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“Excellent!”
Review of Kamiya Bar

Kamiya Bar
Ranked #15 of 4,630 Restaurants in Taito
Neighbourhood: Ueno, Asakusa
Restaurant details
Neighbourhood: Ueno, Asakusa
Reviewed 24 November 2011

I don't have to say much in this review since someone else wrote an extensive review already on tripadvisor, but I can say that I agree with that reviewer for the most part. This place is original, has class, and has inexpensive brandy. I went there on four occasions and each time was welcomed to sit at a table. The locals of the area frequent this place, and each time we were there, people came over and greeted us (seeing that we were foreigners.) The locals there even shook my hand and bought us a round, as they seemed excited to see "outsiders" there or perhaps considered it a compliment to their hangout. If you want a nice place that isn't a tourist trap, check this place out!

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4  Thank brian f
This review is the subjective opinion of a TripAdvisor member and not of TripAdvisor LLC
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Reviewed 19 June 2011

When you enter the hallowed ground floor of Asakusa's famous Kamiya Bar it is (at first) difficult to categorize it. Is it a Japanese community hall or have I just stepped back in time? Seasoned visitors will know immediately to what I'm alluding to. But for the uninitiated, please let me explain.

Once you pass through the entrance you'll see a display case with various bar snacks and light meals. You'll also see some representations of several beers and the accompanying glass sizes. Finally, you'll see a small shot glass filled with tantalizing copper coloured spirit known as Denki Bran which is one of the many reasons people come here. Adjacent to the display case is a cash register with a smiling young lady attending it. Order a drink for now and you'll be handed a paper slip. Now comes the exciting part.

All tables are communal and before you ask - no, you cannot reserve a table. This is another reason why people come here. In all the years I've been coming to the Kamiya Bar I have never been refused a place at anybody's table. Conversely, if you manage to find a unattended table (this is rare) it would hardly be good form to not permit anyone else to join yours.

Flag down one of the passing attendants and hand them the aforementioned slip. From now on you order your drinks from them. It's pay-as-you-go and no one expects a tip. Although I'm Australian this no tipping policy will come as a pleasant surprise to visitors from the U.S. especially. Americans, however, may momentarily forget where they are (which is possible with the assistance of several Denki Brans) and tip inadvertently. Don't worry. You may receive a brief confused look, followed by a smile and your tip returned. Just don't do it again (wink).

At first you may be ignored, and at best, be treated to a curious occasional glance. Very few foreigners step inside these walls. The crowd is generally older, think retirees or people close to it. Although having said that, again, the Kamiya Bar seems to have no problem attracting younger Japanese people on occasion to see what all the fuss is about. So don't be quick to dismiss it as some boring retirement village. Some of the old timers are genuine old timers in the sense they've been coming here for years. And they sure know how to party. The din of conversation can sometimes be deafening and the plumes of thick cigarette smoke clouds will ensure people intolerant of tobacco will ever linger here very long. Once you're bitten by the Kamiya Bar you'll find yourself irresistibly drawn back time after time.

Now, the Denki Bran - English translation "Electric Brandy". Several versions exist as to why it is so called. One is that it was first distilled with the assistance of electricity when power was first introduced in the late 19th century. Another theory, much revered by lovers of this unusual spirit, is that legend has it a current of electricity is passed through it at some stage of the distillation process. This is the version I like the most as it pretty well sums up the "electric" effect (pun intended) this drink has upon you. A word of warning - pace yourself with this beguiling drink. The price to sample this mystery is a mere 260 yen (approximately $3.25 US).

The food on offer will win no Michelin awards but as bar food it is more than adequate in price and taste. No one expects you to eat here and there is no compulsion to do so. I tend to think of the food here as the same way as when I'm in my house drinking beer and eating cashew nuts. The food is unremarkable, however, it will kill the munchies one inevitably acquires in bars and tastes just fine for what it is.

As to my mention of the journey back in time. All the waiters wear bow ties and casual suits and the ladies waitresses green pinafores. This coupled with an obsessive and gratuitous serving of wood veneers on every wall will complete your time travel experience. Apparently this is what Japanese people imagined a Western Bar to look like (without many even having seen one) back in the 1880's. Japanese people travel a bit more now but little has changed inside the Kamiya Bar.

Before too long (with the assistance of Denki Bran) your tables mates will be unable to resist engaging you in conversation. I've met many well travelled Japanese people here. Many were the road warriors travelling incessantly to and from the USA plying their trade and wares during the Japanese boom decades of the 60's and 70's. Such is the enormity of some of their travels they haven't set foot outside Tokyo in their 10 years since retiring. And this is not an isolated incident. You'll meet people who've quit Tokyo for the country life and are visiting family / friends at their favourite bar. Yes, THIS is truly why people come here - the people. You'll hear some amazing stories and be prepared to tell yours. You'll certainly be a hit with the locals when ordering a Denki Bran. Be prepared to accept (or politely decline) further tastings from your table mates depending on the effect this unique drink has upon you. You have been warned!

I've spent many wonderful evenings here since I was introduced to this unique establishment back in 2003. Even in those 8 years nothing has changed and (due to relentless deflation and recession) even the prices have not changed. In keeping with the time travel theme no credit cards whatsoever are accepted. It's strictly Japanese cash. Sadly, the Kamiya Bar is closed on Tuesday. Well, they do need to recharge all those electrically charged Denki Bran bottles! The subway entrance for the Tokyo Metro is right outside the door which will take you anywhere you need to go.

I hope this place never changes but I seriously doubt it will. Just remember: you're in their world now so sit back enjoy and enjoy the ride.

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14  Thank Pete1405
This review is the subjective opinion of a TripAdvisor member and not of TripAdvisor LLC
Reviewed 1 week ago
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Reviewed 4 weeks ago
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Thank おここ
This review is the subjective opinion of a TripAdvisor member and not of TripAdvisor LLC

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