Jerky, rum, and renewal in suburban Tokyo
Walking through the Kaizuka neighbourhood in Kawasaki city (nine minutes south of Tokyo), one could be forgiven for taking it at face value – a collection of sleepy residential streets, home to blue-collar workers and aging locals, worlds apart from the bustling capital. The faded lettering and shuttered windows on low-rise buildings are the only remains of long gone postwar splendour, and yet, change is starting to slowly creep into the spaces left behind. Devalued because of distance from Tokyo, demographics, or the lack of nearby facilities, property prices are now within reach for a new generation of renters and buyers.
One such individual taking advantage of this opportunity is 27-year-old Tsubasa Oyakawa. He recently opened Carib, which he describes as a “beef jerky shop.” Carib also features a wide selection of rums from both Japan and abroad. What makes this interesting is that many in Japan have never had either rum or beef jerky, and yet the five seats in his shop are filled every night of the week, often with customers spilling out into the street with glasses of ice and Caribbean liquor.
Oyakawa smokes his own beef jerky twice a week, using a homemade barrel and burner set up in the front window, and it has proven to be a hit among locals. It takes but one adventurous customer to order a piece, and within minutes the entire group at the bar will be munching away, discussing the finer details of beef preparation and foreign cuisine. The candlelight casts shadows of rum bottles across the parchment paper world map on the wall, and it suddenly feels like we are all sitting in a rum shack, worlds away from quiet Kaizuka. Oyakawa says Carib came into being because of his own love of the rum and pirate imagery, and he hopes to share rum culture with more Japanese as word spreads about the tiny bar.
Old neighbourhoods such as Kaizuka are an interesting opportunity for the entrepreneurially minded. Whereas the streets of central Tokyo are often ruthless, and high rent can overwhelm smaller enterprises, quiet residential streets further out from the city can be a chance to experiment. Even better, the locals are often happy to see once empty shops reopened with fresh paint and new tenants; energy begets energy and the entire street begins to glow as residents venture out to see the new shops.
Japan’s suburbs are growing older and emptier each year, but shops like Carib that breathe new life into old streets may be the key to rekindling the appeal of non-central locations. Some of Tokyo’s hippest neighbourhoods (Flamingo Tokyo’s very own Shimokitazawa, for instance) have a history of being built on the unconventional visions of artists, musicians, and other non-corporate types. It is this shared history of perseverance and community bonding that gives the neighbourhoods flavor and has made them such desirable places to live. The renewal of neighbourhoods like Kaizuka will depend on the effort of young people like Oyakawa – rum and beef jerky may seem like an odd way to start, but if successful, it might even lead to an entirely new identity for a once-neglected street.
- Article by Colten Nahrebeski