TOKYO DEEP SPOT 渋谷のレトロな一角「渋谷のんべい横丁」Shibuya Nonbei Yokocho’ shows an old-school side of the city.

絶えず明かりがともる、若者の街・渋谷JR渋谷駅から徒歩約5分。にぎやかな大通りから、1本入った線路沿いの一角に、小さな飲み屋が数十件連なった昭和レトロな場所がある。渋谷のんべい横丁だ。65年以上続く歴史のある横丁で、“若者の街・渋谷”とは思えない、昭和の趣が残っている。Shibuya’s a neon mecca for Japanese youth, yet just 5 minutes from the station there’s an alleyway crammed with bars far older than most people hanging out there. It’s called Shibuya Nonbei Yokocho, which translates as Drunkard’s Alley. It hasn’t changed much in its 65-year existence, and wandering into its streets is as close as you’ll ever get to time travel.

昭和へタイムスリップした感覚に陥るここは、一体どんな歴史をたどり、21世紀に存在しているのだろう。時代と共に大きく変わる渋谷という街に、変わらずあり続けるこの場所の歴史を知るため、渋谷のんべい横丁へ向かった。話を聞かせてくれたのは、渋谷のんべい横丁の組合長である村山さん。村山さん自身、渋谷のんべい横丁でお店を営む店主の1人だ。希望により、お店の名前は明かせないが、横丁を代表する焼鳥屋の2代目であり、この横丁を設立するにあたって作られた組合の代表をしている。人柄がにじみ出た、包み込まれるような優しい笑顔で私を迎え入れてくれた。The alleyway wasn’t also retro, though, so we decided to do some digging to find out how it got started and how it survived into the 21st century--a remarkable feat considering how much the rest of Shibuya has transformed. And who better to ask than Shibuya Nonbei Yokocho union president Murayama-san? At his request we can’t say which, but he’s the second generation owner of one of the alley’s best yakitori bars in addition to representing the neighborhood’s interests.

渋谷のんべい横丁の歴史The History of Shibuya Nonbei Yokocho


「マッカーサーの指令で、無法になっていた場所を整理して街作りをしようってなったんだよ。それで飲食の一部が集まって、横丁を作った。当時は、恋文横丁 / 桜丘横丁 / 稲荷横丁とか、渋谷のあちこちに横丁があったんだよ。今も残っているのは、ここくらいだけど」



「ここができた当初は、たしか38軒。この38軒が、どうやってお店の場所決めをしたか分かる? それはね、あみだくじ。大きな紙に“いろはにほへと”って書いて、場所決めをしたんだよ。仲間意識が強かったから、こんな風に決められたんだと思うね。今は、39軒くらいかな・・・。ただ、休業している店もあるから、常時営業しているのは37軒くらい。設立当初から続いているお店は、なだ一 /
鳥福 / 野川 / 並木の4店舗。まだオープンして10年未満っていう新しい店や、洋風の今っぽい店も増えてきた。曜日担当制で店主が変わるとか、時代と共に変化している気がするよ。まぁこれも人との繋がりがあってこそのやり方だよね」

Q. How did Shibuya Nonbei Yokocho come about?
“After the war, people were desperate to make ends meet and started opening up shops all around Shibuya station. Oden, yakitori, food carts, even clothing. Food carts lined Tokyu Honten street, the streets where that big electronics store is now, Dogenzaka and the area around Hachiko. Shibuya Nonbei Yokocho was a coming together of a number of shops that were on Tokyu Honten and Dogenzaka.”

Q.Why did they choose this location?
“MacArthur wanted to clean up the streets and bring some order to things. Several of the shops banded together and made this alleyway. There were several others like it across Shibuya--Koibumi Tokocho, Sakuragaoka Yokocho, Inari Yokocho… but this is the only one left. ”

Q. When did the alleyway as we know it take shape?
“It officially became an alleyway in 1950 or 1951. So we’ve been here for 65 or 66 years now. At first nobody had money so they were all still operating food stalls. Once the cash started coming in they built proper shops. They’d remodel when they could, and it gradually became what we see here today.”

Q. Did the Bubble Era affect things here?
“Things got busier. People went from ordering 5 yakitori skewers to 7. More booze was being sold. The amount of wasted leftovers also increased, too. Of course when the bubble burst so did sales. Fortunately we have our own little bubble here and businesses didn’t take too much of a hit. The increases in profit weren’t big enough to ruin us when they disappeared.”

