DRINKING LA VIDA LOCAL

10 Unique Local Suginami Watering Holes
[published September 2019]

There are some interesting spots within the Yamanote Line loop downtown but good luck finding them in the rabbit warren that Tokyo is, and when you do, plan on fighting other tourists for a seat. Don’t get me wrong it’s great to meet other people from around the world, but you came to Japan to experience its people and real Tokyo culture. Suginami is one area where Japanese people actually live in Tokyo, so you’ll experience authentic modern living but with a heavy dose of nostalgia in the mix. When you are tired of the crowds and are ready for a unique experience drinking with locals, come out to Suginami and live la vida local. Suginami is just 10 minutes from Shinjuku on the Chuo Line and has 4 main stations: Koenji, Asagaya, Ogikubo, and Nishi-Ogikubo. I’ve lived in this area for almost 20 years so here are 10 visitor friendly places to get you started, but I am sure you will stumble on other places along the way.

Handsome Shokudo (Nishi-Ogikubo)

Thai food and drinks Showa style.

Nishi-Ogikubo is known for antiques and quite a few interesting curry shops. Located in the best place to drink in Nishi-Ogikubo, Yanagi-Koji street, Handsome Shokudo transports you back in time to Showa Era Japan but with a little twist: They serve Thai food! The restaurant is situated in an old house. The 2nd floor provides interesting views of the narrow street below and you really feel connected with everyone else in the nearby restaurants. Try some Thai beer or the Phak Chi Ume cocktail which is a refreshing fusion of coriander, a typical Thai ingredient, and traditional Japanese plum wine for only 400 yen. To reach this casual, charming cafe, head out the south exit of Nishi-Ogikubo Station.

Price:

most meals under ¥1000, phak chi ume liquor ¥400
Address:
3 Chome-11-5 Nishiogi-minami, Suginami, Tokyo
Distance from Station:
2 minutes from JR Nishi-Ogikubo Station, South Exit
Phone:
03-3335-5468 (Japanese only)
Open:
Weekdays 6:00pm - 1:00am, Weekends 5:00pm - 1:00am
Communication:
Japanese and conversational Thai available.

Yakitori Ebisu (Nishi-Ogikubo)

Friendly local yakitori-ya with beer and Artisan sake.

Yakitori Ebisu is the lively go-to spot to experience a traditional yakitori joint frequented by locals. The smoky and friendly atmosphere is the main draw here and the prices are very reasonable compared to the tourist traps in central Tokyo. Yakitori is meant to be cheap eats after all. Enjoy grilled chicken, pork, beef, or vegetable skewers or try the “Iwashi Koroke”, deep fried sardine and potato croquette. For drinks they keep it simple to compliment the food, cold beer and artisan sake from all over Japan. They have 3 separate locations at the South Exit near Yanagi-Koji street of Nishi-Ogikubo, and one “satellite” shop on the North side which is a bit larger, so you should be able to squeeze in somewhere.

Address:
3 Chome-11-5 Nishiogi-minami, Suginami, Tokyo
Distance from Station:
1 minute walk from JR Nishi-Ogikubo Station, South Exit
Phone:
03-3332-2955 (Japanese only)
Open:
1:00pm - 12:30am
Website:
http://www.yakitoriebisu.co.jp/
Communication:
Basic English speaking staff available.

Turquoise Craft Beer Stand (Ogikubo)

Craft beer with heart.

Ogikubo is known for the Anime Museum and classical music, and is also a ramen mecca. While in Ogikubo visiting the Suginami Animation Museum, famous ramen shops or gardens of the area, stop by one of the oldest areas of Ogikubo, Ginza Shotengai, just north of Ogikubo Station. This quaint area features a few shops and watering holes. Turquoise Craft Beer Stand is the place to try a decent selection of Japanese craft beers. Try the chili beans and jerk chicken and wash it down with some great craft beers with the friendly local regulars. Don’t miss this hidden gem where the owner lives up to the restaurant’s motto, “Craft is Heart”.

Address:
1 Chome-4-9 Kamiogi, Suginami, Tokyo
Distance from Station:
2 minutes from JR/Tokyo Metro Ogikubo Station, North Exit
Phone:
03-5930-1888 (Japanese only)
Open:
5:00pm - 12:00am midnight、Closed Sundays
Website:
https://www.facebook.com/ogikubo.turquoise/
Communication:
Staff speak Japanese only

Ogikubo Beer Kobo (Ogikubo)

Craft beer brew pub.

