Meet Hiroshima-san — a diminutive, pixie-faced bottle-blond who favors either skinny polyester shirts held half-open with a chain or grungy sweaters. He is the owner of Boys Town Cafe, a gem of a juke joint (sans box) about to celebrate its seventh year on Friday in the back streets of Naka-Meguro.
But it is his parents we should thank for this bar and for teething him on the best of ’60s and ’70s rock. While other kids were listening to Disney soundtracks, baby Hiroshima-kun was rocking in his crib to Led Zeppelin and The Beatles and catchy J-pop tunes by the Tigers and Pink Lady. After he hit the streets, he also discovered punk and funk and metal.
Hiroshima-san spins all of the above genres when at the helm of Boys Town, which is most nights from midnight. And like his mom and dad, he spins a mixed bag of Japanese and foreign tunes. But with so much to choose from — an archive totaling 3 meters of vinyl spine-to-spine (not including the singles under the bar) and a wall of CDs — he’s happy to field requests, from which he compiles a top 10 each month.
Former classmates from Hiroshima-san’s fashion school days form the core of Boys Town’s clientele. Otherwise, art-college kids and sundry creative types who live nearby pull up in small groups or solo at the bar — a long 12-seater. I asked the female patron to my left, an A&R manager for a record company, what she thought of Boys Town. “Very relaxing,” was her reply.
As for Hiroshima-san, he says “it’s not like working at all.”
The refrigerator is well-stocked with selected beers. Chimay and Adam and Eve jostle with Bass Pale Ale and Guinness. Ebisu is served on tap.
The interior is classic ’80s Tokyo art-school edge: Windup toys dot the bar, as do novelty lighters and pens (the latter for scribbling requests); a variety of action toys peer out from towering shelves of bottles; replica guns stand upright in front of a framed assortment of tearsheets from girly mags; and a robot guards the beer fridge — a chubby fellow in the style thought of as futuristic in the ’50s.
Album covers line one wall, an eclectic — as expected — grab bag that forms a collage of musical clashes. Grand Funk Railroad nudges Blondie, Glen Miller abuts Iron Maiden, and an incongruous Mariah Carey sits dead center (but that’s only because of the T-shirt). Other patches of wall are given over to movie posters — “Enter the Dragon,” “Reservoir Dogs,” “Clockwork Orange.” The toilet is wallpapered with motherboards from green monitor-era computers.
Casper the Friendly Ghost, clutching two mock candles — one flickering, one dead — flies overhead in a galaxy of glow-in-the-dark stars. A mirror ball sometimes sits static, as if at the center of an already expanded universe.