The District of Azabu-Juban Loved by a Japanese WomanArea Guide
Asuka, who was introduced to traditional Japanese dance at a young age and has actively pursued a career as an avant-garde dancer, has proceeded into the path of a geisha. This authentic Japanese woman, who knows classic and modern inside-out, loves Azabu-Juban the most out of all of Tokyo’s districts. Azabu-Juban is an international district at the center of the capital city.
-Why do you like Azabu-Juban?
Asuka: I have lived in Azabu-Juban for 20 years; it's a fantastic district, and I owe a lot to it. I always wanted to live somewhere with easy access to other places and, in Azabu-Juban, I can feel relaxed while being in the center of Tokyo, because the district has maintained the feeling of a traditional commercial and working-class neighborhood. I love Juban so much that I never want to leave.
-What are some qualities that only a long-time resident would notice?
Asuka: All of your basic needs can be fulfilled right here in Azabu-Juban. There are just as many glamorous restaurants as there are dingy pubs. People both young and old live here, and since there are many embassies located nearby, people from all over the world live here as well. This makes it a melting pot of diverse - and accepting - people. The board members of the shopping district are owners of traditional businesses such as a long-standing kimono shop, a fish market, a clothing store, and a stationary store. You can feel the warmth of human touch here. Also, there are regulations in place regarding signs and lighting to preserve the view. The district holds a festival called the “Azabu-Juban Noryo Matsuri” in the summer, where some 150,000 people visit from abroad. There are soba restaurants and Japanese confectionary shops that have been around for more than 100 years.
-What kind of lifestyle do you lead in Azabu-Juban?
Asuka: On my days off I go out for food or drinks. Gourmets know that there are many hidden gems in the Azabu-Juban area. Many restaurants here are chef-owned. You can become friends with the owners, and you can feel comfortable dining there alone. Sometimes they will introduce you to other great restaurants with whom they have connections. You can even become friends with other regular customers and enjoy conversations with them as well.
-What is your favorite nightspot in Azabu-Juban?
Asuka: It's a bar called Bar Centifolia. The owner, Yuzo Komai, who won the prestigious “Suntory, The Cocktail Award” opened the bar two years ago. They serve beautiful original cocktails as well as select beverages from around the world, such as whiskey and brandy. They also carry rare bottles such as a 50-year-old Yamazaki, of which only 150 bottles have been sold worldwide, and Karuizawa, which is extremely hard to come by because it is no longer in production. The owner is only 30 years old but has outstanding skills and is truly respected by the Azabu-Juban locals. I stop by often on my way home from work and on my days off. The colorful Jack Rose is one of my favorite cocktails.
-What are some characteristics of Japanese whiskey?
Asuka: Yuzo says, “Hard liquors from overseas tend to be strong-boned.” Japanese whiskey like those made by Suntory is made for the enjoyment of Japanese people and has a different taste. One might say it lacks in character, but this can be a good thing. It's smooth, and it is great when thinned down with water or enjoyed on the rocks. They carry the 35, 25, 18, 12 and 10-year-old editions of Yamazaki, as well as other whiskeys such as Hibiki. International travelers that want to try Japanese whiskey should visit Bar Centifolia.
-Being so familiar with Japanese culture, what do you love most about it?
Asuka: There are many traditional forms of performance art (kabuki, noh, etc.) that have to do with the beauty of the style, including the Japanese dance that I have studied. If you take a look at the pieces of art created by traditional craftspeople, you will surely notice the fine details and high quality. Today, traditional craftspeople in Japan are becoming fewer in number, so I want to be someone who can share the greatness of traditional Japanese culture with the world. You can experience the heart of omotenashi on many occasions in Japan, so please do visit, and I hope you will enjoy your stay.
Adress：1-6-5, Azabu-Juban, Minato-ku, Tokyo, Lamuse Azabu-Juban Bldg. 6F
Hours: 6 pm to 3 am (following day)