Boozehound: Tara no Oka (Nakano)
While Tokyo’s urbanization works its way West and the chain shops of the suburbs work their way into the center of town, variety and smallness go the way of Tora-san films and doing research in libraries – things people over a certain age remember and talk about, but things that just aren’t really around much anymore.
Thankfully, there are some pockets of interest left around the city and one of those is the area North of Nakano Station east of Nakano-dori and south of Waseda-dori, centered on the narrow, pedestrians-only Fureai Road.
Go one block East of Fureai Road (make a right, then a left if you’re walking from Nakano Station), and two blocks South of Waseda-dori, on a corner on your left-hand side, facing you, you’ll see a green door and an unassuming green shingle reading: Tara no Oka. The Hill of Tara.
Unlike it’s giant Kyoto namesake, this Hill of Tara has no Celtic-patterned wallpaper, no highly-regarded Irish food, no giant Guinness ads, no musicians in the corner, no token Irish staff.
No, this Hill of Tara is Irish only in the most important way: behind the low bar, across from the half dozen or so seats that make up the entire capacity of the place, sits what might be the best selection of Irish whiskey on offer anywhere in the city.
And I mean anywhere. You can try any of the Irish-themed pubs dotting the metropolis, but you won’t do any better.
The master is a friendly guy in his 30s, happy to talk about whatever you bring up and happy to laugh at your jokes once you’ve given in to the temptation to tour Ireland from a bar stool in Nakano.
The list is impressive – from the usual to the surprsing to the obscure. The prices go the same way – from 500 yen for a Jameson to 2800 for a rare single malt whose name I’ve intentionally forgotten lest I pine for it.
Of course, beer and cocktails are also available, including Murphy’s in cans, and the Potcheen Irish bars always have on hand for people to talk about, but not order. Whiskey, though, is the reason to go there and the reason to stay until well past your last train.
Tara no Oka is in Nakano 5-chome, just South of Waseda-dori and just East of Nakano Broadway and Fureai Road, on the 2nd floor (the entrance is at ground level.)
Smoking: Yes, everywhere.
Parties: Too small for that.
Food: Small snacks – sandwiches, potato chips, etc.
Drinks: Huge selection of Irish whiskey.