I don’t remember how I stumbled upon this five-year-old New York Times article profiling hidden Tokyo, but it’s a good one:
Tokyo, especially after dark, is notoriously hard to penetrate. With its winding mazelike streets, the city is a challenge for even seasoned taxi drivers. (Many bicyclists have GPS devices on their handlebars.) So imagine hunting down the restaurants, bars and clubs that are stashed away in patchwork alleys, nondescript apartment buildings, faceless office towers and basement stairwells illuminated by red bulbs.
Discreet, out-of-the-way bars have been a staple of Japanese culture for decades. Before World War II, Tokyo was filled with these pocket-sized dives — called nomiya (counter bars) — with space for just six or seven stools. Behind the counter was a proprietor, whose role was both confidant and caregiver to the regulars. When the city was rebuilt, however, most were bulldozed in favor of larger, glossier, more Westernized offerings.
Now a younger, postwar creative class is reviving nomiya culture — with a decidedly modern spin.
There’s a store called Not Found:
Not Found, an appointment-only clothing boutique that opened last winter, is among the latest to play this card. Wander down a main thoroughfare in Azabu Juban near Roppongi and you might stumble across it. From the sidewalk, it looks like just another concrete office building with a signless door. The rail-thin space, which carries only a few articles of precious clothing hanging behind thick-glass displays, was opened by the 33-year-old founder of a tech company as a sort of luxe closet for his closest friends.
“Imagine trying to find the words ‘Not Found’ on Google,” Ms. Fall said. “There’s about a million entries. It’s brilliant camouflage. Japanese are hobbyists and obsessives. They’ll trek to a little town so they can eat a certain type of asparagus or mushroom that’s only available a few days out of the year because that’s when it’s in season.”
Whenever I make my first trip to Tokyo, I’ll come back to this article.