Hiroshima’s Nagarekawa late night entertainment district is western Japan’s biggest. Look up, and the illuminated names of hundreds of tiny bars run up the side of eight-story buildings. Get out of an elevator on any of these floors and you’ll find yourself in a narrow corridor lined with doors. Other than perhaps the muffled sound of not always tuneful karaoke singing, it’s almost impossible to know what kind of place, and what kind of welcome, awaits beyond them.
You could just take a stab at choosing the place with the most intriguing name, but the clientele at many of these bars is made up of a limited number of loyal regulars. New customers come by way of introduction and drop ins, called ichigensan in Japanese, are frowned upon.
So, without a salaryman connection, how is one to access this mainstay of Japan’s night culture? Enter Ofuku’s Tanaka-san. Tanaka-san has been tending bar and bantering with her loyal customers for almost 40 years. Ofuku lies on the edge of the nightlife district not far from the main Chuo-dori thoroughfare and is a typical Japanese snack bar (known as a “stand bar” here in Hiroshima).
Seating up to 8 people along a luxuriously bright red counter, the interior blends traditional Japanese motifs such as shoji paper doors with Showa modern and western design elements.
Tanaka-san is a strong proponent of the preservation of traditional Japanese culture in everyday life. She is always immaculately turned out in one of her collection of several hundred kimono, many of them vintage and some antique. Frustrated at the relative lack of interest Japan’s younger generations show in traditional culture in general and kimono in particular, Tanaka-san has decided to throw open her hitherto exclusive bar to the growing number of overseas visitors coming to Hiroshima.
“Kimono used to be so much better made than many today, but, even when well taken care of, the fabric can only last so long. I have a huge collection of beautiful kimono which I would rather see being appreciated and enjoyed than carefully wrapped up and boxed away.”
What Ofuku offers is an authentic Japanese nightlife experience. On arrival, Tanaka-san will fit guests (male and female) in one of the many kimono she keeps at the bar, and depending on your size, you could end up in a rare vintage gem. Tanaka-san has a great eye and ably guides guests in selecting a kimono and obi waist band that suits them.
Fittings take about 15 minutes per person, and, as you will be sitting at the bar counter, the kimono can be relaxed and comfortable.
As vintage kimono were made for people small in stature, ladies that are up to about 165cm in height will have the widest choice from Tanaka’s older collection, but more modern garments are available for taller guests.
Once dressed, take a seat at the bright red bar counter for drinks. Ofuku always has a great selection of premium sake from local breweries, as well some from some of the best varieties from other parts of Japan. If you are a sake novice, tell Tanaka-san whether you prefer your sake dry, fragrant or sweet, and let her select one for you.
Your drinks come with a small plate of delicacies that pair well with sake, but, if you are hungry, you can order a range of light, but beautifully presented Japanese dishes.
Tanaka-san speaks very little English, but for someone who is so immersed in traditional Japanese culture, she is refreshingly frank and, for those who can speak Japanese or with a translator is a treasure trove of stories about Nagarekawa in its heyday. Don’t speak Japanese? Not to worry, Tanaka-san is a great fun and there is a good chance you’ll find yourself behind the counter serving her sake!
A night in Ofuku is a rare opportunity to get a look behind the closed doors and enjoy a slice of authentic Japanese nightlife. It’s a place to experience culture as it is meant to be; lived as much as studied.
Kimono & Sake Bar Ofuku Prices
Kimono, sake and food bar experience: ¥3500
Simple kimono fitting, one serving of premium sake and a small plate of appetizers.
Sake, food bar experience: ¥1500
Additional drink menu
Sake, beer, shochu, cola, oolong tea ¥500
Japanese wine, Japanese whiskey and Setoda Lemon Sour ¥800
Sparkling sake: ¥1500
Assorted sashimi (¥1600), assorted tempura (¥1300), oden of the day, small kobachi dishes, tsukemono pickles, rice dish of the day ¥500.
Sausage plate ¥1000
Cheese plate ¥1000
Shukou set of 3 appetizers that go well with sake ¥1500
Opening hours: 20:00-24:00 (L.O. for sashimi and tempura at 22:00)
Closed: Sunday, National Holidays
Walking directions to Ofuku Kimono & Sake Bar
Address: 2F Kura Building, 2-24 Nagarekawa-cho, Naka-ku, Hiroshima-shi
Address in Japanese: 広島県 広島市中区 流川町 2-24 蔵ビル２F