Laura Fumiko Keehn visits classic Ginza
On the first floor of the super-modern Sony building is an old-fashioned, even historical watering hole. The original Pub Cardinal, with its overly British floral, gothic designs, is a slice of classic Ginza. The Ginza of old, when black-market goods flooded the streets and the post-war, kimono-wearing masses scuttled in the shadows of dazzling, westernized women and the rich patrons that frequented The Ginza.
It’s hard to believe, but Tokyo was a very different place back then. Ginza really preserves the Tokyo of old and this atmosphere is very much preserved within the walls of Pub Cardinal. “We have a very interesting mix of customers,” says the assistant general manager, Takeyuki Kawakami. Next to a table of western tourists probably on their way to or from exploring the Sony Building is a gaudy older Japanese lady in an elaborate kimono with big kimono-hair. I can see why Kawakami considers Pub Cardinal a “very special place.”
Another thing that makes Pub Cardinal very special is its truly British interior. According to Kawakami, it’s the real deal, with the floor tiles even imported from England. That level of authenticity extends to the drinks as well. When we ask Kawakami what his favorite drink is, he surprises us by answering “vodka tonic.” “That’s a very boring choice,” I say without thinking, but he doesn’t look offended. “Actually, our vodka selection is of a very high quality,” he explains. Sure enough, tonic and Belvedere or Grey Goose vodka would be a crisp, refreshing treat to drink away your troubles with. But if you’re more of a beer person, don’t miss the Cardinal’s original ale draft beer.
If you’re into whisky, Pub Cardinal has a wide variety. The menu even features a map of Scotland, with Speyside, Highland, Islay even Lowland selections. Food is more of what I’m into, and lucky for me Pub Cardinal’s got a good selection of desserts. Scones and cake sets are available for ¥1,100 and ¥1,200 respectively. Meanwhile my companion is excited by the Fish & Chips (a very reasonable ¥1,000). I steal a bite or two, and it definitely is worth every penny.
Looking around, the tourists have finished their cake sets (good choice) and are getting ready to leave. The kimono-lady too. We take the hint and prepare to make our exit. After all, it’s the middle of a workday. We tell Kawakami we’ll be back, and it’s not an empty promise. Where else can you experience classic Tokyo for such reasonable prices?
Sony Bldg, IF, 5-3-1 Ginza, Chuo-ku, Tokyo