Known as Kuromoncho back when the capital was still called Edo, the neighbourhood between Okachimachi and Yushima stations is still home to several old townhouses and historical homes. Standing out among them like a sore thumb is the Western-style brick structure – a former liquor warehouse built in the Meiji era – that houses this famed watering hole.
Passing by it at night, you’ll notice a faint glow seeping through from beneath the heavy door. One look inside and an experienced drinker will immediately recognise many of the whisky bottles lining the shelves. Opened in 1978, Once Upon A Time is now run by Hiromi Nakamura, wife of the late founder Masato Nakamura. Damage from the earthquake on 3.11 scared the building’s owner into suggesting it be torn down, and although this decision was reversed by the bar’s loyal patrons, the structure is still set for demolition in 2023. Best visit while you still can, in other words.
Upon entering, you’ll notice the eight-seat counter on your left. Sit down and you can’t help but pay attention to the two huge JBL monitors set up in both corners of the ceiling. The deep sound of music streaming out from these fills the space, adding to the venerable atmosphere. Alternatively, you can opt for one of the 12 seats in the middle of the bar and admire the metal table that used to be a storehouse door, or head up the strange, steep staircase on the right to the two-seat loft, which is packed with all kinds of quirky gadgets. The perfect spot for a secret meeting, perhaps? This bar is the kind of place where you’ll want to order a glass of whisky along with a light snack and just while away the hours.
|Venue name:||Once Upon A Time|
1-3-3 Ueno, Taito-ku
|Opening hours:||6pm-12midnight / closed Sun & hols|
|Transport:||Yushima Station (Chiyoda line), exit 6; Okachimachi Station (Yamanote, Keihin-Tohoku lines)|