The exhibition games with the Oakland Athletics and the Seattle Mariners against the Hanshin Tigers and the Yomiuri Giants completed, Tuesday was an “off day” for the JapanBall group. In the evening our host, Japan Times columnist and Nippon TV announcer Wayne Graczyk, took us to the neighborhood of Yurakucho for a glimpse into postwar Tokyo.
Yurakucho is home to the Tokyo International Forum, a modern convention and multi-purpose center containing shops and restaurants, but the area is still filled with hole-in-the-wall izakaya and yakitori joints that occupy space under the railroad tracks of the JR Yamamote line. After an aggressive waiter convinced Wayne he had enough space for our group of 14, we dined at a yakitori establishment called Uta Ajiwai. (Technically, we ate next to the railroad tracks rather than under them.)
I tried to think of an equivalent place in New York. The closest I could get was Kenka, but Uta Ajiwai serves only yakitori. And pickles. And French fries. A couple of the posters on the walls looked to be in the Art Deco style, which I’ve been actively seeking in Tokyo as it reminds me of Japan Society’s latest exhibit, Deco Japan: Shaping Art and Culture, 1920-1945.
We sat on small stools – our tabletops supported by Sapporo beer crates – and enjoyed consuming large quantities of skewers made of chicken, pork, and mushrooms. I was the only one who ordered a taste of the motsuyaki (bowels), which seemed like a specialty in the area. Wayne made sure he ordered plenty of French fries – or patatos fried, as the English menu called them – because despite living in Japan for more than 40 years, Wayne would rather eat pizza than chicken livers.
Yurakucho is close to Ginza, a main shopping district in Tokyo. After leaving Uta Ajiwai we walked through the main drag of Ginza, which, with its upscale department stores and exclusive restaurants, can be compared to New York’s Fifth Avenue. A few of us ended the evening at a more inclusive place, Ginza Lion, a German-style beer hall.