Wednesday, September 30, 2015

YUREI IZAKAYA! Kichijoji's Watering Hole for Yokai Lovers!

An outside view of Yurei Izakaya, located just a few minutes from Kichijoji Station. Photo by Brett Homenick.

In my recent visits to Kichijoji, I have been reminded of an intriguing Japanese eatery that revels in the traditional ghosts and spirits of Japan. It's called Yurei Izakaya, and if you've ever seen any of the yokai movies from Daiei Studios, then you already have a good idea of what to expect from this establishment.

As you walk by, a recording of ghostly sounds and creepy sound effects (much like what you'd find on one of those old Halloween audiotapes they used to make when we were kids) constantly plays, helping to draw the attention of curious passersby.

As you can see, the theme of the izakaya is the yurei and yokai that have been the stuff of legends for years. While these creatures may not mean a lot to Westerners, those who have seen these ghosts and goblins depicted in the movies ought to be more than a little interested in checking out this restaurant. I know I was.

Be a bit careful, though. To enter the restaurant, you have to descend some stairs, and at some point the lights go out. (Need I explain why?) Actually, you have to figure out how to enter in the dark, and suffice it to say, that's not entirely obvious. Still, I was able to enter after only a few seconds of total confusion.

The wait staff was very friendly, and one waitress in particular took me to my seat. She had a good command of English, and explained to me the details of how to order. It turns out you have to lightly strike the bowl at your table to make it ring, and then wave the disembodied hand around to get the attention of the wait staff.

If you're not exactly well versed in Japanese, don't worry! English menus are available for you curious gaijin who want to experience Yurei Izakaya in all its glory.

I must say that being in the restaurant feels like you've stepped onto the set of one of Daiei's yokai films from the Showa era. It's well decorated with lots of creepy props, ranging from goofy to gory. Some of the sights there were a little shocking to see in such a fun restaurant, but it is a celebration of the dead after all.

If you're in the Kichijoji area, be sure to give Yurei Izakaya a look. I can't say that I've ever been to another place in Japan quite like this. It has a unique feel, and while it's not officially associated with any film or film studio, the connections to the old Daiei yokai flicks are obvious.

Why, there's even an Onibaba (1964) reference! If you like to eat Japanese food, but you don't like to pay too much for it, and if you like the weird and macabre, Yurei Izakaya is most definitely a place you should check out!

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