Food & Drink | TOKYO BAR ADVENTURE

Step into another era at Cafe Streamline

by Angela Erika Kubo

Leaving the tranquil streets of Tokyo’s Daikanyama district and entering Cafe Streamline is like going back in time. The bar contrasts the modern architecture outside with antiques and old kitchen appliances cluttering the interior and soft jazz music playing on a radio. Then again, the bar counter and walls, inspired by old science-fiction films, are made of metal, giving the bar an almost futuristic look.

“This (bar) isn’t Japan, nor is it America. It’s just something I came up with,” says owner Hideharu Wakabayashi, who describes the design of his place as “retro-future.”

Wakabayashi looks the part of a laborer from the 1930s or ’40s, with his trousers, suspenders, off-white shirt and a red cloth dotted with white polka dots knotted around his neck. Some days he scrubs up well with a bow tie or a suit.

“All of these clothes are antiques,” Wakabayashi proudly states as he shows off an old gray suit hanging near the entrance.

Wakabayashi’s interest in the 1930s and ’40s is closer to an obsession than a simple hobby. He collects everything from the past, from worn-out matchboxes to old film cameras to magazines. Even a mixer that looks like it hasn’t been plugged in for decades sits on the bar counter.

“The door and windows of the front of my shop were taken from an old barbershop,” he adds.

In addition to running a bar in the evenings, Wakabayashi works as an interior designer during the day, replicating the sleek, metallic design of his bar for clients around Japan. He also designs other miscellaneous goods, such as small model prewar planes made of the same metal used around his bar, each with a green mosquito coil attached to the nose. The planes costs ¥15,000, but you can take a look at the creations, as well as the various knickknacks he collects, if you stop by.

While the bar menu doesn’t contain anything out of the ordinary, Cafe Streamline is one of the few places in Tokyo that serves cocktails made from Nikka Apple Wine.

The liquor, which dates back to the 1930s, was created by Nikka Whisky Distilling, Co. founder Masataka Taketsuru, whose life story inspired the popular drama “Massan,” currently airing on NHK. Taketsuru created the apple wine as a way to make money as his first batch of whisky aged in its barrels. It has a mild sweetness and is very easy to drink, especially for those who find whisky too strong. You can try the liquor mixed with soda water (¥700) or Calpis (¥800), but if you’re feeling a bit more daring, Wakabayashi recommends pairing it with tomato juice (¥800).

Between 3 p.m. and 6 p.m. the bar area is sometimes opened as a cafe, depending on Wakabayashi’s schedule. Of course, he doesn’t mind if you skip the coffee and start your evening early with something stronger.

Cafe Streamline: 7-5 Daikanyamacho, Shibuya-ku, Tokyo; 03-6416-4181; cafestreamline.takara-bune.net Angela Erika Kubo is a freelance writer and bar lover based in Tokyo. Follow her on Twitter @aekubo.