Will you please be The salaryman?

They are Japanese Heroes

The salaryman’s guide to Tokyo

Salaryman Kuzuhara-san leads Chris Michael on a tour of the hidden Tokyo where an army of office workers get to let off steam at the end of the working day

As featured in our Tokyo city guide

The Uniform
A salaryman in Tokyo. Photograph: Avi Behar

The uniform

Dressing like a salaryman is harder than it looks. There’s a certain scuffed quality to the black lace-up dress shoes, a particular worn-out shine to the black suit, a type of anonymous silver watch and fraying black briefcase that you can’t fake. There’s just no tie like a ¥100 (£1) tie. Later in your career, as you rise up the hierarchy, you can mix it up a bit. For instance, you can go brown. The best place to get suited up in salaryman style is Yofuku No Aoyama: its parent company, Aoyama Trading, holds the Guinness world record for the largest menswear retailer of suits.
Yofuku No Aoyama, New Shinbashi Building, 2-16-1 Shinbashi, Minato-ku, +81 3 3593 2704. Open daily 10am-8pm

The coffee shop

The Coffee Shop
Photograph: Oote Boe/Alamy

The ginza Renoir chain of kissaten (old-school coffee shops) evokes the Tokyo of 1982: chrome and glass; wall-to-wall carpeting; men wearing huge spectacles reading huge newspapers. It has the best breakfast in the city: a bowl of thin consomme, a piece of toast and a hard-boiled egg for the ridiculous price of around 50p with a coffee. Come at lunch, when Renoirs in the downtown area are full of salarymen stealing an hour’s sleep. Or stop by before dinner for a slice of this institution’s great contribution to world cuisine: pizza toast. There are older and more independent coffee shops in the metropolis, but none as good as Renoir.
Warning: most establishments listed here don’t accept credit cards or have English menus or service, and most allow smoking
Renoir, Kowa Building B1F, 1-17-2 Shinbashi, Minato-ku, + 81 3 3580 2192,ginza-renoir.co.jp. Open Mon-Fri 7.30am-10pm, Sat 7.30am-7pm, Sun/holidays 9am-6pm

The canteen

The Canteen
Photograph: Avi Behar

The Shinbashi-Toranomon area is Kuzuhara-san’s neighbourhood. Here you’ll find the real heart of working Tokyo: a midtown of mid-size companies housed in mid-sized office buildings, with a host of mid-sized restaurants to serve them when they’re off the clock. A standout of the breed is Masumoto. Salarymen and not a few office ladies crowd on to long wooden benches. Antique beer posters show smiling Japanese women hoisting flagons of Asahi. Venerable patronesses patrol the aisles, filling the laughing workers’ glasses with worryingly cheap sake until it overflows into little dishes, which you drink from last. The atmosphere is excellent. Try the fish loaf.
Masumoto, Toranomon 1-8-16, Minato-ku, + 81 3 3591 1606. Open Mon-Fri 4.30pm-10.30pm

The Hoppy

The Hoppy
Photograph: Avi Behar

The Tokyo salaryman’s drink of choice at the izakaya is the flagship product of the Hoppy Beverage Company, first launched in 1948. It was originally developed and sold as a realistic alternative to beer, which was prohibitively expensive for the postwar general public. Its continued popularity is primarily driven by cost, health-conscious drinkers, and of course Hoppy’s vaguely beer-like but nonetheless unique flavour. Hoppy itself contains no alcohol, and is meant to be mixed, usually five to one, with shochu. Native to Tokyo, Hoppy is primarily consumed in the Kanto region and is most readily available in budget izakaya, especially those concentrated along Tokyo’s less glamorous commuter train lines.
Za Watami, Box’R Shinbashi Building, 3-23-1 Shinbashi, Minato-ku, + 81 50 5522 6224. Open Mon-Thurs 4pm-3am, Fri-Sat 4pm-5am, Sun/holidays 4pm-3am. Credit cards accepted

The pork joint

The Pork Joint
Photograph: Avi Behar

The fluorescent lighting may be blinding, the air gooey with cigarette smoke, and the clientele 95% male, but as far as Kuzuhara-san is concerned, you don’t come to Yakiton Mako-chan for the ambience. You come for the pork offal – heart, liver, pork components even Kuzuhara-san can’t identify – all deliciously marinated, grilled and served in plentiful sizes.
Yakiton Mako-chan, Momoyama Building 1F, 3-18-7 Shinbashi, Minato-ku, + 81 3 3431 5700. Open Mon-Sat 4.30pm-11pm

