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Traveling on the Sobu Line: Destination Asagaya

December 4, 2010

Whenever you open a guidebook about Tokyo you will most likely see the SAME neighborhoods highlighted over and over and over and over and over and over and ….. you get the point. One of the reasons can be attributed to the companies themselves.  I have a writer friend who asked me once, “Have you been to Odaiba?” I was like, “Yeah, why?” He said, “I wrote an article about it, but I haven’t been. I just looked around online for information about it.”


Yeah, you can look around on the net and piece together info about almost any town in Tokyo. Even when I read the local English magazines they always have a question like, “What’s your favorite place in Tokyo?” You’ll hear someone say, Kichijoji, Shimokitazawa, Koenji, or if they are young and into chasing girls, Shibuya.  If they love to party you’ll hear Roppongi and Shibuya. Although, I don’t hear too many touting the benefits of going to Roppongi.

One thing I really love doing is going to another part of the city on my mama chari (granny bike).  Sometimes, in the trendy neighborhoods I feel a bit like a loser. I mean, hear I am riding around with a skateboarding helmet and a humongous bike made out of steel without any gears on it. All the other guys have skinny jeans, skinny bikes, with skinny wheels, and a delivery bag slung over their shoulder!  Nevertheless, I enjoy riding through town.  One area that I’ve been to a few times has been Asagaya. It’s actually in the neighborhood of some of the trendier or “hipper” spots in town, but I haven’t heard too many people talking about it.

Well, in honor of my birthday I wanted to hit the town with a few of my band mates and some friends.  My main destination was Showababy. Showababy is a retro bar whose decor comes from album covers set in the late 50s and early 60s.  The walls are painted red and the bar only has one table in it and a long counter. They serve typical Japanese bar food, karage (fried chicken nuggets), tripe, sliced tomatoes with mayonnaise, gizzards, oden (radish, fish rolls, boiled eggs, etc.) stewed in broth, and yakitori (chicken skewers).  I love Showababy for that slightly left behind feeling that I get when I go in there.  But before everyone arrived I took some time to stroll through the back streets and check out the scene.

Walking through the back streets is a maze of old shops and new tucked in corners and in alleyways long forgotten. The back roads are filled with homes that have been turned into small shops. The best one was an eco-themed store that had tons of handcrafted items for sale.  I walked past a long line of customers waiting for ramen. That’s actually not surprising in Japan. If a restaurant was featured on a television show, you can be assured that the next day there will be a line snaking onto the next block for that place. Well, this time there was a ramen shop selling food for 100JPY! Can you believe it? I didn’t wait around, but I was tempted.

I saw a few other small restaurants a place called, Meat Pasta! It’s a tiny storefront and they sell just what the sign said.  I asked my friend Kenji and he said, “It’s terrible, Hasegawa-san and I went there and left angry.”  That may be why there were so few customers at that place.

Anyway, I met up with my friends at the station and headed into the heart of the city.  Unfortunately, Showababy was closed! What a way to start an adventure! I brought these people out here to Asagaya and now they are going to be bored to death.  Then we went into a small shot bar. One of my first questions was, “Does this place have a seat charge?” Quite a few places charge you just to sit. This place charged you 200 JPY per hour to sit, about $1.50 with today’s exchange rates. The steep sitting fee and the musty, dank smell of that place made us all leave.

Then we headed back out onto the city streets. I could hear the sounds of some kind of Beale Street jazz playing. I felt like I was in St. Louis and everyone was throwing beads. But I wasn’t, I was in Asagaya and there on the street corner was a six-piece band called, Strings Club.  These guys were great. My feet were tapping already.  Unfortunately, we kept walking and ran into someone we knew who told us to go to this bar that a foreigner owns.  We went, there was a 3-string jazz group performing. The drinks were reasonable and the seating was good. But I was looking for a more raucous evening. I wanted to meet strange people and drink and talk with them about nothing.  We sat for what seemed like hours and listened to this group. They were actually pretty good, it’s just that Friday is not the day to get me to sit down and listen to jazz. It’s been a long week and I need sleep.

So we stayed for a bit and went back to the Strings Club.  Strings Club was, dare I say it, totally rad! They were packing up to leave when a friend asked them to play a few more tunes! Boy was I relived when they took out their horns, washboards, and steel guitars and started jamming once again! From Happy Birthday to that famous classic, Oh, When the Saints Come Marching In, Strings Club rocked it!!! We were dancing with the elderly and enjoying one of life’s little surprises!

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5 Comments leave one →
  1. December 4, 2010 2:43 AM

    that was an interesting article 🙂

    • roadlesswandering permalink*
      December 7, 2010 4:40 PM

      Thanks for reading, much appreciated! Rhymin!!!!

  2. Aaron B. permalink
    December 5, 2010 1:08 AM

    I will have to go back. It was a good time. It is on my “to do” list. BTW, nice pics (grin)!

    • roadlesswandering permalink*
      December 7, 2010 4:40 PM

      Let me know how to add your photo byline and I will do it! Thanks for reading!

  3. roadlesswandering permalink*
    December 7, 2010 4:37 PM

    Photos are by Aaron Baloney! If you like, get at me and I will let him know!

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