The Cat and Cask

The Cat and Cask

A latter-day publican keeps it local in Toshima-ku


Originally published on on July 2009

 Photos by Sarah Noorbakhsh

Photos by Sarah Noorbakhsh

Tokyo offers a tremendous variety of “English-style” pubs, but it’s still a remarkable comfort to drop into the Cat & Cask for a pint of good ale. The place is simple and cozy, with a genial lack of self-consciously “British” décor and signage.

The Cat & Cask is the creation of Wayne Bickell, who arrived from the UK in the summer of 1980. Apart from a few years’ break in Britain during the mid-’80s, he taught English conversation continuously until opening the pub earlier this year. The bar occupies the living room of the recently finished home built for him and his wife Yuko in the classic British style.

Bickell got the idea to open his own place several years ago from a Japanese co-worker who had worked at a brewpub in Hawaii. “He was keen on good beer and tired of typically tasteless mass-produced beers,” Bickell says. “Soon after, I decided to take a brewing course in Chicago, during which I realized I needed a career change. Since I loved good beer, I decided to open a place of my own.”

Yuko was more interested in opening a tearoom, but English-style tea is Wayne’s least favorite beverage, so the couple went ahead and started the pub. Yuko is in charge of a small menu of food items, mostly salads and cheeses.


Wayne Bickell

One of the first requirements was creating an authentic atmosphere. “We spent a lot of time with the architect trying to get it to look like a genuine English pub, rather than the obviously fake-looking British and Irish pubs around town,” Bickell says. The goal was to make it like a “local” that you’d find in any English town: a place where people can come in after a hard day at work, sit down, and relax with a good pint of beer and a casual chat. There is no TV or dartboard, and only background music. “I want people to be able to hear themselves speak.” Bickell says.

After the first six months of business, the results are encouraging. “We have built up a group of local clientele, some of whom have never had craft beer before, but have come to appreciate the various flavors,” Bickell says. “Most of our customers have found us by accident or by word of mouth. We also have a Mixi community where we advertise the beers we currently have on tap. Our customers appreciate the smoke-free atmosphere and that there is finally somewhere to drink near their homes.”

Wayne tries to stock beers that are as near to British ales as possible, with Bass Pale Ale as the truly “British” beer. His one lager is Edel Pils, which he says is “probably the best beer from a major brewer in Japan.” The pub does a brisk business in craft beers, including pale ales, wheat ales and India pale ales, with golden ales for the summer months. At other times of the year, porters and stouts are often available on tap. At each keg change, a different variety of draft beer is unveiled.
Bickell also seeks suggestions from regular customers, and based on their preferences he’ll order something new; many of these have become quite popular. In the future, he’d like to increase the range of craft beers offered, but only to a reasonable number. “I’d rather have three or four fresh, well-kept beers than ten or more badly kept ones,” he says.

1-32-10 Kaname-cho, Toshima-ku. Open Thu-Tue 5-11:30pm, closed Wed & 3rd Sun. Tel: 03-3530-6180. Nearest stn: Kaname-cho (Yurakucho and Fukutoshin lines).