I’ve talked about it before, but one of the most disorienting things about Tokyo is when you move away from the major roads and into the side-streets. It’s also one of the neatest. In Tokyo (and much of Japan), addresses refer to the city block you’re in, not a road address you’re on, so you might be #24 in block #5 of the Chiyodo Ward, and you might be unit #708 of that address, and all that means is you’re in one of 24 non-sequential buildings somewhere in that block on the 7th floor (assuming they count the ground floor as the 1st). Basically, you need to know where you’re going, or call head to have someone from the place you’re going meet you at an easy-to-find intersection/landmark and walk you back to there (really).
Consequently, the roads within these blocks tend to be barely big enough for a Japanese Domestic-sized car (small) or a scooter, or someone walking around trying to avoid both of those things. It also means you get an intense and fantastic density of bars and restaurants, overlapping and right on top of each other, usually with a niche or theme to try and differentiate itself from its neighbours. So the top two pictures? Well, they’ve chosen the humble tanooki (large-testicled racoon) as their symbol… and really, it was hard to miss.
We were in the little area just outside of Nakano Broadway–the amazing nerd mall I wrote about in my first trip to Japan. We had finished shopping for the day around 5:30 or 6pm, and were walking back to the JR station when we decided to take a detour and see what this little area was all about. Because it was so early, most of the bars, restaurants, and izakaya (a combination of both) weren’t open yet. Above, the metal shutter-screen to the second floor bar “B-Prime Video Game Bar” was down, and their LED pixelboard was off. Next to it, a Moomin-themed establishment was also closed.
Here’s a closer look at the Moomin signage, if anyone wants to take a crack at translating I’d appreciate it…! :)
It’s not all Video Games and Comic Books though, sometimes you get an authentic nearly-30-year-old Honky-Tonk bar.
Anyway, this is just a sort of scratching-the-surface thing, and neat as they are I don’t think that this little collection is unique, in that these ‘rabbit-warrens’ of bars and restaurants were everywhere we visited in Tokyo, each one holding a hidden treasure or two. If I get to go back, I think I’m going to travel across Japan a little less and get to know some neighbourhoods a little more.