Akitaya is no gourmet dining destination. The food is basic, the sake cheap. Clouds of oily smoke billow out from a blackened, grease-encrusted charcoal grill onto the sidewalk, where customers huddle around tables fashioned from upturned beer crates.

This battered izakaya, which has stood on the main drag in Hamamatsucho for half a century, is the antithesis of all things hip and fashionable. But nowhere in Tokyo better symbolizes the enduring popularity of tachi-nomi -- literally "drinking while standing" -- and the remarkable resurgence of this tradition over the past few years.

Some of the local customers at Akitaya have been drinking there almost as long as it's been open, standing outside winter or summer, rain or shine. Asked why, one spry gentleman who gave his age as 70, just says, "The beer goes down more easily when you're standing chatting."