Kanaha Ocean’s Club

Kanaha Ocean’s Club

Find a slice of Hawaii on an Omotesando back street


Originally published on metropolis.co.jp on February 2010

Photo by James Hadfield

If Tokyo had frat houses, there’d be one attached to Kanaha Ocean’s Club. The drinks are remarkably inexpensive, the food comes in hearty portions that would give a cardiologist palpitations, and the regular crew lining the bar quickly make space for anyone who stumbles across the place.

Tucked away down a back street off the main Omotesando drag, Kanaha can be a little difficult to locate—not that owner Yosuke Nakajima seems to mind. Clearly all the years he spent living in Hawaii have taken their toll, and the “it’ll get done tomorrow” attitude has followed him back to Tokyo.

“It’s a pretty simple concept,” he says. “We serve up cheap and decent food, anytime you want it. And as long as you’re drinking, you’re welcome to sit at the bar and take it all in.”

Nakajima is clearly on a mission to block out Tokyo’s glass-and-steel monstrosities and recapture some of his Pacific island youth. The ceiling is flecked with luminous marks resembling the Milky Way, traditional turtle designs adorn the walls, and the bar has a thatched roof. It isn’t immediately clear where the blue-and-yellow oil barrels fit into this Pacific idyll, but they do at least make excellent tables.

Sticking with the theme when it comes to drinks, Kanaha is one of only a few places in Tokyo that serves up Hawaiian vodka. Though it’s a tipple more commonly associated with Russia and the frigid lands of the far north, Maui also distills its own version of the liquor, Ocean Vodka, using sea water that’s desalinated after being brought up from 1,000 meters down in the Pacific, meaning that it’s untouched by pollution.

Photo by James Hadfield

As with any other drink made with only pure and unprocessed raw materials, the chances of a hangover are much reduced—and any drinker will toast to that. Try it with Maui Gold pineapple juice (¥700). Elsewhere on the drink menu, Kirin beer is ¥550 and Heineken ¥650—both including complementary Buffalo wings or chips and a selection of six dips—while cocktails hover at around ¥700 each.

Inevitably, after a few beers and test-driving the vodka, you’re going to have the munchies. A churro stick or plate of French fries (¥250) should be enough to sate a mild attack, but when the cravings begin to build, there’s plenty to keep them at bay. Though hardly traditional Hawaiian staples, the curry rice (¥550) and spaghetti carbonara (¥520) both hit the spot, and the jambalaya is a snip at ¥500. If you’re still ravenous after that, the mixed pizza (¥1,200) and/or giant dog (¥500) should leave you satisfied.

Vegetarians will no doubt be horrified at how little on the menu meets their needs, but that isn’t really the point. As Nakajima notes, there aren’t many native Hawaiians who’d turn their noses up at a hearty meat dish. Nor could we.