How High the Moon

How High the Moon

Would you like some dumplings with your wine and jazz, sir?


Originally published on on October 2009

James Hadfield

James Hadfield

Tokyo’s barkeeps seem to live a pretty charmed existence, until you realize how many of them also work day jobs. In the case of How High the Moon, an unorthodox wine bar in Koenji, the two guys behind the counter spend their daylight hours running their own web design company. It’s a tough juggling act, one which occasionally forces them to close shop so they can tend to other more pressing—and, presumably, more profitable—concerns. Still, if you’re going to moonlight, how better to do it than in a dimly lit pleasure pad like this?

One of the owners, Junya, used to preside over the most homey bar in the whole of Koenji, Studio Cafe Bocoboco, which was run out of a one-room apartment above the much-missed Planet 3rd. When the building housing it was earmarked for demolition, he decided to move to some more upscale premises, taking with him one of the former tenants from the same block. How High the Moon may lack the quirkiness of its predecessor, but it makes up for it by being able to accommodate more than six people at a time. You’d be surprised how often that comes in handy.

The emphasis here is on good music (mostly modern jazz) and wine, paired—of all the things—with Eastern European grub. There are three reds and a couple of whites available by the glass (approx ¥500-¥800), with the selection changing daily. Junya reels off descriptions of each, visibly cribbing from the labels as he does so: he’s not, he admits, anywhere close to sommelier level, but he’s got good taste all the same. Bottles will run you to around ¥3,000-¥7,000 for white and sparkling, and ¥4,000-¥12,000 for red; expect to come across “everything except Californian.”


How High the Moon also stocks a variety of other grapey tipples, including an excellent house sangria (¥500 per glass, or ¥1,500 for a not-quite-big-enough pitcher), port (from ¥750) and sickly-sweet botrytized wine (from ¥800). The choice of beers isn’t nearly as extensive, though it’s intriguing all the same: while other bars of a similar ilk might settle for Premium Malts or Heartland on tap, here they go instead with Lowenbrau (¥500) and the cherry-imbued Belle-Vue Kriek (a steal at ¥650).

The food menu displays a similar appetite for the esoteric. Junya spent a few months working in kitchens while travelling around Eastern Europe, during which time he picked up the basics of Slavic cuisine. He can whip up a pretty respectable Czech dumpling (¥150 for two slices, ¥400 for six) or bramborak, a potato pancake that’s like a very distant cousin of the Spanish tortilla (¥900 with pickles or camembert cheese). Other familiar staples are also present, including goulash (¥1,000), chicken paprikash (¥950), and schnitzel with mashed potato (¥900).

Wine and schnitzel—what to make of such an odd combination? Well, you’re in Koenji, after all. What did you expect?