The celebrity haunt

The Celebrity Haunt
Beat Takeshi Photograph:Claudio Onorati/epa/Corbis

Kyo Aji is rumoured to be a regular hangout of Beat Takeshi, the Japanese comedian better known to westerners as a director of hard-boiled films. Kuzuhara-san has seen Takeshi’s white Rolls-Royce Phantom parked outside, its chauffeur informally dressed – likely marking him out as one of the junior comedians from Office Kitano, Takeshi’s production company, which is standard Takeshi operating procedure. Most salarymen can only dream of going to Kyo Aji. The average price of a meal per person is listed as around £250, excluding booze, and then of course there’s the have-to-know-a-regular-to-actually-go-there factor. There are reportedly only two establishments in Japan that were offered Michelin three-star ratings, but chose to turn them down. Kyo Aji is one of the them.
Kyo Aji, 3-3-5 Shinbashi, Minato-ku, + 81 3 3591 3344. Open Mon-Sat 5.30pm-10pm. Closed Sunday and plublic holidays

The pachinko

The Pachinko
Photograph: Avi Behar

No salaryman night out in Tokyo would be complete without a spot of the nation’s favourite arcade game: pachinko. These pinball-like games are supposedly based on skill, but it doesn’t take long vainly attempting to “shoot” the tiny silver balls through a cascading maze of pegs to sink them into holes at the bottom before you realise they’re essentially slot machines by another name. The salaryman’s trick? Put a pachinko ball in each ear. It won’t help you win, but it will block out the insane music, which is like techno made by six-year-old girls who’ve spent the whole day drinking Coke. That’s a victory right there.
Shinbashi Top’s, 3-17-3 Shinbashi, Minato-ku, +81 3 3434 6131, over-18s only. Open daily 10am-11pm

The vending machine bar

The Vending Machine Bar
Photograph: Avi Behar

Shokuyasu Shoten is an almost hip establishment that represents a statement of the salaryman spirit. There’s a row of vending machines on the street selling cans of beer; there’s a ledge to rest them on; and there are the stars above you, or rather, because you can’t see stars in Tokyo, there are the lights from passing cars, from the nearby electronics giant Bic Camera and from the vending machines themselves. Who needs waiters, tables and walls? A bar, the philosophical salaryman might argue, is anywhere you make it.
Shokuyasu Shoten, 2-4-3 Yurakucho, Chiyoda-ku, +81 3 3215 0382. Open 24/7

The random Korean pop bar in the red-light district

The Random Korean Pop Bar
Kabukicho, Tokyo. Photograph: Alamy

The Kabukicho area is the famed red-light district, but it’s also full of gaming arcades, sushi joints, multiplex cinemas and nightclubs. There are also a score of laid-back little Korean bars that blast K-pop videos until the sun rises. Korean Bar i is a particularly tiny, garish and friendly representative of these. But do your own stumbling: wandering around with a salaryman and no fixed destination is all part of the spiritual journey. Assuming, that is, you still make it to the last train.
i, Izumi Building 1F, 2-41-12 Kabukicho, Shinjuku-ku, +81 3 3202 6466. Open daily 7.30pm-5am

The last train

The Last Train
Photograph: Alamy

For every salaryman who can’t hold his Hoppy, there are hundreds who not only can, but know exactly when their last train is coming and can time it to the minute, thanks to what is, without doubt, the world’s greatest metropolitan mass-transit system. For the rookies who leave it too late, the now-infamous capsule hotels will cater for a price, but a cheaper and more entertaining option is to pass out in the chair of a private booth in a 24-hour manga kissa (manga cafe). Mambo is one of the biggest manga kissa chains in Tokyo, with 50-odd branches. Good ones have showers and breakfast, and will sell you a crisp new white shirt. Tomorrow’s another day.
Mambo, 1-18-3 Kabukicho, Shinjuku-ku, + 81 3 5292 2656. Open 24/7, shower room and eight-hour “overnight pack” stay 7pm-5am available for around £12


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