Toyama City
Photography & Written by Naoko Kumagai

A Night In Toyama City

Toyama city was a lot larger then I had imagined, and the atmosphere there was very relaxing while time past mellow, and slowly.

The purpose of my first trip to this city in the Hokuriku region was to discover great sake and to meet the locals. So I did, as I free wheeled and walked around town while the thin rain greeted me making the streets even more beautiful.

Bar “Sakaya Kurabu” is a “kakuuchi” style bar, which means a liquor store where customers can drink their choice of sake at the store’s counter. But this kakuuchi bar is more of a “luxurious version” of a kakuuchi. Even the “otoshi”, the appetizer that is served for every customer before ordering, which in most Japanese “izakaya” bar are basically very small amount and very simple, comes in such beauty and volume. They are also well known for serving rare sake, and as soon as the bar opens the space is filled with sake lovers from around town.

In the daytime the Ishizaka family runs the “Ishizaka Zen Shoten”, and at night the same store transformed bar “Sakaya Kurabu” as well.

The customer that sat next to us with the great smile on his face was Mr. Kanesada, whom he says he had been trying to make reservations for the super-popular bar and had finally won the chance to spend an evening here. He was very surprised to see us drop by and luckily fitting into the bar space without any reservation. I guess we must have been really really lucky.

As we were having conversations, we discovered that Mr. Kanesada is working for the architectural designing office which is responsible for the design of Saysfarm, which we had visited earlier that day in noon in Himi city. The coincidence drew us even closer as we enjoyed our conversation over delicious sake. What a nice meeting in a great evening.

Toyama’s popular “tororo seaweed rice ball” we ordered in the end was superb. The food is great, the sake is great, no wonder you need to make reservations.

The second bar we visited was “Kanzume Kojo”, recommended by the Ishizaka family at the Sakaya Kurabu owner Ishizaka. Located in Shinsekai, as you step into the bar, you will see the wall filled and stacked with canned food, creating the strange and unique atmosphere in the bar.

“We’re basically really mean and cold towards first-time customers, you know” says bar owner (Minoru). You can tell that he doesn’t mean a word he is saying by his big smile on his face. Just got to love his sense of humor.

“Wow, how in the world did you guys found out about a place like this!?” amusingly says Tomoyo, one of the local regular that dropped by soon after we came, finding out that we were not from around the neighborhood. If I were in her place I must have said the same thing.

We were having a great time, but there was another place we had been planning to go, so we promised to return again some other day and said bye bye to our new friends. So we headed of to the next bar, with having our hair being pulled back.

alpes” is a Natural Wine bar, newly opened last year in Fall.

Owner Mr. Ikezaki had been in Tokyo and France working in restaurants and now he had returned to his hometown, to start his own business. Since we were informed of his nick name “Zack” and his unique character beforehand by some of our mutual friends and we had been looking forward to meeting him. By the time we arrived, it was already past closing time but he kindly welcomed us in.

It is a newly opened restaurant bar, but perhaps because the space had ben remodeled after it used to be a “snack bar” (Japanese classic style bar often run by female owners called “mama”s ), there is a nostalgic and comforting feeling in the room. His great choice of music is also one of many good reasons to visit.

He served us with a special dish assorted with appetizers after we told him we wanted something nice and small to go with the drinks. The heart warming dish and the comfort of the bar made delicious wine a perfect late night treat. Also listening to stories of Zack’s days in Tokyo and France are another great fun you can expect at the bar.

So It was, a night full of joy that we had discovered and experienced the richness running deep in the land of Toyama.