude for this generous move...
From my European point of view this place looks very authentic, beginning with the location which is not on the expats radar, I think.