A couple more stories on relaxed venues where ordinary Tokyoites go out for a glass before heading home (Tokyo's unexplored wonders).
These two cheerful girls look small holding this bottle of sake but the trick is that this is a traditional 1,8-liter bottle, the type you always get your sake from in the popular Japanese venues like the izakayas and tachinomis (standing bars).
This entry is again about one of these Japanese bars in Tokyo conveniently located near the myriad of train or metro stations so that salarymen and other male employees can have a few glasses with colleagues before heading home in the suburbs. Typically this one is located in a non-descript street where you'd have pain to think it's worth a detour when you get around it on day time (see Google's street view of the place). Tokyo is in many ways the opposite of Paris, no exciting history thoughts in the observation of streets and buildings but behind the walls you find age-old ways that survived modernization. And like often in Asia where architecture and buildings rarely go beyond the functional requirements, a bland street lined with aging concrete facades turns into a more lively place at dark where your attention goes to the red lanterns and smoky rooms behind the glass doors.
This standing bar is located right under the railroad tracks of the Kinshicho station on the Sobu line. To find the station on this Tokyo metro map, you must first locate Akihabara station on the Yamanote line (the black-and-white one on the map), you can catch the Sobu line there and Kinshicho is only 3 stations eastward. Kinshicho is one of these entertainment/red-light districts that remain under the radar for foreigners.
I was led to the venue by an experienced Tokyoite but if you're on your own in this big city, you can train your eye to spot the sort of sign like the one on the right, the two people standing and holding a glass mean you have here a tachinomi, or standing bar. You don't need to be in the most famous Tokyo neighborhoods like Shinjuku or Ueno to find these places, large stations and railway junctions outside the yamanote in the suburb also have plenty of them.
To make a better use of the visit to this neighborood we had gone to what is one of the largest Daiso 100-Yen shop with 3300 square meters filled with products costing 100 Yen (70 euro-cents or 97 USD-cents). This big discount shop is located at the 7th story of the Arcakit Knishicho building (see map), a vertical shopping center right outside the station in Kinshicho. The detour was a good alternative to the famous multi-story Daiso store located on Takeshita-dori in Harajuku with possibly even more choice.
We ordered sake and a couple of small plates like usual, and enjoyed bathing in the growingly-happy ambiance. These salarymen would laugh, speak loudly and also occasionally light a cigarette (like the one on the right), something that has just vanished in France's bars-tabacs because of laws put in place by ecology-minded and health-minded politicians dreaming of a bland, zero-risk society. The rule of law is not the first thing that comes to mind when you think to France in 2014 but this law is severely enforced, and sadly internalized by everyone. Even though I don't smoke myself I think that this is highly detrimental to a harmonious community life in the society; a cigarette will help these people let the steam off and when you go to this sort of venue or to a bar tabac in France, you should expect being exposed to some smoking and you're free not to set a foot inside. Here, these salarymen enjoy a deserved respite and no one will lecture them for smoking in public, another sign that the Japanese society is not as stringent as we may think from afar.
Back to this diamond-shaped counter in the middle of the room : look on the picture on the right, before the place filled up, you can see the inventive details of the counter with the shelf underneath for the patrons to put their briefcase or bag. I've seen these ingenious designs almost everywhere, be it for over-the-head racks or knee-level shelves.
I don't find my notes about what we ordered that evening and how much we paid, I may have bypassed this intelligence work to enjoy the place better, but you can see our glasses on this picture on left, plus the pickles to go with. The place wasn't very expensive if I remember, just a casual ordinary hangout.
The sake volume was maybe a bit smaller than in many of these standing bars, especially that they usually overflow the glass and fill the lacquered or wooden masu underneath as well. I'll try to have help from B. to translate a few things from the menu and add it later on this page. The price aspect of these bar stories is important because it highlights the fact that Tokyo is a place where you can go out without spending fortunes. Reminder : 100 Yen make 70 Euro-cents or 97 USD-cents
You can see my plastic bag underneath filled with all the junk I bought at Daiso (I'm an addict of these 100-Yen shops where I stock up for many things I use in France)