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
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.
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.
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.
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.
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.