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Jude Brand
For Jude Brand's latest contributions to The Japan Times, see below:
Japan Times
LIFE / Food & Drink / BEST BAR NONE
Oct 26, 2007
Horseplay rife at Roppongi bar
I have been seeking out Tokyo's best bars long enough to have accumulated a fair-sized database on the subject. Even so, for the best part of a decade, a search with the keywords safe + sane + fun + Roppongi have turned up zero results. By safe I mean you don't have to watch your purse. By sane I mean you can talk to the person next to you without shouting. By fun I mean the person next to you would be someone you would want to talk to. And by Roppongi I mean within the first few blocks that hug the four corners of the crossing.
Japan Times
LIFE / Food & Drink / BEST BAR NONE
Sep 28, 2007
The beat goes On in Shimokitazawa
Shimokitazawa is a magnet for young musicians in Tokyo. Virtually every other kid you pass on the street totes a guitar, and it sometimes seems like half the bars — big and small — are equipped for staging live music.
Japan Times
LIFE / Food & Drink / BEST BAR NONE
Aug 24, 2007
Drinking down Azabu-Juban's heart
Azabu-Juban may be changing superficially at street level, located as it is in a valley behind the plush residential/ commercial complex Roppongi Hills, but the best of what's on offer there is still to be found behind closed doors — doors that can at first appear a bit daunting to open.
Japan Times
LIFE / Food & Drink / BEST BAR NONE
Jul 27, 2007
A lounge bar for the people
One of Naka-Meguro's best features is the Meguro River. And though, like most of Tokyo's inner-city waterways, its riverbed has been concreted to aid with storm drainage, the banks are topped with cobbled walkways and planted with mile upon mile of cherry trees. The blossoms are breathtaking when in season, but in summer their leafy boughs also offer a soothing escape from the sticky heat of the city.
Japan Times
LIFE / Food & Drink / BEST BAR NONE
Jun 22, 2007
Duck Rock rides a new club wave
In the late 1970s, a club called Tsubaki House opened on the fifth floor of an office building on the southwest corner of Yasukuni and Meiji streets in Shinjuku. At a time when disco was still the rage, Tsubaki House was one of the few venues in Tokyo doing something different.
Japan Times
LIFE / Food & Drink / BEST BAR NONE
May 25, 2007
Sangenjaya's warm afterglow
Astrophysicists may bicker over whether the universe is exploding or imploding, but it doesn't take a rocket scientist to realize that in the microcosmic world of Tokyo, expansion is the overriding force at work. Proof of this would be clearly visible from space — especially at night — as one after another of the semiurban centers that surround the city comes online as an entertainment enclave.
Japan Times
LIFE / Food & Drink / BEST BAR NONE
Apr 27, 2007
A little R&R for cosplay casualties
Cosplay has become an integral part of Japan's booming manga culture. The term generally refers to the practice of dressing up like your favorite pop-culture icon or a character from an animation or comic; think of a Trekkie convention, but with an even wider range of outfits to choose from. A quick run through Harajuku Station on a Sunday will bring you directly into contact with dozens of young practitioners -- the girls in flounced Little Bo-Peep skirts and the boys looking sullen in too much face makeup.
Japan Times
LIFE / Food & Drink / BEST BAR NONE
Feb 23, 2007
Put on your red shoes and dance
In December 1981, a small bar named Red Shoes opened in the basement of a building next to the bus stop near Nishi-Azabu crossing. Though only a stone's throw from what is now a busy intersection, in those days as soon as the sun went down the area was deserted. In terms of partying, Roppongi was the front line and Shibuya had not yet come into play, which meant that Nishi-Azabu was the middle of nowhere at night.
Japan Times
LIFE / Food & Drink / BEST BAR NONE
Dec 22, 2006
Go the whole hog this New Year's
It's almost time to whoosh your tush to the tunes of world-class DJs as we welcome in another new year. Next up in the Chinese zodiac's menagerie is the wild boar, or inoshishi, as it is known natively in Japan. The boar is best characterized by the single-minded determination and speed with which it attacks -- straight ahead at full throttle. The "wild" tag seems more pertinent to its behavior than its habitat.
Japan Times
LIFE / Food & Drink / BEST BAR NONE
Nov 24, 2006
Rooms with a top-class view
Mado Lounge sits on the 52nd floor of the Mori Tower Building in the Roppongi Hills complex. As the last stop at the top of the structure, it is a fitting location for the building's official City View attraction. For 1,500 yen, a whisper-quiet elevator smoothly whisks you to the top in less than a minute, and thus elevated, Tokyo lies prone at your feet. Other high-rises are so dwarfed that the red signal lights on top appear to blend in with the blink of traffic and neon at street level. At this time of year, they also give the city a jolly, festive look.
