Another casual tachinomi or sakaba bar.
Akihabara was not in my mind the neighborhood of Tokyo that I associated with bars and even less with standing bars (tachinomi); Akihabara is known as the electronics and computer center with all sort of specialized shops and supermarkets, and I also occasionally check there the second-hand cameras in the basement of a Sofmap shop. The neighborhood which stands along the Yamanote line around the namesake station has become in the last few years the magnet for anime passionates and for the maid cafe craze.
That's why when I thought about bars, I would have pointed to the now-famous maid cafe of this area, these are cafes where men in search for a new experiences are served by lolitas dressed as maids. We actually tried to find one just for the fun and see how weird it can be, it's not hard because in several back streets of Akihabara you stumble upong young women handing flyers about these places (watch a few ones being talked to by a foreigner on this video). We asked about the possible allowance for pictures but it seems that they don't let you use your own camera, you can olny get a picture shot by their staff for something like 500 Y if I remember. The whole thing seems to be quite dull but, well, it's one of these weird Japanese things that I wanted to try nonetheless. You can watch how it looks inside on this video, although there are differences from one place to the other.
Instead of the frivolous maid cafes, we went to the valeur sûre of the Japanese bar, the tachinomi or standing bar, and this particular one is named Manseibashi. The Niku-Mansei building at the foot of which you find this standing bar is at a safe distance from the buzzing backstreets where the otakus find their anime stuff and computer shops. The people who come here seem to be working in the area, not visitors, that gives the place a local feel.
I found the pic on left on the web and the pic on the right is a Google Street View.
All these restaurants have one thing in common : beef, and the higher you climb in the building the more sophisticated the cuisine and the meat preparation will be. Many of these restaurants have some sorts of round cooking grates inlaid in the tables (picture on lef) so that each visitor can enjoy the grilling of his meat. Expect to find Kobe meat in the menu if you can afford the bill.
I found the pictures on the sides on barrych.blogspot.fr
I can almost say that this standing bar at the street level was somehow the first step to a more elaborate cuisine centered around beef. From what I understand, the restaurant complex has gone beyond its usual role and the company has secured its own production of meet at the source, and they operate a string od restaurants in several Prefectures of Japan (see the map and details on this page).
As a bar part of the Niku no Mansei, expect some prime beef at the menu : the food speciality is Age Pako, which means grilled meat, but it's mostly beef rib. You get a plate of pako for 390 Y and 3 beef skewers for 500 Y. Add a glass of sake at 460 Y and you're happy for a while.
We ordered 2 different sake : mine was a Nambu Bijin from Iwate prefecture, and T.'s was a Hatsumago from Yamagata prefecture, both poured from a 1,8-liter bottle, and both being junmai. Mine was a dry type of sake while the latter tasted like being higher in alcohol but with a very pleasant gliding feel on the palate.
According to this page of John Gauntner's e-sake, Nanbu Bijin is a family brewery sitting near pristine water reserves. I understand better this dry feel as the brewery owners decided in 1951 to stop making the common sweet sake, opting instead for "clean and beautiful" sake. I'll look out for tasting this brewery again.
the first item (eggs) was at 100 Y [78 Euro-cents], then at 120 Y you had radish, at 300 Y a plate of meat, 150 Y for popatoes with meat, 180 Y for fried tofu and 280 Y for an assortment of several things.
The TV above our heads would catch the attention of patrons from time to time, but no more than that, and for example when they aired the news about the weather. This is quite universal to see weather news on the TV, but what followed was less usual, at least for me : it was a map (pic on right) showing the pollen threat in the different areas. When you see the Japanese wearing face masks at this season it's often because of the kafunshu (hay fever) threat, and that's why these day-to-day news are strategic for the Japanese. Sakura means of course joy and happy drinking under the cherry blossom, but the unpleasant side for many is the peak in allergy-triggering pollens.
If you're coming to Japan in the pollen season, check this website for the pollen count and danger zones. You can click on the interactive map and also watch the pollen-report video (the green Kanji characters on the upper left). Better stay indoors when you're in a zone with a pollen count of 200+...