With the hard economic times of late there’s been a revolution in the pricing of this malt beverage in Tokyo. Although there are smaller and larger variants, the standard for serving beer in Japan is the ‘chuu jockey’ glass which holds about 1 standard 350ml can of beer – but poured from a tap of course.  An ice cold chuu jockey used to go for around 400 to 500yen, but this has dropped significantly in recent years.  The list price at ubiquitous Izakaya (Japanese pub) chains like Uotami and Shirokiya is under 300yen, but if you know where to look, there are much cheaper places.

Photo by Gregory Lane

In particular there is a chain of Izakaya throughout Tokyo (including the one in the picture above) that beats the pants off the more well known chains.  The fact that they eschew most of the standard practices of the corporate chains is a large part of the charm of these places.  They offer incredibly cheap beer, they’re in obscure hard to find locations (although all close to major stations), they don’t advertise, have a website or offer coupons and they don’t even cross promote the other stores.  If you didn’t know better you’d think each was a stand alone Izakaya – until you accidentally visit one of the others and get that strange feeling of deja vu.

Alas, the Izakaya above – Alps, in Kabukicho – doesn’t offer the 100yen chuu jockeys anymore.  However, at least two other stores in the family offer chuu jockeys at 180 and 210yen at all times except Friday nights when it goes up to the same price as the other chains.

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Oh and these places are enormous – seating hundreds over two to four storeys depending on the location.  The locations (that we know of – there are most definitely more!) are Nakanishi in Minami-Aoyama, Sushi Izakaya Macchan in Roppongi, Komatsu in Roppongi, Yamato in Nishi Shinjuku, Alps in Kabukicho (definitely the dodgiest location – nestled in amongst Love Hotels and host clubs) and Botan in Gotanda. Additionally there is a branch in Harajuku to which I haven’t been nor know the name of.

There might possibly be places with marginally cheaper beer in Tokyo but I doubt they would have the rough and ready charm of these establishments – and I haven’t even mentioned the staff.  If you haven’t tried them out, give at least one a go and you’ll know what I mean.

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