EXPLORE TOKYO

A Survivor of the Hanamachi Geisha District in Shinjuku’s Past

INTERVIEW

Shinagawa-tei
Owner Junichi Shinagawa



IZAKAYA
4-13-13 Nishi Shinjuku, Shinjuku-ku, Tokyo 160-0023
03-3378-1178
 Our izakaya bar serves alcohol as well as food such as grilled meat skewers and kakuni, or braised pork belly. Most customers live nearby or drop by after work, but recently we have seen more foreign customers. I place statues of Shichifukujin, the seven gods of good fortune, in the restaurant because my father liked them. We have so many on display now because we receive them as gifts from our customers. Our izakaya has been operating since 1973. After Japan’s Bubble Economy burst in the 1990s, there were some hard times, but we managed to survive. Since this is a small place, you naturally end up chatting with the people sitting next to you. I really value the relationships that develop between customers.
 This neighborhood used to be a hanamachi, or “flower town” geisha district that was once filled with geisha dwellings called geisha-okiya, tatami-roomed restaurants, and the machiaijaya salons where geisha entertained their guests. My father renovated the site of an old fancy restaurant and started Shinagawa-tei. Although the restaurant may now feel a bit outdated or retro with the changing times, when it started, this neighborhood still had the remnants of the geisha district. Growing up, I often heard the sounds of musicians strumming their shamisens. There were three beauty salons for geishas where an apartment building now stands.
 In recent years, the cityscape has completely changed. Shops have closed down while the number of hotels and minpaku private lodgings has increased, attracting foreign visitors. Now, I see people from all over the world here.
 Where THE KNOT stands now, there used to be a public bath house, which was an iconic gathering place for the neighborhood. We were all sad when it closed down. I really want THE KNOT to be a new gathering spot for the community, even if in a different form. I hope that this part of Shinjuku will keep its character as an unpretentious area that’s easy to live in.