November 13, 2008
Nostalgia for the postwar era has revived the market for vintage snacks and toys. From 200-year-old shops to gleaming mega-malls, everything old in Tokyo is new again
Golden Gai in Shinjuku is one of the few places left to drink in a timeless Tokyo atmosphere, but most of the bars are small, serve a regular clientele, and can be intimidating for first-timers. For an English-friendly but authentic Showa-style watering hole on the east side of town, head to Honjo Kaeruhonpo Candy Shop and Restaurant. To go along with the dagashi it serves out front, this Ryogoku eatery takes up the mantle of the neighborhood obachan by serving up freshly cooked monjayaki, the thinner, east-Tokyo cousin of okonomiyaki, for only ¥300. Owner and cook Gen-san has spent time in America and can speak excellent English—and if you’re looking to have a cheap date, you can even buy the dagashi out front and enjoy it with a beer at the bar or in the tatami-mat rooms.
Foreigners who possess a little more courage (and Japanese ability) might want to try Manpuku Shokudou, under the centrally located Yurakucho concourse, which claims to have nary changed in feel over 50 years, though the prices have taken a substantial hike. Old movie posters cover the walls, and advertisements for inexpensive liquor remind you how cheap it was to get drunk back then.
Of course, it’s still pretty cheap to get drunk in Showa style today, as retro-modeled chain pubs like Hanbey or Haikara-ya have menus full of drinks costing only a couple hundred yen, as well as inexpensive retro drinks like Denki Brans or Highballs. Hanbey has several items for under ¥100, including a basket full of crispy sautéed crickets. Eating instant chicken ramen with raw egg at the end of the meal is a mandatory nightcap/hangover reducer.
But if you’re really in the mood for more dagashi at the end of the night, the Dagashi Bar chain, with a few locations in central Tokyo, might be just what you’re after. All-you-can-eat dagashi—over 100 varieties—is free of charge with the purchase of a drink; simply dig into any one of the many baskets around the bar. These venues are consistently rowdy, especially the Ebisu branch, which often has customers getting up to frantically search the baskets hanging around other tables. The cheap, bite-sized, and addictive nature of dagashi can do that to a person.
Daiba Itchome Shotengai Decks Tokyo Beach, 1-6-1 Daiba, Minato-ku. Tel: 03-3599-6500. Open daily 11am-9pm. Nearest stn: Odaiba Kaihin Koen. www.odaiba-decks.com/ichome
Ebisu Dagashi Bar 1-13-7 Ebisu Nishi, Shibuya-ku. Tel: 03-5458-5150. Open Mon-Sat 6:30pm-4:30am, Sun & hols 6pm-1am. Nearest stn: Ebisu. For other locations, see www.servicemart.co.jp
Ewatari 3-4-12 Kinshi, Sumida-ku. Tel: 03-3623-0479. Open Mon-Fri 9:30am-8pm, Sat-Sun 10:30am-8pm. Nearest stn: Kinshicho. www.ewatari.jp
Haikara Yokocho 3F Yokohama World Porters, 2-2-1 Shinko, Naka-ku, Yokohama. Tel: 045-212-3153. Open daily 10am-9pm. Nearest stn: Minato-Mirai (Minato-Mirai line). www.yim.co.jp/shop/3f011.html
Hanbei B1F, 1-6-8 Dogenzaka, Shibuya-ku. Tel: 03-3464-0775. Open daily 5pm-3am. For other locations, see www.hanbey.com
Honjo-Kaeruhonpo 1-8-6 Kamezawa, Sumida-ku. Open Mon-Fri 10am-2:30pm (lunch), 5-11pm (dinner), Sat-Sun and hols 5-10pm. Nearest stn: Ryogoku. http://homepage3.nifty.com/kaeruhonpo/english.htm
Inokuchi Shoten 1-18-11 Higashi-Nippori, Arakawa-ku. Tel: 03-3807-4321. Open Mon-Sat 9am-5pm, closed Sun, hols and first, third and fifth Sat. Nearest stn: Minowa. www.inokuchi.net
Itchome Ichibanchi B1 Alta, 3-1-3 Higashi-Ikebukuro, Toshima-ku. Tel: 03-3989-7857. Open daily 10am-8pm. Nearest stn: Ikebukuro. www.sunshinecity.co.jp/sunshine/tn/detail/detail_t0156.html
Kamikawaguchi-ya 3-15 Zoshigaya, Toyoshima-ku. Tel: 03-3980-9779. Open daily 10pm-6pm (summer hours), 10pm-5pm (winter hours), closed on rainy days. Nearest stn: Zoshigaya.
Komori-ya 3-5-8 Kuramae, Taito-ku. Tel: 03-3866-7143. Open daily 9am-5:30pm, closed every second and third Sat & Sun. Nearest stn: Kuramae. nttbj.itp.ne.jp/0338667143
Manpuku Shokudo 2-4-1 Yurakucho, Chiyoda-ku. Tel: 03-3211-6001. Open Sat-Thu 11am-1am, Fri 11am-3am. Nearest stn: Hibiya. www.cinema-st.com/food/shoku001.html
Masuken Shoten 1-6-2 Kuramae, Taito-ku. Tel: 03-3862-1887. Open daily 8:30am-6pm. Nearest stn: Asakusabashi. www.tctv.ne.jp/masuken
Murayama Shoten 2-26-10 Nishi-Nippori, Arakawa-ku. Tel: 03-3806-2280. Open Tue-Sun 9am-5pm, closed Mon and third Tue. Nearest stn: Nippori.
Niki no Kashi 4-1-8 Ueno, Taito-ku. Tel: 03-3836-0777. Open daily 9:30am-7:30pm. Nearest stn: Ueno. www.nikinokashi.co.jp
Ooya Shoten 2F, 2-26-10 Nishi-Nippori, Arakawa-ku. Tel: 03-3801-2530. Open Wed-Sun 9am-5pm, closed Mon and third Tue. Nearest stn: Nippori
Shibamata Haikara Yokocho 7-3-12 Shibamata, Katsushika-ku. Tel: 03-3673-9627. Open Wed-Mon 10am-7pm, closed Tue. Nearest stn: Shibamata. www2.odn.ne.jp/shibamata
Shibasaki Shoten 4-32-7 Kuramae, Taito-ku. Tel: 03-3861-6637. Open Mon-Fri 9am-5pm, Sat 9am-3pm, closed Sun and hols. Nearest stn: Kuramae. www.dagashino-shibasaki.com