This is yet a a couple metro stations outside the Yamanote district, but on the other side of Tokyo : here is a low-buildings neighborhood with lively narrow streets and few cars, the area is residential, thickly inhabited and with its own gentle character. I discovered the place years ago and even though I didn't visit it often, it's one of my favorite spots in this town.
I had called Terumi who lives in the area so that we could go out for a drink and find another casual bar, we had taken a few addresses including a few ones provided by John W. who has a good experience with these, but we actually decided to try this one which was very close to the train station, it was cold and this would leave us with more time with Terumi. She is initially a friend of B. and one of the first friends she made in this country when she settled for a few years in Japan, and I know Terumi is a perfect companion to go to places, she enjoys going out for sure...
The Japanese people are pragmatic and mix tradition with modernity without bothering too much with esthetics, and these PVC strip plastic were protecting so much better from the cold than the traditional Noren shop curtains. They were scratched and worn enough to keep a bit of privacy for the patrons and were doing a good job to keep us warm.
Shimokitazawa is really a gem of a neighborhood, low key with its small street and mostly devoid of tall buildings, the kind of area you wish to live in (mabe at some distance of the most frequented alleys). But some people in the city or region administration have had bright projects for Shimokita and would like to cut through the thickly-built area to open a few large roads, not really something people who love this neighborhood dream of. Some residents, native or not, have grouped together to fight off the threat on their town, and even though the remodeling project has been around for years, no real decision has been firmly taken yet.
Vimeo video on the left was found on likeafishinwater.com (I think you can have a glimpse at Techan at min 6:52)
On the other side of the square counter, a bunch of salarymen were raising their glasses while eating their yakitori. This place opened 9 years ago, they serve sake, beer and wine.
The guys working in this tachinomi weren't Japanese, it takes a native to spot that because as they're from Asia and we Westerners don't always catch the difference, you need to notice their speaking Japanese with a foreign accent or other details. If I remember well they were possibly from Vietnam or this part of Asia, according to my friends.
A few prices for the food :
Plates of chicken (105 Y), fried tofu (105 Y), saussage (105 Y), pork ribs (210 Y), Nikomi (tripes) 315 Y, boiled egg 105 Y, Yakitori 105 Y each (chicken, skin, heart, liver etc...), plain tofu 315 Y, fried tofu 210 Y, saucisson 315 Y, plus other yakitoris (duck, mutton etc...) at 315 Y each.
Notice that the small plate under the glass (not really a masu, not as deep) was also overflowed with sake, but it won't add much when you put it back into the glass. But this sake was good.
There were these two girls sitting along the counter and at one point I think one of them took our picture with her cell phone.
Here are a few prices for the drinks : Sake Sawanoi 600 Yen a glass; other Nihon-shu (sake) : Tai Heizan 410 Y, Yamanato Orochi 525 Y, Tamano Hikari 525 Y.
Red or white wine : 410 Y a glass. Ebisu beer, 525 Y; Hopi (shochu mixed with drink) 315 Y; Shoukoshu (Chinese sake) 215 Y; 5 different types of regional shochu (quite trendy these days) 525 Y;
If I remember we paid each about 1200 Y (8,45 € or 11,6 USD) for two glasses of sake and some shared plates, a pretty good deal.