Toden Arakawa Sen, Tokyos last tramline which runs past Ehbygums house.
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Shitamachi, Arakawa, Machiya.
Ehbygum has lived in Machiya, part of Arakawa-ku (Arakawa borough) here in Tokyo for longer than he cares to remember.
Its in the Shitamachi district, the traditional East End of Tokyo, a friendly and down to earth place, where people are a little more relaxed than in the more up-market west of the city. Shitamachi is the sort of place where neighbours know each other, and grandfathers sit out on the street in their vests on hot winter evenings.
Village in the city.
Ehbygum lives on the top of a fourteen storey high-rise. From his balconies he sees the almost unrelieved concrete that is Tokyo, stretching to the horizons. But a lift ride down to street level reveals a completely different world. Tall and ugly concrete buildings cluster around the stations and main roads, but just metres away these give way to a warren of narrow streets and paths where close-packed houses and shops jostle closely together in a happy confusion.
Its an area of real communities, neighbourhoods where people know each other and kids can walk home from school safely.
Ehbygum likes to go out to eat and drink, and Machiya is a great place to do that. There are all sorts of places, from quite posh European restaurants to noodle shops, and classy bars to traditional Izakaya drinking and eating shops.
And its Izakaya Shinobu which is Ehbygums favourite. The MasterE Takahashi-san is an excellent cook and was born to be a landlord, with a cheery personality and innate ability to make anyone who may drop in feel really welcome and comfortable.
Ehbygum especially recommends hir-e-zaki, a special drink made from warm sake and toasted fugu fish fins, only available in the winter months.
Another Ehbygum favourite is Hors doeuvre House, a remarkably good bar restaurant, incongruously stuck down a Shitamachi side street. The genial and owner/chef, Tetsuro, spent a year of his youth in the kitchens of the Amsterdam Hilton, so his menu offers both Japanese and Western tastes. And his drop-dead beautiful wife shakes cocktails to die for. Ehbygum recommends the balalaika, but not if you have serious business the next day.
On other pages.