Tunnel Yokocho トネル横丁(tunnel alley) is home to six bars and restaurants, three on each side of a narrow passageway that runs through a building across the street from Nishi Kujo Station on the Loop Line. Tunnel Yokocho was named after the nearby Ajigawa Ito (aka Ajigawa Tunnel) which was completed in 1944. Ajigawa Tunnel is the only tunnel in Japan that runs through a river bed. It connects Nishi Kujo to Konohana. Commuters take an elevator down to the bottom of the river and then walk 81 meters through the narrow tunnel to the elevator on the other side. Bicycles are permitted inside the elevator. (There is another elevator for cars, but it is no longer in operation.)
Canadian photographer JYT and I came to Nishi Kujo from Chibune (see last blog post) because I wanted to take him to Sezon, the oldest izakaya in Tunnel Yokocho. I had eaten there three or four times before and it was always good. Unfortunately, Sezon was closed, so I decided to take JYT to one of the best tachinomiya’s in Osaka, Kobayashi, which is run by a very nice old couple. We got there and it was also closed. That’s what happens when you go drinking a day before New Year’s Eve in Japan. After wandering around aimel for 30 minutes we decided to head back to Tunnel Yokocho because we knew a couple of places inside were still open.
BAR WESTERN Harley on The Rocks
Address: Nishi Kujo 4-1-23-19 Tunnel Yokocho
〒〒大阪 府大阪市此花区西九条4-1-23 19番飲食街 トンネル横丁
Nearest Station; JR Nishi Kusho (1 minute)
Type: shot bar
Founded: Heisei 29 (2017)
Beer: shobin 小瓶 (small bottle) Kirin (¥500) Budweiser (¥550)/Corona (¥600)
Upon entering Tunnel Yokocho I noticed that there was a new bar in a space that had always been empty whenever I visited called Bar-Western Harley on The Rocks. I peeked inside and remarked, “This looks like a gaijin bar without any gaijin.” Then suddenly the door opened and we were greeted by a young Japanese guy in a cowboy hat who invited us to come inside. Normally, I would have politely refused, but I had always wanted to drink in all six bars and restaurants in Tunnel Yokocho. And we were tired from walking around in the cold. What the hell. We’ll go inside for one drink. The bar was owned by the young man, and an older woman who I am pretty sure was his mother. As soon as we sat down she told us that they both absolutely love Harley Davidson motorcycles, but they actually own Suzuki motorcycles.
I noticed a Japanese poster for The Great Escape, (Daidassou 大脱走), the 1963 film starring Steve McQueen, James Garner and Charles Bronson. I’ve noticed a lot of Japanese people of a certain age love this film, especially the scene in which McQueen escapes on a motorcycle. The proprietress told me that she was also a huge fan of Charles Bronson. “He’s an American Indian, right?” I happened to remember that Bronson’s real name is Buchinsky, so I told her he was Polish (actually Lithuanian). JYT asked her if she saw Death Wish, but the title was different in Japanese and she had no idea what he meant. This is always a bit frustrating when talking about movies in Japanese, especially old movies. “I wish there was some kind of machine that just translated the titles instantly so we don’t have to go through this every time”, I fumed. JYT calmly pulled out his iPhone and looked up the title: Okamiyosaraba (狼よさらば). Oh!
The proprietress told us that her all-time favorite movie was The Godfather. She pointed to a poster hanging behind the bar. “Godfather I and II…not III, right?” She nodded. Just as I thought, nobody with any taste likes Godfather III. We recommended The Sopranos and Goodfellas. The Sopranos never caught on in Japan, but we were surprised that she had never seen Goodfellas, which is called “Good Fellows” (グッドフェローズ) in Japan. No wonder she hadn’t seen it. It sounds like a British whimsical comedy from the 1960s.
We ordered pizza and beer. I got a Corona with an actual lime, which are expensive in Japan. The young master came over to talk to us. He a massive fan of 80s music and had the television set up to a Mega Hits 80s channel on YouTube that was playing “Jump” by Van Halen. He said he loved Men at Work and Cyndi Lauper. I told him I saw Cyndi Lauper open for The Kinks in 1983 before she was famous.
I noticed a jar of Shine On Georgia Corn Whiskey that was 80 proof and contained 40% alcohol . The tagline on the label said “First ya’ swaller, Then you holler!” One glass of shochu usually is enough to make me woozy, so I wasn’t about to try legal moonshine from Bardstown, Kentucky in Osaka, Japan.
I wasn’t expecting to like Bar Western so much, but I did have a very good time here chatting with the owners. A nice place to have a drink before exploring the rest of Tunnel Yokocho and the many bars near Nishi Kujo Station.
Price for a nama chuu生中 draft beer: Too drunk to remember.
