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A Perfect Bar For Bananafish

“So get your mañanas tonight!”

I hope the patrons of this little all-night bar in Nishi Azabu don’t take the name too literarily, or the bartender/owner will find himself without repeat business. Which would be a shame, because it’s one of the best tiny theme bars in the back alleys of Nishi Azabu, a neighborhood better known for being home to The World’s Most Expensive Condo.

There are a number of strategies for what to do if you miss Last Train and need something to do until First Train pulls away at 5:00 in the morning. 24-hour manga cafes are the cheapster crashpads of choice, but if you’ve got the stamina and the cash – bars like this usually have a cover charge in addition to the drinks – you can walk down a single alley and dip into worlds as different as English Art Nouveau Pub with trees growing at either end of the bar and 20th Century Pop Culture. Like the seedier and more famous Golden Gai in Shinjuku, few of them seat more than 10 customers, but the atmosphere is much more laid back and welcoming, the themes much more interesting and beautifully executed.

The Bananafish features a great collection of mid-century memorabilia you could spend hours looking at if you weren’t engaged in such an interesting literary discussion with the owner/bartender.
Looking down from the mezzanine at the most beautiful bar I’ve ever been in, “These” is furnished in shelves and shelves of books, the bartender will whip you up an original cocktail based on the seasonal fruit of the moment, and if you’re lucky enough to be in a group with my friend Tadaki, you might be invited up to the secret rooftop lounge on a warm summer night to enjoy a view of Tokyo by torchlight.

If you want to visit any of these bars, maps are on my website The Tokyo Guide I Wish I’d Had.

Read a novel set in Tokyo

In the wake of a deadly earthquake, fans erupt in a frenzy of mourning when it’s discovered that their favorite pop star is among the dead. But when Detective Kenji Nakamura is sent to investigate a death at a local shrine, he finds evidence that suggests the impossible: How could the head priest have been murdered by…read more


Jonelle Patrick View All

Writing mystery books set in Tokyo is mostly what I do, but I also blog about the odd stuff I see every day in Japan. I'm a graduate of Stanford University and the Sendagaya Japanese Institute in Tokyo, and a member of the International Thriller Writers, the Mystery Writers of America, and Sisters In Crime. When I'm not in Tokyo, I live in San Francisco. I also host a travel site called The Tokyo Guide I Wish I'd Had, so if you're headed to Japan and want to check out the places I take my friends when they're in town, take a look!

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