Archive for July, 2009

Northside Asagaya: Star Road

Monday, July 20th, 2009

Northside Asagaya Buchi

Northside Asagaya is a hip, bohemian enclave of easily a hundred bars, pubs, restaurants, wine bars, snack pubs, coffee shops, and assorted spots for entertainment.

Northside Asagaya ItalianSpots like Buchi Yakiniku (above), or what must be Tokyo’s narrowest Italian restaurant, the newly-opened Don Tsucchi, barely wider that its double door entrance.

Lovely little shops like the art gallery/milk bar, Inelle, (below) are crowded up against raucous-sounding bars like Jamb Jamb and bars overgrown with potted plants and lost umbrellas hanging from door jambs.Northside Asagaya Inelle

Left out of the station and left again takes you into the delta area called Star Road, the main branch of which runs parallel to the tracks. But like any great river, Star Road is fed by many smaller alleys, lanes, and passageways, all of which also seem to be named Star Road.

Northside Asagaya spare umbrellasNorthside Asagaya jazz n' booozThe bars, shops, pubs and eateries are crowded shoulder to shoulder, like passengers on a rush hour train. There are coffee shops open for breakfast and joints that open only after 10 pm, places for Japanese saké and places for “Jazz ‘N Boozz.”

Most of the places are slowly deteriorating into rust and sun-rotted wood. But the owners, both young and old, have spunk and grit: new wire will hold up a sagging sign, a poster thumb-tacked to a door will serve as remodeling, and a fresh coat of paint on the door will hopefully attract enough customers to pay the bills.

North Asagaya Star road wiresAnywhere along your way down Star Road, look up and you’ll see a Tokyo trademark—the skein of power lines and telephone wires, connecting each place to every other place in a web of electric energy.Northside Asagaya Kankara

Reserve an evening for wandering about North- and Southside Asagaya. Then, on another night, do the same for other equally worthwhile “boozz”  and nightlife destinations along the Chuo Line: Kichijoji, Ogikubo, Nishi-Ogikubo, Koenji, and Nakano.

Northside Asagaya: Fuji Lunch

Tuesday, July 14th, 2009

Northside asagaya stools verticle

Northside Asagaya is one of Tokyo’s hippest, most bohemian neighborhoods, but Fuji Lunch is definitely not hip. It’s blissfully unconcerned with trendiness.  The plastic food displays in the front window have probably changed over the decades, but most everything else—the green vinyl stools, the tile floor, the faded turquoise faux-marble counter top, and the milky light filtering through the frosted glass windows—is the same as it ever was since the early 1950s when Fuji Lunch first opened.Northside Asagaya Fuji Lunch counter chef

The chef in white toque, T-shirt, and apron will serve up standard yoshoku fare such as “Pork Sauté” (¥860), or “Mixed Grill” (¥980), or “Hamburg Egg with Rice” (¥620) with speed and aplomb. It won’t be of gourmet standard, but the cabbage will be freshly shredded, the egg newly fried, the strands of pasta recently sauced red with tomato, and the peppery meat patty probably ground and shaped that morning.

What does it mean to go out to eat? For most folks, it’s a chance to escape the small kitchens of their cramped apartments, to be waited on, to be served something different from their usual regimen of meals. And it’s the little things that will make a difference, like how the napkin is folded differently, or the chilled water glass is opaque with condensation.

Northside Asagaya Fuji Lunch egg hamburgOver the drone of the television perched atop the refridgerator, customers at Fuji Lunch read the day’s newspaper, talk with a spouse about the afternoon’s shopping,  or just silently enjoy their meal.

Most every Tokyo neighborhood has a yoshoku “Western” restaurant somewhere on the shotengai shopping street. Fuji Lunch is a classic.