National | AT A GLANCE

Tateishi outwardly nondescript but grilled fare, comraderie offer inner glow

by Yoshiaki Miura

Staff Photographer

About 30 people young and old make a line in front of a small izakaya pub that offers grilled innards at 2 p.m. on a weekday in the Tateishi district of Katsushika Ward, Tokyo — an odd sight perhaps for first-timers, but a daily one for regulars.

At a glance, Uchida may seem like an old izakaya in a shabby shopping arcade developed from the black market that appeared soon after Japan’s defeat in World War II. But at Uchida and other similar pubs in Tateishi, there is a down-to-earth atmosphere where easy small talk by regulars makes newcomers feel at home.

Unlike popular tourist spots in the posh Ginza district or Shibuya, Tateishi rarely appears on tourist books at home and abroad. But it still has a heart-warming atmosphere that is hard to come by nowadays in Tokyo.

While waiting in line, a regular at Uchida, in shorts, a sleeveless shirt and vest, talks about basic manners, while another offers its specialties — in this case, a dish of grilled innards and shochu spirits with plum.

Customers sit squashed together in the narrow izakaya.

One of the regulars, Masanori Ogawa, is a sushi chef at nearby Sushi Masa.

After a drink or two, he went back, changed into a white uniform and started making sushi for his customers.

“See you at Uchida,” Ogawa, 55, said, with a smile.

Tateishi, which could be accessed from Keisei Tateishi Station on the Keisei Line, is also home to Japanese toy-making giant Tomy Co., which in June appointed Dutch native H.G. Meij as its first foreign CEO.

That may also be the reason it is attracting toy fans. One of them, Hannah, an American who only gave her first name, is drinking with her friends at another izakaya, Edokko, which serves grilled innards.

“I came here because I like small towns, Japanese toys and the ‘Slam Dunk’ ” basketball comic series, said Hannah in fluent Japanese.

This section, appearing in the first week of each month, offers a snapshot of areas that may interest tourists.