Tourists get taste of old Japan at hidden ‘snack bars’

TOKYO   -   Down a Tokyo street lined with bright signs, up narrow stairs and behind a windowless door is a “snack bar” long cherished by regulars but hidden from tourists -- until now. Snack bars are cosy, retro establishments found across Japan, often crammed into small buildings and equipped with karaoke systems that echo late into the night. They are typically run by a woman nicknamed “mama” who chats to customers while serving drinks with nibbles such as nuts, dried squid or simple cooked dishes. Despite being a fixture of Japanese nightlife since the post-war era, the tucked-away bars’ tight space can be intimidating, especially for people who don’t speak the language. So one company is offering guided tours to snack bars like Kuriyakko, in the capital’s Shimbashi business district. Inside, dim lights reflect warmly off the red wall tiles, illuminating an art-deco poster as an American family belts out “Hey Jude” and “Take Me Home, Country Roads”.

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