In Tokyo’s Roppongi neighborhood, known for its lively club scene and monumental shopping centers, skyscrapers such as the ROI Building blend in easily, jostling for airspace with other tall commercial buildings. What does feel out of place, though, is an eruption of stickers and graffiti engulfing a metal contraption bulging out of this otherwise nondescript office tower. Welcome to the Train Bar, an actual train car just chilling on the streets of Tokyo, that transforms into one of the city’s coolest bars come sundown.
Japan’s fascination with trains has led to interesting manifestations in the nation’s culture. The train-obsessed (called densha otaku, roughly translated as “train nerds”) have their own subcultures: Some build model trains, others memorize entire phonebook-sized train tables, while still others traverse the country’s vast rail network, tasting Japan’s iconic train station food. In Tokyo, aficionados have a niche collection of train bars to choose from.
Locals and tourists alike love the Train Bar. The cozy space can accommodate around 30 people, so it’s easy to make friends with fellow patrons. (There’s no room to avoid them.) If you’re feeling especially convivial, ring the bell dangling off the ceiling to buy shots for everyone.
The walls are plastered with photos of former patrons. Every inch of the ceiling is wallpapered with currency from all over the world, on which customers write their names and affix by climbing on to the bar counter. The music is a slow train to nostalgia for people of a certain age: Classic rock and heavy metal hits from the early aughts and 1990s plays on loop.
The drinks are uncomplicated; don’t expect craft beers on tap or fancy cocktails. But a few shots, a Heineken or two while Aerosmith blasts in the background? We can all get on board with that.