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Less than a decade ago, few cocktail connoisseurs would have thought of looking for a stylish bar in the shitamachi. While only the most eager imbibers could keep count of all the refined watering holes in Ginza, Roppongi and Azabu, Tokyo’s old downtown was an afterthought at best when it came to trendy grown-up boozing. But with the opening of Tokyo Skytree in 2012 and the beginning of Olympics-related construction out by the bay, the old-school neighbourhoods east of the Sumida River have been thrust into the collective spotlight.
Such developments have revealed that the stereotype of the shitamachi as frozen in time and devoid of style was wildly off the mark. In fact, old Tokyo is home to an excellent selection of both venerable watering holes and sharp newcomers, with its diversity surprising even experienced tipplers. Here’s our list of 15 shitamachi bars that won’t let you down – whether you're drinking alone or with a group.
Photos by Kisa Toyoshima and Keisuke Tanigawa. Translated by Ili Saarinen