Rock Mother — Going For My Next Big Break

Food & Drink - February 20th, 2005
tokyoweekender_Rock Mother

MANY YEARS AGO I wanted to be an actress. I was young and naïve then, and maybe that’s why I got parts in a few minor films. I worked with a director that went on to make a name for himself in independent films. But he’s always made his living from commercials and corporate videos. The money he’d made with them he’d spend on his own projects.

The other day he called me out of the blue, saying he had news for me. Oddly enough, I had news for him. He’s over 60 now, but still dreams of becoming another Ozu or Kurosawa. We met the next night at Rock Mother in Shimokitazawa, where we’d often go to after shoots back when we made movies.

Rock Mother had moved since, from the tiny alley near the Honda Theater to the bottom of “Pachinkodori,” the road leading downhill from the south exit of Shimokitazawa station.

I’d never been to the new place, which is now the third or fourth location for Rock Mother, which was opened in the early ‘70s by a woman named Chizuko. The new place was a surprise — Chizuko’s penchant for the psychedelic had now manifested itself into  a truly Hippie Baroque execution that looked like a hobbit hutch from a strange underground world. Both inside and out, it was weird, eccentric and beautiful, all at the same time.

Rock Mother was serving versions of Southeast Asian food long before it became the trendy “ethnic” food of the ‘90s. The same goes with the drink menu — local sake and shochu long before it became the trendy Tokyo tipple. Add to that some unusual cocktails, healthy drinks and beers from all over Asia and you have something to please anyone. At prices low enough to please everyone.

My director friend was waiting at the bar. His hair had thinned considerably, but was still tied into a now-gray ponytail. He still wore the black leather vest, and those large aviator style glasses.

“I’m making a new movie,” he beamed. “Would you come back and act for me?”

“I’m so happy for you,” I said, congratulating him with a big hug that practically sent him toppling off his bar stool. “But my news for you is that I quit my job, and I’m leaving Japan.”

“Oh? To America, right? Japan’s first Hollywood actress!”

“Not quite. My new friend Brad is returning to Canada, and I’m going with him.” I then told him that I’d just passed the test for my motorcycle license, and he and I were going to ride across Canada together this spring. Then he’d get a job and we’d settle down. Vancouver or Toronto, depending.

He wanted to know all about Brad, and was surprised to hear he was only 28. I assured him I’d be okay.

“After all, they say life begins at 40, right?”


Rock Mother
5-36-14 Daita
Setagaya-ku Tokyo
Tel. 03-3421-9519
Daily 6pm to 2am


The house-made sangria. There’s nothing like it.


At the counter so you can carry on conversations with the staff and the regulars.


About ¥2,000 for a drink and a small dish or two.


Creative types, young hippie types, older guys with their grey hair in a ponytail. Plus a sprinkling of foreigners to match.


Chizuko, if she’s there. She started this place about 30 years ago.