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499: AGAVE
498: Miss Sixty Café
497: The Pink Cow
496: Cantik
495: Billiard Bar Cosmo
494: Soma
493: Hajime
492: Rm.39
491: Coopers
490: Bar Nemesis
489: Franziskaner Bar & Grill
488: NOS
487: Diego
486: Sekirei
485: Bonny Butterfly
484: So Ra Si O
483: Maduro
482: Space Punch
481: Cento Cose
480: Bamboo
479: Heartland
478: Sign
477: Yoshino
476: Omamori Cafe
475: So Bar
474: Traumaris
473: Naka Naka
472: Tsuki no Akari
471: Bar
470: These
469: Atomic Heart Mother
468: Soft
467: Milano Bar
466: Mother
465: Omocha
464: Insomnia 2
463: Lucusfloor
462: Pulse
461: Mahna Mahna
460: Ten
459: Trees'
457/8: Mayu
456: Lounge Sinner
454: Ja Ja Bar
453: See
452: Republica
451: Shanghai Bar
450: Tsuki no Kura

Issues 500+
Issues 449-
Issues 399-


by Tama Miyake Lung


Hajime is part of the maze of narrow alleys snaking behind the boutique-lined streets of Ginza, where generations of geisha and Mama-san have been entertaining regulars at tiny "snack," ritzy hostess bars and smoky yakitori joints unchanged since the postwar era. With a hidden, backdoor entrance leading down a spiraling staircase to the basement-level bar, Hajime, from the outside, would seem no different from its time-honored neighbors.

But one foot inside the door-which is actually a sliding mirror-and we realized Hajime is nothing but modern. A narrow column of light along the floor led us into a small, mahogany-paneled room with an L-shaped bar and a single booth. The ray of light climbed from the floor to the wall and then around the ceiling, creating a stunning frame for the bar, which was made to look square with mirrors covering the opposite walls.

It seemed enough to come here just for Hajime's hip designer interior-created by the aptly named Glamorous Co.-so were pleasantly surprised to find it also had a massive drinks menu with page after page of sake and French wine. It was an impressive selection for a bar that seats no more than 16 people at one time, but well-suited to the obviously cultured clientele-who when we visited were all stylish Japanese couples speaking in hushed tones. Equally surprising was the friendly service provided by the two waiters on duty, a touch that's not always guaranteed in Ginza's cloistered drinking dens.

Feeling flush with our sophisticated surroundings, we ordered a glass of French white wine from the day's selection (¥1,000), a few Campari and orange juice cocktails (¥1,000), and a Glenfiddich whisky (¥1,600). Hajime also has a hefty food menu with a range of small, mostly Japanese dishes mixed with Western favorites like carpaccio and Caesar salad.

But having already eaten dinner, we opted for a mixed fruit plate (¥2,500) and a cheese platter (¥2,300) to round out the otoshi (¥1,000) of crabmeat salad and edamame. Both came beautifully presented, with enough to satisfy the four of us as we lingered over our drinks to the sound of jazz playing quietly in the background.

After too many nights spent in smoky bars and ear-splitting restaurants where everyone shouts "Irrashaimase!," Hajime was indeed a welcome change. And while its prices may have been on par with the area's high-class boutiques, they were certainly justified by the refined experience that went with them.

B1F Iraka Ginza Bldg, 6-4-7 Ginza, Chuo-ku. Tel: 03-5568-4552. Open Mon-Fri 6pm-3am, Sat 6-11pm, closed Sun and hols. Nearest stn: Ginza.

Photo credit: Martin Hladik

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