Found on the eastern side of the Arakawa, the downtown neighbourhood of Tateishi in Katsushika Ward is only 15 minutes by subway from Asakusa but remains largely undiscovered by the masses. The area is packed with retro shopping streets, old-fashioned food stalls and shitamachi attitude – you'll see plenty of locals heading for the watering holes from early noon and staying put for the remainder of the day. Cheap booze isn't the only attraction, though: eateries here offer quality grub at seriously low prices, so gourmet-biased bar-hoppers can easily make it through three joints without spending more than ¥5,000. Here are ten spots to kick off your delicious downtown adventure.
Bite into local specialities at lunchtime
Once you’ve reached Tateishi, there are plenty of eateries worth starting out at – it all depends on your preferences. Any of the five places listed below serve local specialities and will make for great kick-off spots. Still, whatever you do, don't leave without trying motsuyaki (roast giblets), Tateishi's signature snack.
Starting your lunch with a bite of sushi is never wrong, and Sakaezushi is where to get your fishy fix in Tateishi. This standing-only joint has been in business since 1958 and continues to serve up fresh Edo-style goodies from as low as ¥100 per piece. Their oysters and scallops are always tasty, but there's no need to be picky. Expect crowds on weekends.
If you're feeling the need for a caffeine boost around noon, skip the chain shops scattered around the station and head for one of the area's retro coffee houses. Lumiere, a classic kissaten combining Showa-era and tropical influences, serves decent Joe for under ¥400. When you visit, look out for the randomly placed antique phone box inside the shop.
Up for getting some sweets after coffee? Then your next stop should be Campanula and its speciality Kongari cream puffs (¥200), baked over a sugar cloth that makes for a crispy texture and filled with ample amounts of freshly made custard cream – an appetising combination that'll keep you powered up.
Our next stop is Ranshu, a Chinese restaurant serving delicious pan-fried gyoza (¥350), suigyoza ('water dumplings') (10 for ¥400), and three types of grilled leek gyoza (5 for ¥400). The fried dumplings are masterful, packed with juicy meat and veg, and can be further improved with the coriander toppings.
To round up the daytime tour, head over to inspect this old-fashioned ramen shop that churns out simple but delicious noodles in nostalgic surroundings. While you're at it, make sure to order the kayu (rice porridge), which goes nicely with the scallop soup. They also serve beer, making this a great spot to hang around at.
Get buzzed in the pubs at night
Now that the sun is setting, it's time to discover Tateishi's best bits through a thorough bar-hopping round. Join the locals for beers, chew on motsuyaki and plan your next move – area pubs get packed from early afternoon and stay that way until the early morning hours, so you'll have plenty of time to sneak around. The five joints listed here should get you started.
Uchida is a long-running motsuyaki eatery where the atmosphere is pure old-school Tateishi. The menu includes choices like boiled and raw motsuyaki, stew (probably the top pick) and pickles, all available for ¥200 a pop. Ordering isn't exactly straightforward for beginners, so it might be a good idea to ask the staff for recommendations. The place gets crowded early even on weekdays, so come prepared to queue up, and do note that visibly drunk patrons won't be admitted.
Before tackling your meal at this gem of an oden eatery, appreciate the drink menu's plentiful selection of wines (Japanese, Italian and French), sake and shochu. Next, work your way up to the range of sides, such as ‘odon’ (udon boiled in oden soup) and seafood dishes. Our favourite is undoubtedly the ‘Tomato Oden’, made by stewing a whole peeled tomato in oden soup before combining it with dried basil to create a rich, herby flavour – highly recommended.
This atmospheric and laughably cheap bar is loved by the locals. First-timers will do well to order a highball, which here means a shochu-based mixture instead of the standard whisky variety – a nice match with the shop's motsuyaki, which come with a deliciously spicy garlic and red pepper sauce. The fun-loving staff will make you feel right at home, too.
How about a marriage of buckwheat noodles and sake? The soba at Genan is handmade and the buckwheat flour used includes a strong but sweet-tasting variety called ‘Hitachi Autumn'. We recommend the Juwari Soba (¥980), an aromatic creation served with resilient noodles and crisp, modestly sweet soup.
Looking to fulfil some carnivorous needs? This excellent yakiniku joint serves A5 grade wagyu beef, available at ¥990-¥1,100 for 100g. As for sides, try ordering the signature salad, which comes with a heap of healthy cabbage. The meat here feels soft and fresh, making for a real steal at these prices, and the opening hours seal the deal – the grilling doesn't stop until 4am, so missing your last train doesn't have to spell disaster.