The clutter and cramped conditions of a Tokyo restaurant kitchen

For a country obsessed with rules, regulations and infuriatingly convoluted ways of doing unimportant things, Japan is oddly lax when it comes to the likes of food hygiene. Small eateries that’d be shutdown in a heartbeat in other regions, or old places with cooking appliances that haven’t experienced a good scrub in decades, are oddly commonplace. In fact they thrive, with the grime arguably adding to the gourmet experience.

And the same goes for slightly larger concerns. The clutter, cramped conditions and relative uncleanliness are just accepted. Or if not accepted, then at least ignored.

cluttered Tokyo restaurant kitchen

Old Tokyo in an old bar

Tokyo gives the impression of being impatient to modernise, yet look down most side streets, or wander away from the city’s main thoroughfares, and it can be a very different world indeed. A world that quite unashamedly seems to have little to do with the present, let alone the future. Just like this wonderfully old and grubby little bar.

old and dirty Tokyo bar

A going concern for 34 years, the sprightly 78-year-old owner now looks after the place alone after his wife died a decade ago — cooking food, serving drinks and generally being lovely.

old and dirty Tokyo bar

old and dirty Tokyo bar

old and dirty Tokyo bar

A far cry no doubt from the kitchen he once cooked French food in, but after an altercation with his boss, he opted to go it alone, opening the no-nonsense izakaya (Japanese pub) he not only runs, but also lives above. Where almost everyday he makes far more basic fare.

old and dirty Tokyo bar

In equally basic settings.

old and dirty Tokyo bar

A set-up that not only suits him, but also his very comfortable and content customers.

old and dirty Tokyo bar

Timeless Tokyo?

Tokyo changes incredibly quickly — so quickly in fact it arguably doesn’t have time to appreciate what it has in the first place. Buildings go up and down at a ferocious pace. Plus trends come and go in what seems like the blink of an eye. And yet for all its attempts at modernity, along with what’s often rather dubiously dubbed ‘progress’, some spots remain mercifully unchanged.

‘outdoor