Beer Kobo is a small brewery-pub where they make and serve the beer on the premises. There are actually 8 stores but each has unique beer and snacks for representing each area and some beers can only be enjoyed in each store. At the Ogikubo shop they serve at least six different kinds of beer and French cuisine in a very casual cafe/pub with unpretentious atmosphere. Try the Two Hour Course meal which includes: Aburi Bacon, Spicy Chicken, vegetable sticks with special anchovy sauce, pasta and home-brewed beer Nomi-hodai (all you can drink) for 2 hours! My suggestion is the original Uguisu Beer. The color resembles the matcha-like green Japanese Bush Warbler. You can taste the flavor of beer and green tea. Like the Japanese bush warbler, Uguisu Beer is only available in spring.

Price:

with meal around ¥2,000, 2 hour course ¥4,500
Address:
5 Chome-23-6, Ogikubo, Suginami, Tokyo
Distance from Station:
2 minutes from JR/Tokyo Metro Ogikubo Station, South Exit
Phone:
050-5595-8539 (Japanese only)
Open:
Tuesday to Friday 5:00pm - 11:00pm, Saturday 3:00pm - 11:00pm, Sundays & holidays 3:00pm - 9:00pm, Closed Mondays
Website:
http://ogikubobeer.blogspot.com/
Communication:
Staff speak Japanese only but English menu is available.

Tachinomi Futa-Kun (Asagaya)

Super cheap tachinomi (standing bar) experience- Beer, sake, shochu-based drinks.

Asagaya is known as a festival town including the Asagaya Nomiya Festival, where you can drink at over 100 bars for 3 days! Asagaya has a reputation for being welcoming to outsiders. Futa-Kun sits in the middle of Star Road, Asagaya’s most popular nightlife shotengai (shopping street), which is filled with small bars and restaurants. The place is packed with friendly locals drinking mostly Japanese beer, sake and super cheap shochu-based drinks. When you walk in you will immediately notice the “yatai” food truck parked in the middle of the cafe and the many small “masu” boxes (originally used to drink sake), that decorate the walls given to each customer to put their money in. Upon putting your money in your box and ordering your first drink, the bartender rings the huge bell and everyone greets you! Kanpai! Food includes cheap sushi, yakitori, and assorted sides. This is a very casual standing style pub famous in Japan, which makes for a lively and interactive night.

Address:
2 Chome-12-5 Asagaya-kita, Suginami, Tokyo
Distance from Station:
2 minutes from JR Asagaya Station, North Exit
Phone:
03-3337-0370 (Japanese only)
Open:
3:00pm - 12:00am
Communication:
English speaking staff available.

Bar Kazu (Asagaya)

Assorted Niigata regional cuisine, Spanish, and Japanese food, wine and drinks

Just next door to Futa-Kun on Star Road is Bar Kazu. The staff is extremely friendly, accommodating and generous and the atmosphere is bright, cheerful and lively with many locals visiting every day! This is the place to try some Japanese wine or a variety of other traditional Japanese drinks. Food includes various Spanish style tapas and dishes from the Niigata region of Japan, which is known to be very healthy and nutritious. Try some snow-aged vegetables, beef or pork. The 200 year old snow-aging tradition is said to improve the taste, texture, smell and nutritional value of the food. My recommendation is to try the Niigata beer, wine, or sake but there are many other Japanese drink choices. Drinks come in normal and cheap enormous size (two hands required).

Price:

Drinks from ¥400, food from ¥300
Address:
2 Chome-12-6 Asagayakita, Suginami, Tokyo
Distance from Station:
3 minutes walk from JR Asagaya Station, North Exit
Phone:
03-3330-6090 (Japanese only)
Open:
5:30pm - 2:00am daily (Last orders by 1:00am)
Website:
https://barlkazu.owst.jp/en/
Communication:
Staff speak Japanese only.

Gift Shokudo (Asagaya)

Regional Japanese food and sake.

