Vin vino is a standing bar in Ebisu. It first opened in 1999 and was one of the first standing bars in Tokyo. Toshi first went there in 2000 and has been a regular patron ever since. What is special about the standing bar concept is that in a country like Japan - which has a fairly closed culture where it can be quite difficult to meet people outside of your immediate group - it allows strangers to easily mingle amongst each other. In fact it's almost impossible to not strike up a conversation with others who are there because Vin Vino is about 20 metres squared in size (including the bar itself) so with 20 people inside it feels like a very intimate gathering. Vin Vino is owned and run by Kon chan who loves 80s rock music and pumps out cheesy 80s music videos around the clock.
After a few drinks, we go to Kiryu, a two minute walk from Vin Vino. Kiryu is an izakaya (literally a place where you sit and drink) style restaurant that is very low key but serves fantastic food. There are a few dishes that we always have (their menu never changes) - yamaimo teppan (baked yam), natto (fermented soybean), maguro yamakake (raw tuna with raw egg), asari kare (clam soup curry).
Last night we had dinner there with friends from Jakarta - Cathy and Alan, who are in Japan on holiday and are heading off to London soon for a car rally from London to Cameroon (!!) - they have promised to do some guest blogging here with stories from their travels so I am very excited about that!