Shin Takahashi is an incurable extrovert and freedom-loving spirit blessed with the knack to succeed. He walked straight out of college into an executive position at a prestigious ad agency, where he quickly earned a reputation for putting 100 percent into every undertaking. No one worried when he failed to show for work one day — that was Shin. Three days later when he still hadn’t shown, the agency received a call.
|Soba X bar owner Shin Takahashi|
“Hi, this is Shin,” came his cheery greeting. “Where are you?” inquired a concerned coworker. “I’m in Germany,” he replied. “Our client wanted me to come and help seal a deal with Porsche.” Shin had grabbed his passport and boarded the next plane. And so it was that a Japanese tire manufacturer secured its first OEM (original equipment manufacturer) deal with a European car maker. Shin returned triumphant.
Not long after that he met Mike, a friend of our mutual acquaintance, who was looking for sponsors for the Japan 8-Hour, an endurance motorcycle race. Shin became more than interested — he not only found a sponsor but also put together his own group of local riders who became the first Japanese team to win this highly regarded race. “I was going straight to hell till Mike showed me the way to heaven,” he quips with a pixie-ish grin.
|Inner-circle friends of Soba X’s can be found at the bar.|
He then quit his job in the agency and threw himself into sponsoring motorcycle races. This also allowed him to pursue another passion — creative writing. He easily found a publisher and now has two full-length novels and dozens of short stories under his belt. No one was surprised when he announced he was opening a bar. “Just like Jeffrey Archer,” he quips again. His latest venture is also a raging success.
Soba X Bar, as Shin’s place is called, is something akin to his living room. Every night he cooks up a few tasty pots of food and his friends drop by for a bite and a few drinks. Of course those friends include huddles of suited employees who hail from the city’s better-known agencies and corporations. In this way Shin keeps himself in the loop of interesting projects while assuring himself a steady client base.
Soba X is also appointed like a private room. At its center a huge ikebana arrangement sits on a table. Half a dozen tables front the shoji-screened street side and a small six-seater bar occupies the other. Those who opt for the bar are usually inner-circle mates, who frequently jump up and help with the dishes as the evening progresses and Shin becomes busy greeting and schmoozing his guests. Shin does employ one bartender — a young actor who happily fills the gaps in his professional career with nights mingling at Shin’s.
The music, which is kept low till the suits head out for the last trains, is a happy mix of Japanese and foreign standards. Motown’s best follows the Southern All Stars, and vice versa. Often as not the bar ends up in a free-for-all singalong. But beware of bad manners — if Shin doesn’t like you, you’ll be out on the street. This is Shin’s slice of heaven and he intends to keep it that way.