As you walk into Gift Shokudo the atmosphere is stylish, modern Japanese decor where customers and staff are warm and welcoming. Located a short walk down Pearl Center shopping street south of Asagaya station, Gift Shokudo’s concept is to provide a place where anyone can explore regional and seasonal nihonshu (Japanese sake), and Japanese food at reasonable prices. There are many interesting types of nihonshu from classic to modern and even newly emerging nihonshu starting from 380 yen. There are many other choices of drinks as well, but here the specialty is sake from different regions of Japan. Basically there are 3 general categories of nihonshu: dry, sweet (amakuchi), and “spicy” (karakuchi). The food menu varies seasonally and includes various Japanese dishes.

Address:
1 Chome-34-12 Asagayaminami, Suginami, Tokyo
Distance from Station:
5 minutes from JR Asagaya Station or Tokyo Metro Minami-Asagaya Station
Phone:
03-5913-7781 (Japanese only)
Open:
Monday- Friday 5:30pm - 3:30am, Saturday (and days before holidays) 4:00pm - 3:30am, Sunday 4:00pm - 11:30pm
Website:
https://www.giftsyokudou.com/
Communication:
Some staff can speak a little English.

Bar Tico (Koenji)

“Stand Up Please!” spirit based fermented fruit and spice cocktails to nuts.

Koenji is known as a bohemian used clothing, art and music town, and home to the Tokyo punk rock scene. Bar Tico is another tachinomi-ya (standing bar) that in warm weather opens onto Koenji Street under the railroad tracks. Tico feels like you stepped into a modern version of a saloon. Huge bottles of spirit based fruit and herb infused fermented liquor, line the bar and walls, like some experimental libation laboratory. For a Japanese experience try the Katsuobushi-Konbu (dried bonito and kelp) infused special. Drinks are all mostly 500 yen and can be drunk straight, on the rocks, or with soda or tonic. There is a 300 yen cover charge that includes “tabe-hodai” (all you can eat ) nuts, crack them open and enjoy the cathartic feeling of throwing the shells on the floor, just like a real saloon!

Price:

¥300 "otoshi" charge (includes nuts)
Address:
3 Chome-68-1 Koenjiminami, Suginami, Tokyo
Distance from Station:
4 minutes from JR Koenji Station
Open:
7:00pm - 2:00am
Communication:
Sometimes English speaking staff available

Cocktail Shobo (Koenji)

Koenji’s Book Bar with literary cocktails.

Step back into the Taisho Era in this 100 year old row house where this used book bar and izakaya restaurant is nestled. The atmosphere is quiet, nostalgic and reflective. They have various options for food and drink but Cocktail is famous for “Literary Cuisine”. Try the Hemingway Sour or maybe an Edogawa Ranpo Sour named after author Tarō Hirai’s pseudonym. He was influential in Japanese mystery fiction and a fan of Edgar Allan Poe (his pseudonym sounds like Poe’s name).The izakaya bar doubles as a used bookstore so turn off your phone, grab a book, step back in time, and enjoy this classic Koenji haunt.

Price:

Drinks: from ¥500, Food: from ¥250, + extra cover charge
Address:
3 Chome-8-13 Koenjikita Suginami, Tokyo
Distance from Station:
5 minute walk from JR Koenji Station, North Exit
Phone:
03-3310-8130 (Japanese only)
Open:
Dinner daily 5:00pm - 11:00pm, Lunch Thursday - Monday 11:30am - 3:00pm
Website:
http://koenji-cocktail.info/
Communication:
Staff speak Japanese only, basic drink menu in English

S.U.B. Store (Koenji)

Used books, records, and Indonesian food and drink.

S.U.B Store is a used book and record store, a space for both Japanese and foreign live musicians and DJ’s to perform, and a gallery for artists to exhibit their works. This is a great place to mix with local creatives! It’s owned by a guy from Indonesian, Andhika and his Japanese wife Kumi, so of course you can find Indonesian food (which includes vegetarian fare), Indonesian coffee and Indonesian beer, as well as drinks like the Bali cocktail. Depending on the event the atmosphere changes from relaxed to a bit crazy. Come listen to some music, dance, get some good suggestions about the local area, meet other travelers, and make fast friends.

Address:
3 Chome-1-12 Koenjikita, Suginami, Tokyo (Miyao Building 2nd floor)
Distance from Station:
3 minutes from JR Koenji Station
Phone:
080-3496-3883 (Japanese/English/Indonesian)
Open:
12:00pm noon - 11:00pm, Closed Tuesdays
Communication:
Japanese, English, Indonesian
  • no-smoking
  • no-credit-card