Our last stop in Golden Gai takes us in deep -- deep into its heart and soul, deep into its geographical center. This is where you'll find the crumbling cinder-block row houses, which once dominated the area, still clinging to the narrow alleys that zigzag through Golden Gai's core. Whereas Tre Tre and Krishna, the two bars previously reviewed, are atypical of most of the bars in the area, this stop is a classic -- holed up, as it is, in still-sturdy cinder block in the middle of its row.

Each of these little two-story nomiya (drinking spots) was cloned from the same blueprint. The ground floor typically houses a boxlike bar that hogs the space and holds the stools hostage against the walls. A narrow strip of stairs in the back leads up at such a steep angle that you must climb them like a ladder. The second floor would traditionally be a tatami room with low tables and zabuton cushions, but many modern barkeeps opt for shoe-proof flooring and Western-style seating -- as does Masami Kasai, the owner of Atom Heart Mother, our target in the heart of Golden Gai.

I love the name. If you know your way around progressive rock in the '60s, you will recognize it as the name of the Pink Floyd album released in 1970. Being a huge fan of Pink Floyd, Kasai-san knows it well. He is also a big fan of Osamu Tezuka, the Japanese cartoonist who created the universally popular animation series known in the West as Astro Boy and in Japan as Tetsuwan Atom. Out of this fusion, Atom Heart Mother was born.