Different Ways to Drink a Bar Dry
When I first moved to Japan back in 2006, I lived in the mountainous depths of Nagano prefecture, in a small city where pretty much the only entertainment (apart from running, jumping and skipping about the beautiful scenery) was to be found at the bottom of a beer glass. And there were so many ways you could drink that beer – snack bars, hostess bars, rock bars, karaoke bars, dubious gangster hangouts, little mom and pop bars, Vietnamese cafe/bars, organic sake bars. My favourite bar 4545 (yon-go yon-go – the height of a Himalayan mountain whose name evades me) won my heart immediately when I walked in and found a tiny Indonesian-themed bar blaring Metallica over the stereo and serving South-east Asian food to the local musicians. The ancient Mama-san, Keiko, and I would spend quiet evenings together eating Vietnamese spring rolls, playing heavy metal CDs and discussing how tight Steve Vai’s leather trousers were. I recall her being particularly taken with a dream I told her about which featured me and Slash going partying in LA, so much so that she ripped a picture of Slash out of one of her heavy metal mags and gave it to me. I also give her all the credit/blame for getting me hooked on Whitesnake.
Nowadays in Tokyo, there’re still plenty of ways to get those beers in, but I always return to the same place – partly for reasons of laziness (it’s ridiculously close to my apartment), but mostly because it’s a good bar. Gamuso in Asagaya has been around for a long time, and some of the regulars have been around before it was even called that. Spread over three floors, the bar downstairs (2F) sees most of the action on quieter weekdays, whilst the 3rd floor doubles as an art and live music space. The 4th floor is whatever it needs to be – black-light room, “backstage”, chill-out space, occasional bedroom where unfortunate casualties of too much fun pass out.
There’s something on most days of the week – art shows, live music, gay nights, improvisational theatre, awkward poetry readings, the occasional “challenging” theatre show (we’re talking attacking young men with dildos on poles, among other dubious performance pieces). My favourites are the live shows, where some of the best bands come to play, and the quarterly big group art shows where some cool artists, DJs and bands get together to pack the place to the rafters.
I was asked back in February to take some photos of the bar to appear on a TV show on the Tokyo MX station. Not having a TV, I only got to see the show a couple of weeks ago and saw two of photos were used in the 7 minute piece, so it seemed like time to write this little piece up. In addition, I’m exhibiting in the forthcoming “Colors” show next weekend – the night features and bunch of hugely talented artists, DJs, bands and will no doubt be an event to remember. You should come!