Bar Kitsune is a phenomenon. It is the brainchild of Production Company, an Osaka-based outfit that decided to sneak up the Tokaido and infiltrate Tokyo’s nightlife. The company’s success with home-turf projects like Under Lounge, one of Osaka’s most happening clubs, gave it the confidence to tackle the Big Mikan.
The result is a well-planned yet very cool underground catacomb of a club. It is big and it is dark. A huge circular bar sits at the hub of a round dance floor flanked by booths. Spinning off in tangents from this central core are other smaller rooms, including a DJ lounge, a restaurant and various VIP and private alcoves. All moods and mind-sets are catered to.
The interior is the work of another Osaka-based company called Cafe Co. It enlisted the services of both New York-based photographer Nigel Scott, whose work runs in an eye-level strip of back-lit transparencies set into the wall around the dance floor, and artist Eddy Desplanque, whose graphics jazz up the walls in the restaurant.
Cafe Co. is also responsible for the emotive English slogans stenciled here and there along the walls. “Love and lordship like no fellowship” clings to a corner of the dance floor. “How’s it going?” and “On a roll” whisper from corners of the corridor. A wall in the men’s room reminds patrons that “A bird in the hand is worth two in the bush.” “Go home, homely girl!” shouts from the wall above the washbasin in the ladies’ room.
One has to laugh and forgive the inevitable typo, like “I am in my drime.”
The way in which Production Company has truly excelled is in the hiring of Bar Kitsune’s staff. I was totally unprepared for my first glimpse of Hisae-san, leaning across the bar, lotus tattoo on upper arm flexing slightly as she chatted quietly with a customer, the rows of caged and chained bottles behind her giving the scene a Mad Max biker feel. Or Koba-kun, the bar manager, with a tribal tattoo running the length of his right arm, the Sanskrit characters for which, he explains, are his mantra for life. These kids are true Tokyo-ites of the 21st century.
And not to forget Nishioka-san, the DJ chief, who has been spinning in Tokyo’s hot spots for 16 years. (He was in the pulpit the night the lighting rig crashed and killed a customer at Disco Turia a decade ago.) He spins an all-genre dance mix every night except Friday, when DJ Kono takes the helm, and Saturday, when DJ Kenji spins abstract break beats, the latest global craze and newest category sent to taunt us night scribes.
As for the clientele, Bar Kitsune gets packed with party people till the last train on Fridays and after the last train on Saturdays. Mid-week, however, you might find event organizers huddled in conference in the lounge, or shadowy types leaning in at counters and booths, waiting and watching for people to arrive…