Japanistry Tokyo

Sweets & Alcohol: Tokyo’s Dagashi Bars

Recent years in Tokyo have witnessed the spread of the dagashi bars where, for a charge of ¥500, you can help yourself to an assortment of candies to chomp on with your beer or high ball. Dagashi are the Japanese equivalent of penny candies or pick ‘n’ mix—sweets that cost ¥10-50 yen each and come in colorful packaging (often with popular sports stars or manga characters) and a variety of weird and wonderful flavors (soy sauce, salami, yakitori, etc.). The kanji is 駄菓子: the word for sweets (お菓子) with the character 駄, which means cheap, inexpensive, or of low quality.

Specialist dagashi shops (dagashiya) have all but disappeared from streets in Japan, and today classic dagashi like umai-bo (“delicious stick”) are sold at convenience stores instead. But many people in their thirties and older still remember spending their pocket money in dagashi shops when they were children, and it is this sense of nostalgia which the new bars hope to use to attract customers. The exterior is designed to look like a Showa-era store and inside the sweets are piled up in wicker baskets alongside other memorabilia.

The person who started the concept actually opened their first place in 1998, but for several years it was a restaurant that served curry rice at lunch and turned into a dagashi bar in the evening. It was only with the opening of the bar in Ebisu at the end of 2003 that the concept moved to a specialist dagashi bar. Today there are also dagashi bars in Ningyocho, Ikebukuro, and Shibuya. Incidentally, curry rice is still on the menu.

A model of a classic dagashi-ya at Akashi Shiritsu Bunka Museum in Hyogo Prefecture

Note that there is a two-hour time limit and sweets taken must be consumed in the bar (you’re not allowed to take a bag full of them home with you).

Ebisu branch: 1-13-7 Ebisunishi, Shibuya, T0kyo 150-0021 | Google Maps
Ningyocho branch: 2-11-4 Nihonbashiningyocho, Chuo, Tokyo 103-0013 | Google Maps
Ikebukuro branch: 1-24-9 Nishi-Ikebukuro, Toshima, Tokyo 171-0021 | Google Maps
Shibuya branch: 26-5 Udagawacho Shibuya, Tokyo 150-0042  | Google Maps

Branches are open 17:00-23:00 on weekdays and 17:00-4:30 on Fridays and Saturdays.

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