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
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
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. www.ginza-hajime.com
Photo credit: Martin Hladik
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