Sunday, August 11, 2019

Izakaya 「Daruma」in Monzen-Nakacho

My Tachinomiya research has been greatly influenced by Yoshida Rui and especially his Sakaba Hourouki TV show on the TBS networks. Yoshida calls himself a 「酒場ライタ」 or "Tavern writer." In a typical 15 minute show he starts out at an easily accessible train station, explores local landmarks and/or rare shops in the area before arriving at an izakaya or "traditional Japanese pub." Here he drinks, eats, interacts with the owner of the shop and regular customers, typically getting a little drunk in the process. While Japanese TV is full of food shows, Yoshida's approach is interesting/entertaining and real. He then leaves the izakaya with some final comments and then presents a haiku about his adventures that day. Remember, this is all in a 15 minute show. He's been doing it since 2003 and he is still popular. I have called his approach ethnographic, in the spirit of autoethnography and Gonzo Anthropology.

So, before my recent trip to Tokyo I researched the records of all the izakaya that Yoshida has visited in Tokyo. I have never had any luck finding a good place (in terms of good food, good drink, friendly atmosphere) in Tokyo as opposed to my many successes in Osaka. I remembered one episode in particular about a shop called Daruma in Monzen-Nakacho. It was featured on episode #226 first aired on December 3, 2007. It seemed to meet all of my criteria so I went to check it out.

And it was great! All that I wanted! Everyone was very nice and friendly. Lots of regulars were there. The place was packed on an early Monday evening. It was like a big family.

I tried Hoppy for the first time. Hoppy tastes like beer but is considered a nonalcoholic beverage. You are supposed to mix it with shochu (which is usually 25-30% alcohol). Hoppy is popular at izakayas in Tokyo. I have never seen it in Osaka. If you like beer, you should like Hoppy...

I left Daruma both happy and sad. Happy that I finally found a great izakaya in Tokyo and that I made new friends there. But I was sad to leave. I was sad that I didn't go to Daruma earlier in my visit (and then return every night). As I walked to the train station I looked down a few narrow streets and saw lots of interesting looking izakaya, tachinomiya and other shops. As it turns out (I didn't see it during my trip) The Japan Times ran a story about Mozen-Nakacho while I was in Tokyo.

"The little curiosities of Monzen-Nakacho," The Japan Times, 8/2/19.

Monzen-Nakacho is considered to be a shitamachi, an area not destroyed in the war, are associated with common people and have a retro feel. To me, this is the real Japan. So much to explore in this area...

See also "Exploring Old Tokyo: 4 Best Areas to Experience a Different Side of Japan! - Kiyosumi-Shirakawa and Monzen-Nakacho"

When I have to return to Tokyo, this is the area where I will stay.

1 comment:

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