Volontaire is a soothing retreat for jazz lovers that has stood its ground for the last three decades in Harajuku -- a neighborhood where bars change like the season's fashions. In Yuri Sakanoue's 27 years behind the counter, she has seen them all come and go. Unmoved, she has steadfastly maintained her hideaway from the mundane and the frivolous.
The counter needs a new coat of paint, but otherwise both Yuri and her bar seem untouched by time. She is petite, attractive and an age that you can only guess at by adding adulthood to the length of time Volontaire has been open.
"Between Meiji-dori and Aoyama-dori, Omotesando is booming like a mini-bubble, there are so many fancy stores and boutiques," she says. "But on this side -- from Meiji-dori up to Harajuku Station -- it is still relatively young and funky."