Q. Has the number of shops or atmosphere changed much over the years?
“At first I believe there were 38 shops. You know how they decided who would set up shop where? They played amidakuji (ghost leg)! That just goes to show how close they all were. Right now I think there are 39 shops. Actually, a few are on hiatus, so make that 37 shops open for business. Nada, Torifuku, Nogawa and Namiki are the only places remaining from the original line up. Many of the current bars haven’t been here longer than 10 years, and there are some trendier western-style places now. Another thing is that the bars are run in daily shifts rather the same person all the time, so we have kept up with the times to some degree. Then again, the shifts are just another sign of how many connections run through the alley.”

Q. How about customers? Have they changed at all?
“Well, we have this image of a place where old men went to drink, but actually a lot of young people come here too. We don’t mind unique or funky looking customers. In fact those types usually have good manners and are well-behaved. Some of our regulars that are retired now have been coming here since they first entered the workforce. When you think of it that way, we’ve always had a younger crowd. Lately we’ve got a lot of foreigners coming here. They’re mostly curious tourists who come here to look around rather than drink and sometimes cause trouble with the locals. From our perspective, we’d prefer people who can communicate and actually buy food. Otherwise it’s not a very fun business to be in.”

横丁の在り方The Ways of the Yokocho


Q. Where do you think Shibuya Nonbei Yokocho will go from here?
“I don’t anticipate any major changes. We have a strong group mentality here, and that’s important to our survival. We’re all in this together, and what one person does affects the entire alleyway. It’s all for one and one for all. If the alleyway were to somehow close down, our principles would remain. We’re more than a group of businesses--this has become a place where people come to connect with each other. Most customers are regulars. We couldn’t just change the way we do things even if we wanted to. The vibe we send out to customers is what keeps them coming back. If we lose that, we lose everything. ”

Talking with Murayama-san, his love for Shibuya Nonbei Yokocho comes across very clearly. He’s got strong family values, and everyone related to the alleyway is family to him. There’s a long tradition to protect, and its importance only increases with time. We visited him in the afternoon while shops were still preparing, but the atmosphere was so welcoming and comfortable that over an hour had passed in the blink of an eye. I felt like I was being initiated into the Nonbei community as they taught me about the unique tin cups they use and their lingo for atsukan (hot sake). There’s a seemingly endless amount of trivia to be learned, but I’m game.

田舎料理「会津」 Country Cooking at ‘Aizu’


「会津」は昭和40年にオープンした。もう52年になる、福島県 会津出身の“大ママ”が始めたお店だ。現在、大ママは96歳。9年前に体調を崩したことをきっかけに、一度お店を閉めようとしたそうだ。しかし、「お店を開けていたら、ママも元気になるんじゃないか」と思った常連客が、預かっていた鍵で店を開けた。冷蔵庫に残っていた食材と大ママの味を思い出しながら、営業を再開。大ママに元気になってもらいたいという気持ちから、常連客がノートにメッセージを書いて、毎日のように届けた。それを見ているうちに大ママも元気を取り戻し、「またお店をやろう」と奇跡の復活を遂げたのだ。その時大ママは88、9歳。毎日ママが一人で営業するのは難しいということから、御厨さんもこの店を手伝うことになったという。あるとき大ママがケガをしてしまい、そこから歩くことが困難になりお店に立つことはなくなってしまった。今は老人ホームに入っていてたまに、「シャバの空気が吸いたい」と言って(笑)、「会津」へ来ることがあるそうだ。


Shibuya Nonbei Yokocho begins coming to life at around 7 PM. To get a taste of what makes the alleyway so great our next stop was ‘Aizu,’ an izakaya operating there for over 50 years. Akimi-san is the usual ‘mama,’ but we visited on a Tuesday, her day off. Instead we spoke to Shibuya Nonbei Yokocho PR rep Mikuriya-san, who runs that shift. The izakaya is a cozy little spot that can seat around 8 people. The enka BGM is the cherry on top of the very sweet mood here.

Aizu first opened 52 years ago in 1965. It gets its name from the hometown of the 96-year-old founder Big Mama--Aizu, Fukushima. Around 9 years ago, Big Mama’s health took a turn for the worse and it looked as though they would be forced to shut down. However, a regular customer thought that keeping Aizu open for business would help her recovery and filled in during her absence. Using the ingredients left in the fridge, they did their best to recreate her recipes. Meanwhile, other regulars wrote get well messages in notepads that were delivered to her almost daily. Their efforts paid off when the then nearly 90-year-old Big Mama made a miraculous recovery and decided to return. At her age she wasn’t able to do everything on her own, which is why Mikuriya-san stepped up to take a shift a week. After an injury made it difficult for her to stand, she was forced to move to an assisted living facility. Now she jokes that she only visits Aizu “When I want to taste the air outside of prison.”

