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At around 10 p.m. on a Thursday in early August, foot traffic at a dining and drinking district only one stop from Tokyo’s Ikebukuro Station was unexpectedly sparse despite warm summer weather — ideal conditions for a cold beverage, or two.

Across streetcar tracks and under a torii-shaped arch, Italian restaurants, bars and ethnic food markets line a labyrinth of narrow side streets near the south exit of Otsuka Station on the Yamanote Line.

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