One way to test your level of adaptation to life in Japan is your comfort level with doing things that would be pretty normal in Japan, but that you wouldn’t have done back home.
Shuck your clothes and hop into a crowded onsen without batting an eye? Not bad.
Bow and clap properly when you visit a shrine? Impressive.
Wolf down a bowl of nattō, raw egg, and rice before heading down to the local pachinko parlor because you really love pachinko? You might just be ready to apply for Japanese citizenship.
We’ll leave it up to you where this fits along your “adaptation spectrum:” walking up to the heavy, upholstered door of a hostess/host club or “snack” bar, opening the door, and heading in looking for a good time. For most of us foreigners, this really isn’t our thing: paying by the hour to talk to a person, no matter how nicely coiffed they might be, isn’t what most of us do.
But opening up that door is something you should do in the case of Eddie’s Lounge—and don’t worry, they don’t charge by the hour. Located by the Keisei Main Line tracks a short walk from Nishinippori Station, the lounge used to be a hostess bar before Eddie Landsberg, a jazz organist from Philadelphia who has been living in Japan for two decades. And this isn’t the first time that he’s appeared in Tokyo Weekender: we caught up with him back in 2003.
When you do walk in, you’re greeted by a dimly-lit interior and low, red velvet booths that remind you of the spot’s original incarnation. But one of the first things that lets you know that you’re in for something different are the TV screens around the bar. In the bar’s previous life, they would have displayed the lyrics that salarymen could have relied on to help them stumble their way through a song or two. Here they play a loop of clips from 60s and 70s-era B-movies that add to the underground ambience, and just might give you whiplash (you’ll have to see them for yourselves). 70s funk for the background music adds to the laid-back atmosphere.
We dropped in early on a Saturday night, before things got too busy. There was going to be a session that night, and some of the musicians—including a flute player who had already had a few—were warming up, running over patterns and scales while the crowd chattered on. Eddie was going to be playing, of course, but he took a break to tell us a bit about concept of the place. He said that he wanted to create an atmosphere where Japanese and foreigners from different generations could hang out, eat and drink hearty, and hear some quality music. In addition to a standard liquor selection, the bar also has a full selection of sake and shochu, and their drink specialty is the old-school combo of Hoppy and shochu.
You can find a lot of standard izakaya far, which is great—they do some mean fried chicken wings!—but the star of the menu is a dish that’s just right for this time of year: gyu motsu nabe. Nabe, a hot pot dish that is meant to be shared, can be made from many ingredients, but gyu motsu means beef intestine. Ok, that might put some people off, but think about it! You’ve opened the heavy upholstered door, you’re a Japan pro; you can make one more step. Take it from someone who wasn’t a fan of anything innards-related until trying gyu motsu several years ago in Japan: it might just make you a believer.
At Eddie’s, they use high-grade wagyu beef for their motsu, and the nabe broth has a spicy kick that will help keep you warm, even on a cold night. By the time we’d finished eating, the band was well into its second set, and the lively crowd and strong drinks had us in a good mood. But last train time was approaching. Walking away was tough, because it looked like it was going to be a long night. We’ll be back.
Nishinippori 1-62-17, Arakawa-ku, Tokyo, 116-0013 (see map)
Live music 5 nights a week (Tuesday–Saturday) starting at 20:00, no cover charge.
Average price per person: ¥2,100
More info: www.facebook.com/eddieslounge.jp