Last night we said sayonara to Buchi. After 10 years, this excellent pioneering little tapas-style standing bar has closed its doors.
Over the last few days, friends and fans have been making their way up to the far end of Shinsen, dropping by for a final few drinks. We made sure to get there in good time for the final evening.
Of course, co-owner Hisae Iwakura was there, as dynamic and enthusisastic as ever, to welcome everyone — just as she was at the very start.
And of course there was plenty of good food and drink to be had — after all, that has been Buchi's calling card since the start. Cold cuts, garlic toast with foie gras butter, artisan tofu with fresh-ground black pepper, smoked octopus, bruschetta, fresh figs with mozzarella, pasta, even venison meat balls…
On the junction of two busy avenues and with the expressway looming overhead, it was never a beautiful location. But there always was a great buzz, with the crowd often spilling out onto the sidewalk.
And that was the way it was yesterday, for one last time...
So what made Buchi so popular? These days it may not seem so remarkable, but when it opened back in 2004, Buchi rewrote many of the rules about standing bars.
By giving the place a stylish logo and look, serving quality food and drink, both Japanese and Western – including the radical step of offering premium sake in single-serving one-cup jars – and staffing it with knowledgeable (and attractive) young women, it really struck a chord that translated into enduring popularity.
This is how I wrote up the phenomenon in the Japan Times, not so long after Buchi arrived on the scene.
Only one question remains to be answered: why the strange name? Well, in the dialect of Hiroshima, Iwakura-san's home, Buchi means "extremely" (similar to the Kansai expression "mecha").
So thanks Iwakura-san and all the staff: "Buchi yokatta da" — it was really great!
PS: This is certainly not the end for Iwakura-san and her husband, Higashi-san. They are as busy as ever, working on new projects and managing their existing ones: Kinsai, in Naka-Meguro; Bon Gout Noh, on the other side of Shibuya; Kitchen Cero in Meguro; and Cafe Bleu, just around the corner in Shinsen.