Get drunk smartly with cheap drinks! Tokyo “Senbero” bars
Tokyo’s long-established classic bar
- The Koen branch, Iseya Sohonten -
There are a wide variety of Senbero bars, and we would like to introduce here an old-style bar. We visited the Koen branch of Iseya Sohonten, located in Kichijoji City, just about 10 min. from Shinjuku by train, which has always ranked as an overwhelmingly popular residential area. This bar is often compared to a cultural legacy with its unchanged and reasonable prices along with a sense of nostalgia in a Showa-period atmosphere.
The specialty, Yakitori (grilled chicken), is offered each at 80 yen. It’s so cheap and about the same price as kids pay for snacks that they can buy. They offer Yakitori but the main item on the menu is Yakiton, skewered pork inners. Originally founded as a butcher shop, they offer cheap but tasty food.
You can enjoy various drinks, such as beer, sake, and wine. Our recommendation is shochu, which is served straight-up accompanied by plum syrup. Enjoy it by pouring in that syrup. That’s the Iseya style. With its slightly sweet taste and fresh flavor, shochu with the plum syrup makes such a perfect combination with Yakitori.
This bar opens at 12:00 noon, but the best time to visit is around 2:00 pm. It’s not that crowded, and you can enjoy a nice view of leafy Inokashira Park. Other than Yakitori, you can enjoy many other cheap and tasty dishes, such as filling Shumai (steamed pork dumplings), grilled corn with a nice flavor, sashimi chunks of tuna, and some vinegared dishes. Order what you want depending on your mood and you might get a little tipsy as you drink your second glass of shochu. Try the Tokyo’s popular bar!
Glass of shochu (220 yen) x 2; Tan (tongue, 80 yen); Hatsu (heart, 80 yen); Shiro (white giblets, 80 yen); Grilled corn (250 yen); Steamed pork dumplings (330 yen) Total: 1,260 yen
Koen branch of Iseya Sohonten
1-15-8 Kichijoji Minami-cho, Musashino City, Tokyo Tel: 0422-43-2806 OPEN: 12:00 - 22:00 CLOSED: Mondays
Gentlemen know how to get drunk smartly
- Uchidaya Nishiyama Fukunosuke Shoten -
Kaku-uchi - Of those standing bars, this is the ultimate style where you can have cheap drinks served in the inside of a liquor shop. Overall, you can drink and have snacks at sale prices or even cheaper. The Kaku-uchi drinking style is a sort of old-fashioned style. Many drinkers cried out over this fading style of drinking, but recently, it has come into the spotlight again.
“Uchidaya Nishiyama Fukunosuke Shoten” is so famous that the store has been introduced in magazines as the No.1 Kaku-uchi spot in Tokyo. This store is located in an office area near Mita Sta. on the Tokyo Metro Subway Line. This store is crowded every night with business people on their way home from work. A can of beer or a shochu-based beverage is served at the sale price plus 30 yen. With free small dishes, this store offers unusual services as the Kaku-uchi drinking style, such as opening and cutting the canned food you buy and serving it with mayonnaise or mastered.
Hirotaka Nishiyama, the store manager, who manages it alone, reveals the root of its hospitality, saying, “We have managed this store here more than 100 years, and at one time this store even had a bar. I’ve been brought up seeing such a history.” Every regular customer like him by calling him “Shacho” (president).
You can get filled to satisfaction while drinking and by spending only just 1,000 yen. This store does not have any dilapidated atmosphere that can be ordinarily experienced at other cheap bars or pubs. If some customers get noisy, other regular customers give some friendly advice before the store manager does so. But everybody who enjoys drinking here is basically kind and gentle, for instance, they kindly tell the store system to first-time customers and teach how to make a delicious Hoppy drink (mixing Hoppy with shochu makes a beer-flavored drink). It is one of the best parts of enjoying drinking here to learn how to get drunk “in a smart manner” from the Kaku-uchi masters.
A large bottle of Sapporo Lager (350 yen); 500-ml Takara Shochu High-ball (250 yen); Corned meat (300 yen); Tofu (150 yen); Boiled field mustered (Free) Total: 1,050 yen
Uchidaya Nithisyama Fukunosuke Shoten
4-7-1 Shiba, Minato-ku, Tokyo Tel: 03-3451-0386
OPEN: 17:00 - 20:00 CLOSED: Saturdays, Sundays, and Holidays
Stylish “Senbero” drinking spot with cheap but good wine
- z-b -
The mainstream of “Senbero” bars includes such old-style classic standup pubs or Izakaya bars. But now the Tokyo’s bar culture is much better than you think. There are spots where you can enjoy some wine in a sophisticated atmosphere.
Located near Sangenjaya Sta., two stops from Shibuya Sta. on the Tokyu Den-En-Toshi Line, an Italian bar, z-b, serves a glass of house wine for just 290 yen! The chef’s special western fusion dishes are also served at reasonable prices from 300 yen. You can surely enjoy drinking at low price.
“There are customers that eat and drink quite a lot, while other customers enjoy two or three glasses of wine with some snacks just like a typical Italian bar style.”
So said Hiroshi Kawase, the bar master. He is the same age as the late novelist Ramo Nakajima who popularized the word “Senbero.” Kawase has the same feeling toward the culture of getting drunk with cheap drinks established by this novelist.
“In my image was an Italian bar in New York or something like that typically seen in movies” the bar master says. Unlike ordinary cheap Senbero bars, z-b offers a cool and stylish space for customers. He also says “Our bar looks like an expensive restaurant, so some young ones hesitate to come in.”
We ordered a popular menu, fish & chips, when we visited this bar. The fried fish they served with chips was not whitefish but salmon, which was very tasty and filling. The volume of each dish here is pretty large, while you can enjoy inexpensive bottles of wine as well. Our recommendation is to share drinks and food with three people, which surely offers a fulfilling experience of the “Senbero” drinking style.
A glass of red wine (290 yen) x 2; Fish & chips (600 yen) Total: 1,180 yen
1-36-6 Sangenjaya, Setagaya-ku, Tokyo Tel: 03-3421-4494 OPEN: 18:00 - 26:00 CLOSED: Sundays