by Kumiko Matsudo

IN WINTER I think of snow, maybe because in my early 20s I went skiing nearly every weekend. My girlfriends and I would book one of those buses that leave on Friday night from the west side of Shinjuku Station or sometimes the middle of Yoyogi Park. We’d ride all night and arrive groggy at the slopes early Saturday morning. You’re supposed to sleep on the bus, but actually it was a rolling party where people made friends easily.

Just for laughs my old girlfriends and I decided to go skiing after New Year’s. We wouldn’t dream of taking a ski bus now, so we drove up to Nagano in Yumi’s new Audi Quattro. She still skis, so she bought the car last year after getting a promotion at the American ad agency she’s worked at for almost 15 years. While Mariko and I haven’t skied in years, we still had a great time. On the slopes we met these three Canadian guys who helped us out of a snowbank.

One of them, Brad, is how I found the Maple Leaf. A few days later we met in Shibuya and he took me to this Canadian-themed sports bar where everybody’s friendly and the drinks are reasonable. Years ago I liked to hang out at the bars in Roppongi where foreigners would go. They were great places to have a good time, improve your English, and meet nice people from around the world. These days, though, I have trouble getting in the mood for Roppongi because it’s really changed if you know what I mean.

But sipping a cocktail in the Maple Leaf gives me so much feeling of the good old days — going skiing, meeting people from around the world, and just feeling casual in a foreign-style environment. Speaking English is not so important to me these days, since I’ve worked as an executive assistant to Americans for quite some years now. Besides, so many foreigners these days speak really good Japanese — I’m surprised.

Anyway, the Maple Leaf is a bright, cheery destination  — I like to pop in after shopping at Parco practically right next door. They have beers from around the world, plus good cocktails and nice wines, and even the food is surprisingly good for pub food. (Pssst — the seafood chowder is out of this world!) While I’ve run into Brad and his buddies there, I mainly go there alone or with a girlfriend. It’s the kind of place a woman can go into by herself and not feel out of place.

Also, if you go on Tuesdays they have a buy-oneget-one-free deal on some drinks and food. Thursday is Ladies Night — all cocktails for us girls are just ¥500.

I’ve also become more interested in Canada. Maybe some day I’ll get my motorcycle license and ride across Canada during summer vacation. People tell me it’s even better than the Maple Leaf.

The Maple Leaf
Kokusai Building A-4F, 13-16 Udagawacho
Shibuya-ku Tokyo
Tel. 03-5784-6778
Daily 11:30am till late

Smoked salmon, or their seafood chowder

Crown Royal and soda

At the table by the window closest to the bar, so you can people watch, or gaze out the window, depending on your mood.

About ¥2,000 for food and a cocktail.

Americans and Canadians in their 20s and 30s, plus Japanese people with overseas experience.

Stuart, one of the owners, who’s kinda cute…