Five of the best liquor stores with bars in Tokyo

Sip your way around the ‘kaku-uchi’ counters of Tokyo’s grandest stand bars
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Originally used to describe the unsanitary act of drinking straight from the bottle, the Japanese word kaku-uchi now refers to sipping booze in the corner of a liquor store – often at a stand bar set up specifically for the purpose. These counter-only establishments, which allow you to sample from any bottle from the parent shop’s often vast selection, aren’t just considerably cheaper than bars: they often also go to great lengths to provide snacks that pair well with the drinks on offer. These are five of our favourite casual in-store boozers – don your comfiest shoes and prepare to linger.

Five fine kaku-uchi joints

Shopping, Specialist food and drink

Jolly's

icon-location-pin Ebisu

A venerable liquor store with nearly 100 years of history, Jollys sits on Meiji-dori and is even more of a standout after last year’s top to toe renovation. Now composed of a shop, a wood-trimmed counter and a basement music studio, it’s a popular spot with backpackers and local office workers alike. All bottles available in the store can be tasted at the bar, which also serves up food including hot dogs and spam musubi rice rolls. 

Shopping, Specialist food and drink

Deguchiya

icon-location-pin Ikejiri-Ohashi

Originally opened in 1933, Deguchiya added a kaku-uchi counter when it was renovated in 2008. Although wine is the speciality here, you’ll also get to choose from a great selection of sake and shochu, craft beers and a small lineup of pub grub. The grape-loving owner focuses on bottles from smaller-scale vineyards and favours organic and natural wines. The bar offers the opportunity to sample wines from ¥400 per glass, alongside slices of ‘the cheese of the day’.

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Bars and pubs, Craft beer pubs

Beer Stand Hiranoya

icon-location-pin Shinsen

Hiranoya is all about changing with the times: founded in 1907, it operated as a liquor dealer-come-convenience store during the bubble economy years of the late ’80s before eventually turning into a beer stand in 2013. It now stocks an incredible 100 varieties of Belgian beer – an obsession of the owner, who fell in love with lambics and lagers during a working holiday abroad and later worked at a Belgian beer bar in Tokyo. In addition to the Flemish thirst-quenchers you’ll get to choose from around 50 American and Japanese bottled beers and snacks including sausages and pickles.

Bars and pubs, Izakaya

Kaku-Uchi Se-Bon

icon-location-pin Monzen-Nakacho

Opened in 2011 in Monzen-Nakacho, a neighbourhood packed with comfy watering holes, Se-Bon occupies a renovated warehouse that feels like Tokyo’s best kept secret. In summer the floor-to-ceiling shutters are thrown open to let the light in, while in winter they are closed down to create the cosiest of atmospheres. The drink selection starts and ends with sake: Se-Bon’s owner keeps regulars happily on their toes with a rotating lineup of high-quality, hard-to-find bottles from the likes of Jikon and Hanaabi, all priced so that three glasses will set you back less than ¥2,000.

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Bars and pubs, Wine bars

Jip Wine Bar & Wine Shop

icon-location-pin Shinjuku-Nichome

Located near the verdant loveliness of Shinjuku Gyoen park, Jip specialises in domestic wine. In fact, the store-bar is a pioneer in the field, having opened in 2010 – a time when there were only a handful of vineyards in Japan. They now stock a hand-picked selection of bottles from more than 80 wineries across the country, from Hokkaido in the north to Kyushu in the south. Bottles can be bought at the store and drunk at the counter, although you’ll need to pay a ¥1,800 corkage fee per bottle. The appetiser menu lists everything from nuts to carpaccio and a selection of refined Japanese dishes, most available for well under ¥1,000 per plate.

Looking for a different kind of bar?

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