It’s been 8 years since Mikuriya-san began working at Aizu, but 20 years since he first started drinking there. He currently only works the Tuesday shift while keeping his day job in the creative industry. It was a bit funny seeing someone from that line of work repping such a Showa retro space.

Mikuriya-san’s drank in similar neighborhoods like Golden Gai or Omoide Yokocho in Shinjuku. When we ask what was different about Nonbei Yokocho, he explained it like this: “This is a place for more easygoing adults. Rather than a place to go wild, it’s a more laid back and controlled environment.” Even during the middle of the afternoon it’s easy to see what he means--there aren’t any suspicious types lurking about and it feels as safe as it does nostalgic.

「会津」という大きな家族The Great ‘Aizu’ Family


「そこを見てごらん」と言われ、店の壁に目をやると写真がたくさん貼られていた。老人ホームで太鼓を叩く大ママの姿や、デヴィ夫人が訪れたときの写真、みんなで行った旅行の写真などが貼ってあった。なんでも、年に1回常連客を集めた総勢30人を超えるメンバーで、屋形船に乗るイベントを開催しているそうだ。これは、約16年続く恒例行事。大ママの故郷である福島県 会津へ行く、旅行の企画もあるんだとか。もちろん大ママも一緒だ。結婚式にはみんなで参加したり、誕生日のお祝いをしたり、“店主”と“客”なんてかしこまった間柄ではない、大きな“家族”が「会津」にはあった。
Once 7:30 rolls around, Aizu begins to fill with regulars. One woman tells us “There are people you can only see here, so I feel like I’m mainly coming here to meet friends. I drop in whenever I can” when we ask her why she likes it. We asked some of the longest customers about Big Mama. Words like “naughty lady” and “intense” were jokingly thrown around. Her sharp tongue can sometimes sting, but she wins everyone over with her personality and charm. Her secret to being so loved by all is returning the favor.

Someone shouts “Look over there,” so I do and find a countless number of photos on the wall. There are pics of Big Mama playing taiko drums in her nursing home, Dewi Sukarno having a drink there and various Aizu family outings.That’s right--for each of the last 16 years, over 30 regulars have rented out a houseboat for a family reunion of sorts. They also make pilgrimages to Aizu, Fukushima and other field trips. Always with Big Mama in tow, of course. The also attend each other's weddings and birthday parties just like a real family. The line separating staff and customers has long been eradicated.

「会津」に並ぶお酒は、福島県 会津にある榮川酒造(えいせんしゅぞう)のもの。食材も会津から取り寄せていて、山菜やニシンの山椒漬けといった、つまみ類を中心に出している。見た目そのままの「イナゴ」という、刺激的な料理もあったが、煮物や漬物などやさしくてどこか懐かしいものが味わえた。一応、取材という名目で訪れたのだが、そんなことはすぐに忘れてしまい、乾杯を交わして純粋にこの場を楽しんだ。常連同士、「昔はこのクソババアって思ってたよ。でも今は大好き」「私あなたのこと嫌いだったのよ」なんて仲良く本音を言い合う姿に、一同爆笑。初めて訪れた私も快く歓迎してくれて、“会津家”の一員になれた気がした。
Fittingly, ‘Aizu’ serves Eisen Shuzo alcohol, made right in Aizu, Fukushima. The food is also sourced from there, including rarities like mountain-grown veggies and herring. For the brave, there are locusts, and the look just as you’d imagine. For the rest of us, the menu has plenty of nice stewed or pickled snacks. We went there to do interviews, but before we knew it we were all saying ‘kanpai!’ and having a blast. Old timers say they didn’t always see Big Mama so fondly but now they love her to pieces. The also admit to formerly hating each other with booming laughter. Despite my first time this trial by fire made me feel like a member of the family.


I look at the clock and realize it’s now 10 PM. My time felt more like 3 minutes than 3 hours. I’m sad as I say goodbye to the laid back laughter at ‘Aizu,’ but promise to come again soon. Just steps outside of the alleyway I feel like I’ve been spirited away to a totally different Shibuya, or rather just woke up from a drunken dream. Then as I head to the station I remember that there’s nothing more real than the history, friendship and family I encountered that night. It’s there every night in Shibuya--if you know where to look.


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