Greasy Spoons (and Chopsticks): Musashiya
Sinatra can have New York or Chicago. For old Nick, nothing sings of home like the chants of the yaki-imo hawker or the tofu kid of Tokyo and the sweetest part of that tune is the din of Shinbashi. Show me a man who knows a better place to be a man and I’ll show you a sucker.
Good, cheap eats are my game and walking out of Tokyo’s oldest station and into the stream of high lifes, low lifes, and no lifes that makes up this miasma of opportunity is no less a thrill than having some done up dame cross my threshold asking for help with her hands full of Suntory and Seven Stars.
Of all the greasy chopsticks to be tried in Tokyo, one above all takes the prize from bigger, better-known, and quirkier joints in their thousands:
The name alone oughtta do it for you. What Musashiya, with its lack of walls, seatbacks, tables, space, or any other fripperies ain’t got in ambience, it’s got in heaps higher than Fuji in bang for a greenback. (Or a yen, you get the point.)
Back when I was wetter behind the ears than the Michelin Guy after a run-in with the kendo club in a mood for doling out swirlies, I’d no sooner have eaten lunch at another place in the area than I would have unwound with a virgin cocktail or an herbal cigarette.
Here’s what you do: Stand in the middle of the square outside the station, facing the old steam engine (where you used to be able to have a puff and get stiff before some stiff stiffed the neighborhood of that bit of fun, but that’s how it goes these days. . .)
Look left. That’s the New Shinbashi Building. You wouldn’t know it to look at it, but the name was probably true once. Walk in through the main doors and go straight down the center. When you’re near the end, Musashiya will be on your right.
Don’t look for an entrance or an order, just push aside the noren surrounding the counter and grab an empty stool. Park your rear with caution, though – some of the stools are about as stable as a tourist dame after a night out in Roppongi.
The guys behind the counter will greet you as you should be greeted. In other words, they’ll let you know they know you’re there, maybe they’ll even smile at you, but don’t expect bowing or scraping. If you have time for that hooey, you’re better off with the swells over in Ginza.
You’ll get some barley tea. The old guy serving you will call it mizu. You’ll be more amused than confused. Other than that famous tea dispenser, there are two burners, two woks, and a hypothetical fridge (the cold beer comes from somewhere.) That’s it. That’s the place. No one walking by will see your head or shoulders, but they’ll see everything else and you’d better be in good with your fellow man because he’ll be closer to you than your dame has been in years. Heck, I’ve probably got more common law husbands than the chubby roundheel who lives above me and never comes home sober or alone.
As I said, though, we’re not here for the atmosphere.
Now me? I go for the Peking Yaki-soba at 450 yen and maybe a can of Asahi for 300. The menu of donburi, yaki-soba, fried rice, ramen, and other staples of the greasy chopstick hovers in this column’s sweet spot: enough under 1000 yen that you don’t have to quit smoking just yet.
Musashiya is on the 1st floor of the New Shinbashi Building, next to Shinbashi SL square, in the main hallway.
Food: Wide variety of Chinese and Japanized Chinese dishes and rice bowls (donburi), ramen.
Drinks: Canned beer and happoshu.