A party of 4-5 young salaryman entered Bar Western and asked if there was enough room for a few more of their friends. Small bars make their money from selling hard liquor to loyal customers with deeper pockets than ours. It was time to leave anyway. JYT didn’t sign up for the Corona and pizza tour. We headed across the hall to Ajimuso and sat down at a table near the door. We ordered beef tataki ham katsu and a plate of french fries Nice sized portions. JYT got much better photos of the beef tataki. It doesn’t look very appetizing on my iPod Touch photo, but trust me it was delicious.
A young guy walked by in a t-shirt that said Fuck You Bad Girls Drink Milk. The Wisconsin Dairy Association has really upped it’s game in promoting milk in the Far East. Actually, I have wondered about who designs these English t-shirts and how many are manufactured. They definitely don’t sell them at Uniqlo. A nice lady sitting with two gentlemen at the next table gave us homemade kimichi. Bringing in food to a restaurant and giving it out to other customers not something that is tolerated in most places, but it happens frequently at many of the places I go to in Osaka, usually with regulars who have a good relationship with the owners.
The next day I was browsing through Netflix Japan and came across a series called Osaka Loop Line: A Love Story at Every Station. The Nishi Kujo episode filmed inside Tunnel Yokocho about a man from Tokyo who encounters the mysterious Tunnel Yokocho Devil. After failing to lure the man to a love hotel, the devil (who looks like a hipster) tries to lead him to hell through the Ajigawa Tunnel. Unfortunately it was the worst episode in the entire series.
I took the train from Hanshin Namba (which I had no idea existed until today), towards Amagasaki and changed trains for the Umeda line at Daimotsu. I got off one stop later at Kuise Station. The entire ride took 20 minutes, much shorter than expected, but I managed to finish reading Suicide Casanova, a very entertaining novel by Arthur Nessian. This was my first time in Kuise and it reminded me a bit of Taisho Station on the Loop Line. I was here to meet JYT, a trilingual photographer and teacher from Montreal who has lived in Japan for sixteen years. He arrived on his bicycle a few minutes later and we set out to explore the nearby Showa Shopping Road.
Ikenaga Saketen 池永 酒店
Address: Hyogo Ken Amagasaki shi Kuise Honmachi 1 Chome 24-13
Nearest Station; Hanshin Kuise (5 minutes)
Type: kakuuchi 角打ち(combined liquor store and bar)
Founded: Showa 6 (1931)
Price for a daibin 大瓶 (large bottle of beer) : ¥400*
Visited Tanakaman Saketen (田中萬酒店） in Nishinakajima Minamigata last month. The mama has been running it for 55 years. She said I was the first foreigner to set foot in the place, but her son corrected her: There was a drunken NOVA teacher who stumbled in back in the 90s. Get off at Exit #2. Cross the street to Hotel Consort and walk down three blocks until you come to an overpass. It’s on the right. Check out the dried fugu (poison blow fish) hanging on the wall. Cheap drinks, delicious homemade food and friendly regulars. 田中萬酒店 （西中島南方) TEL 06-6301-4164
大阪府大阪市淀川区西中島1-14-2. Osaka shi Yodogawa ku Nishi Nakajima 1-14-2
営業時間 Open Monday to Saturday* (closed some Saturdays when the mama doesn’t feel like working) 18:00～22:30頃 定休日 Closed Sundays. 日祝日Closed Holidays.
Visited Mukai Saketen, an 80 year old tachinomiya near Temmabashi. Fantastic old relic. They have a 70 year old sake poster of a geisha on the wall. Like drinking in a museum. I noticed an interesting plant. The mama told me it was wasabi. They grow their own. Get out at JR Temmabashi or Ogimachi Station. Walk towards Doshin同心 Mukai Saketen is a couple of blocks past OASIS. 向井酒店 7 minute walk from Temmabashi Station. 大阪市北区同心2-3-17 (Kita-Ku Doshin 2-3-17) 18:00-21:00 M-F)
Had the best yakiniku meal at SUSUMU in Temmabashi. The first place I’ve been to that serves LAMBCHOP (¥500) in Japan. Everything was delicious. I also enjoyed YEBISU CREAMY TOP on tap. Good beer. While I was there two young ladies from Singapore came in and asked if I could read Japanese. So I ended up ordering for them. They left and a couple from Indonesia came in. The man asked me the same question so I ordered for them too. I think I have disproved that (funny) Tanaka Ken viral video “But we’re speaking Japanese!”twice in less than 45 minutes. Susumu is highly recommended. You can try a variety of dishes for around 300 yen. The rosu and bara are a must. About five minutes from JR Temmabashi. 天神橋5-6-22 丸山マンション 1F (Tenjinbashi 5-6-33 Maruyama Mansion 1F) Open 17:00-24:00.