Monday, October 21, 2013

Return to Tokyo: Piano Bar

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Piano Bar: A place you don't want to be when there is an earthquake



Every trip to Tokyo brings with it the promise of a new experience. Tokyo is the kind of wonderful place where you don’t want to fall into a routine and revisit too many places, because there is always something new to try. Whenever I go, I try to balance my time between a few of my default spots, and a few new locations.

This time my designer friend from Osaka accompanied me accompanied me to Tokyo with a full itinerary of places to explore. Unfortunately, I was on a business trip, so while I spent my day at a conference, she waiting in line for one hour at World Breakfast, got coffee a the Norwegian café, and attended a rare book fair.
Quite the life.

In the evening, she took me to a tiny back alley in Shibuya called the Nonbe Yokocho (drunken ally), the kind of alley one could easily overlook for a dump, especially in the glare of Shibuya’s bright lights. I almost couldn’t believe that such a tiny place is within footsteps of the Shibuya Crossing…but there it is.

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Entrance to the Nonbei Yokocho


Exit Shibuya Station at Hachiko, turn right to go under the bridge, make your first left, squeeze between a row of tiny buildings, open a large, unmarked wooden door and you’re in the Piano Bar.

The door looks like it would open up to a castle, but instead you enter a tiny red room, whose entire space is (true to its name) taken up by a piano, bar counter, and three seats. The entire bar in cast in a dim read light, which was a stark contrast to the deep navy blue of the Tokyo night sky, or the smoky gray shadows of the Nonbe Yokocho.



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A navy blue sky
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Approachig the Piano Bar
 

To the right a staircase, steep and narrow as a ladder, leads up to the second floor, where red cushions line the walls and the ceiling explodes with chandeliers, deer mounts, and oil paintings. Reminiscent of a castle’s junk room, the Piano Bar gives visitors much to behold while they sip on a champagne cocktail or blood orange juice.


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Champagne cocktail 
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Deer head
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Animal oil paintings
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The very very steep and narrow stairs
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A corner of the room
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The view from above
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Leading downstairs (photographs not allowed on the ground floor)



11:00 pm is the magic hour in Tokyo. In other words, its when the bars start to get crowded. My friend and I arrived at 10:00 pm, and we had the whole palce to ourselves for nearly an hour.  The bar felt moody and surreal until 11:00 pm sharp, when it promptly filled to capacity with ten other guests. Once they all lit up cigarettes my friend and I decide it was time to leave. Nothing like sitting inside a closet with ten smokers.


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The author of this blog

Just after 11:00 pm we spilled down the narrow stairs into the Nonbe Yokocho, which true to its name, threw a mess of drunk foreign men at us. In one of those beautiful Tokyo moments, I met a French man, two Americans, and an aid worker from Mozambique.
they invited us to go dancing with them, but instead we exchanged business cards and parted ways. Nights in Tokyo always seem to end with the beginnings of new friendships. 

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