Being the youngest in a large family meant, in my case, becoming an auntie when I was still in my teens. And during my long self-exile in Japan, I patiently awaited the arrival of a new generation of travelers -- but then started feeling neglected as one nephew and niece after another circled the world without dropping by for a cup of tea at Auntie Jude's.

Then Emma's e-mail arrived. Suddenly -- and surprisingly -- I panicked. How could I explain my lifestyle to a fresh-faced 20-year-old? I'm sorry, but your auntie is a professional barfly with no reason to wake up early and every reason to stay out late. Many of my bar-owner friends were eager to meet her, so I worried that she might never see a temple (let alone the light of day). But, after arriving on a late flight, she seemed happily unperturbed when we headed out on our first night at 2 a.m. And Corubar's, my favorite neighborhood haunt, was at the top of the tour list.

Proximity to my house is not what placed Corubar's first. Corubar's would fly as a bar anywhere in Tokyo. (In fact, it ranks in my top three for the city -- along with 328 and Flo Flo). Its lofty status is in part due to its spacious, functional, party-proof interior -- soothingly cradled in shadow beyond a softly lit bar. And the interesting jumble of odds and ends that jump out from under blacklight and serve as eye candy on solo visits (notably a tequila poster asking "Have you hugged your toilet today?" and a star-shaped clock with the face replaced by a photo of Janis Joplin, thus rendering time illegible). And the gutsy mix of reggae, salsa, blues and rock -- always appropriate to the mood -- certainly adds to the allure (especially now that the bar's collection is spiked with some of my favorite CDs).