Japan Times
LIFE / Food & Drink / BEST BAR NONE
Oct 27, 2006
In the cool shade of the Maple Leaf
A pub is a pub, and a sports bar is a sports bar -- or so you might think. In fact, these watering holes come in subtle shades of cultural preference. All conveniently bear the bold colors of a national flag somewhere on the premises for ease of reference. No prizes for guessing which one you will find hanging at The Maple Leaf in Shibuya.
Japan Times
LIFE / Food & Drink / BEST BAR NONE
Sep 22, 2006
Sounds and surrounds of high rank
Cyril Roy is a natural-born barman. Like any professional, he makes it look easy. When he arrived in Japan six years ago, Tokyo's pub culture was bloated with English- and Irish-styled establishments serving classic and micro-brewed quaffs on tap. But Roy landed squarely on his feet, within a month, behind the bar as manager of Scruffy Murphy's in Harajuku -- which is not bad for a French national.
Japan Times
LIFE / Food & Drink / BEST BAR NONE
Aug 25, 2006
Gattaca, a utopia of good selections
Baar Gattaca is reasonably easy to find -- thanks to the blaring red banners of the bar next door. But, just to avoid confusion, the entrance is immediately to the right of this garish splash of red -- straight down the stairs to the basement. There, you will see the bar's name on the door and the tag "Now or never utopia" scrawled across it in thick white brush strokes -- like rough graffiti. But don't worry about the "members only" bit -- that's just to scare off the weak at heart.
Japan Times
LIFE / Food & Drink / BEST BAR NONE
Jul 28, 2006
Endorphin II gets the juices flowing
As any decent dictionary published after 1980 will tell you, an endorphin is "any of a group of peptide hormones that bind to opiate receptors and are found mainly in the brain. Endorphins reduce the sensation of pain and affect emotions." In other words, they make you feel good.
Japan Times
LIFE / Food & Drink / BEST BAR NONE
Jun 23, 2006
Here for your a muse ment
Though Roppongi is party central for most foreigners, Shibuya has, in the course of the last 10 years or so, emerged as a brave new challenger for the title. Even foreigners have come around to the upstart, which was originally put on the party map by a new breed of then young and restless Japanese revelers, the Shibu Kaji -- or Shibuya Casuals -- as they were dubbed by the local press.
Japan Times
LIFE / Food & Drink / BEST BAR NONE
May 26, 2006
Rock 'n' grot in the crypt
Welcome to Furanken-no-Hanayome, a freaky, style-y, junk-filled lair for insomniac rockers and creep show freaks. I thought I knew all the weird rock 'n' grot bars in Tokyo, but this one somehow managed to slip under my radar undetected -- and has managed to do so for the past 10 years.
Japan Times
LIFE / Food & Drink / BEST BAR NONE
Apr 28, 2006
A rockin' party out of bounds
Jiyugaoka is still one of the preferred residential and shopping areas for the well-heeled spawn of Tokyo's old-school money. By day, fancy patisseries with French names and sleek fashion boutiques cater to young ladies from well-to-do families out browsing for tea and cakes or designer clothes. By night, dozens of restaurants and bars offer a smorgasbord of food and drink to young couples. It is international, eclectic and, as a rule, expensive.
Japan Times
LIFE / Food & Drink / BEST BAR NONE
Mar 24, 2006
Chic 'n' sweet and right on the bull's eye
For many commuters, Yoyogi-Uehara is simply the name of a station at which they change for an express train home. It is also the kind of upmarket address which, if you live there, means you have arrived.
Japan Times
LIFE / Food & Drink / BEST BAR NONE
Feb 24, 2006
A guide for doing the Nakameguro stroll
Naka-Meguro is one express stop southwest of Shibuya on the Tokyu Toyoko Line. And, like its one-stop counterparts on other commuter lines, the shopping streets closest to the station tend to attract a high concentration of eateries and bars all vying for your post-work cash. But like anywhere in Tokyo, you will often find the best bars tucked away in unexpected places -- uncharted corners that require a local guide.
Japan Times
LIFE / Food & Drink / BEST BAR NONE
Jan 27, 2006
New blood flows in city's heart
While Shibuya is becoming a boomtown for bars aimed at the young and casual, one small area -- right at its heart -- has been a hot spot for more than half a century.

Longform

Yayoi Kusama’s “Pumpkin,” once the victim of high waves that dragged it into the sea, sits at the end of a pier on the south side of Naoshima.
Why is the most exciting art in Japan so hard to get to?