A few items that went irretrievably missing in the final sputter of the Heisei era, as Tokyo businesses and government lost their minds to a frightening wave of demolition, speculation and hotel erection, grasping for as many tourists as they could…
Some captions link to previous Ginzaline stories
Yusuke Kabuki lost his painstakingly crafted cafe, chocolatery and coffee roastery in Torigoe. The good thing is he plans to reopen elsewhere in Tokyo and has started a cafe in Morioka, Iwate Prefecture, called Rashinban (Compass)
Kannon no Yu bathhouse near Sensoji temple was torn down in late 2017 and will make way for a multi-storey Keisei operated hotel.
I live near this corner. A few years ago, a two-storey apartment block stood here. The new building is a 13-floor orange and black APA hotel that looks like a cigarette package. Tourists smoke as they stand around outside, or come and go wheeling their suitcases. Too painful to post a picture.
Lovely old-style kura storehouse made of brick would have survived the US firebombing of March 1945, but was reduced by its owner to just a pile of bricks a few months ago.
The boys at the Rastaman Cafe in Kaminarimon barbecued succulent jerk chicken in their Weber on the street until the owner turfed them out, before turning the building into a coin-parking lot late last year. Rastaman Cafe has moved to a new spot in central Asakusa, but they can no longer grill chicken outdoors.
Ume no Yu public bath in Kuramae was destroyed in 2014 to make a condo.
Many weekends about five years ago I enjoyed an iced coffee with Mrs Tsukiyama in the lobby of her antique shop on Senzoku-dori. She was very charming. I think I came away with more antiques than a smarter person would have. Though at least some of them may actually be old. She sold her store to move to an apartment near Nippori, and it’s now a coin-parking lot.
Masahiko Harada grew up in his father’s shoe atelier near Kototoi bridge and carried on as a solo craftsman, but lost his independence in late 2017 after he was hospitalised and transferred to a nursing home.
Katsuo Tasaki had an offer too good to refuse for the tin nagaya shophouse where he was born and grew up, here in Okazu Yokocho, Side-dish Alley, Torigoe; the same building from which his father ran a food supplies business and which a community bucket-brigade saved from incineration, along with the other shops here, the night of the US napalm bombing. The raids destroyed almost everything for miles, including Asakusa and across the river delta to Arakawa. Tasaki’s shophouse is now a concrete condominium. I ran into him not long after the demolition. It was a hot day and the lot was overgrown. He was in good spirits and quoted the Basho poem: Summer grass/All that remains/Of warriors’ dreams.
Ten-minute massage that invariably ran for 20 or even 40 at the kind hands of Mrs Yamamoto and Mrs Arai at Seifu Massage, Asakusa station underground shopping mall. The business ran for 20 years and shut down at the end of March after the family of the owner, who died last year, sold up.
Nagaya row houses in Kyojima, demolished this year. It was heartening that some people cared; the buildings hosted at least two art events in their final days, including a Gordon Matta-Clarke-tinged deconstruction/renovation, and a night of projection mapping.
Cafe de Naniwaya in Asakusa shut down after the one-of-a-kind master decided he wanted to run his business in “a place where no one goes,” and moved to a remote part of Shimane, one of Japan’s most remote prefectures. The cafe is now an onigiri rice ball and miso soup shop.
Nagai Kafu, the romantic, cantankerous chronicler of Tokyo and lost love through the Taisho and Showa periods, was a regular at the Arizona in Asakusa in the 1950s, where his favourite dish was reportedly chicken livers. Kafu died in 1959, exactly 60 years before the last day of the Heisei period. The Arizona master said he was a schoolboy at the time and remembers the author coming in. He brought out a copy of a handwritten proof of Kafu’s lyrical account of an affair with a prostitute, “A Strange Tale from East of the River” (Bokutou Kidan). Arizona shut down last year and is now a bar popular with tourists.
The Tyrolean-styled Angelus cafe on Orange-dori, probably Asakusa’s most iconic cake and coffee shop, closed its doors for good in mid-March after operating since 1946. People queued every day for weeks before the final curtain. It will be torn down and, as the developer has secured the buildings next door and they have also been emptied, something big and concrete is surely on the way.
Nothing special about this building in Ueno – but it always comforted me to see its odd metal and mortar shape in the late afternoon sun. More comforting, in any case, than the coin-parking lot it has now become.
Fruit and veg shop in Matsugaya run by elderly couple shut down. The old man told me how the ward office had come to complain about him taking up space on the street to sell his produce, though they may have closed for other reasons.
Hideko Shoji and husband Ryo’s Variety Drug Shoji was surely the most eccentric, eclectic chemist shop you would ever find in a big hotel, and maybe that’s what the management at Asakusa View Hotel thought too, and maybe that’s why they decided to let it go.
Uogashi sushi shut down after the staff just didn’t turn up one day.
The good thing about the very tall structure that is bound to rise on this spot on Kototoi-dori, in place of the quaint “TV-set” style shops that stood here until getting killed off earlier this year, is that it will obscure the love hotel behind it and we won’t have to see the name “Sting” every time we pass.
Hitomi Sato and her 90-year-old mother Eiko ran Ishii Fruits after Hitomi’s husband died more than 10 years ago. It was a shoestring operation but Hitomi said she liked meeting people and you could tell she meant it because it was always a happy moment to wave to her through the store’s open front as you passed. Then suddenly last month they were gone, replaced by a Taiwanese-style pearl tea shop, just what Asakusa needs to go with the million other Taiwanese-style pearl tea shops across town. I hope the deal worked out for the Satos; Hitomi helped me appreciate one reward of writing Ginzaline when she told me she was glad her daughter who was studying in the US could show the webpage to her friends, so they could read about her mum.