Monday, September 13, 2010

Daruma, Monzen Nakacho (だるま)

After getting hijacked into eating guts and drinking fake...not even beer, I guess I proved my street cred enough. Jerry sent a bottle of sake for me, and Hikuzo was nice enough to bring it up (from Tsukishima, which isn't all that far really - perhaps 20 minutes on foot, or one stop). Being a Monday, we were fortunate to find Daruma sort of empty in the back, and spent a pleasant few...well, we stayed pretty much until closing, talking about fish and dobros.

Sure, I've been here before. But this place belongs on more lists than it's on - strictly for atmosphere reasons, mind you. I used to go by at night, after work, and look wistfully in the door. It was always full. The owner was by that time already an old man, but he'd be standing outside every night, and I'd shake his hand and say "Why's it always full?" Truth is, I still don't know. Is there something about the lack of...well, anything, really, that forces people to have fun here? He's not there any more, but his daughter Masa is still behind the counter, and for all I know the guy is his son. They both look a lot younger than I bet they are.

Drinks are pretty simple - while it's not the only thing you can get, I'd sorta recommend shochu sodas all around (chuhai). Every table has lemon juice and lime juice so you can mix; the lemon is sour, and the lime is sweet 'n' sour, and it all goes down well and requires another one. 

I wasn't really thinking of taking pictures, but the wreckage of plates sort of conveys the atmosphere. Pickles, grilled fish, sliced tomato, chunks of cheap tuna, raw ginger to chew on between pulls of your's all here. And it's all cheap.

Everyone should go to a place like this at least once, to see if they like it. In fact, everyone should go to Daruma at least once, because places in this mold don't get much better. And I didn't even try the years-old gut-curry stew that's always bubbling behind the counter...

May not be your thing, but we might not be able to be friends if you can't enjoy a place like this once in a while...




  1. Hi Jon, I've been reading your blog for a while now because I've stayed in Monzennakacho the last few times I've visited Tokyo (in the blue building on the right in your current photo - it's a weekly mansion). Anyway, I thought you might be interested in this site as it has a story about Daruma and the old guy that owned it.

  2. Thanks anonymous, and feel free to let me know next time you're here. You're missing the best parts if you stay over by the river!

    Someone else sent me that Washington Post story last year - that's how I knew he had cancer, which is kinda why I asked his daughter about it. She teared up a little, but seemed to enjoy remembering him. He really loved foreign people, evidently!