Kiha Train Bar – Tokyo, Japan - Gastro Obscura

In most countries, trains are simply a convenient way to get around, to flatten quarters, or—if you’re a movie villain—to rid yourself of enemies. For the Japanese, however, they are a national point of pride, even inspiring social subsets of various types of “train nerds” (ranging from tori-tetsu, who like to take photos of trains, to oto-tetsu, who enjoy recording the sounds of trains). To call Kiha a “train-themed sake bar” may be an understatement; it’s more like a stationary train car that serves sake.

Down to the handrails, benches, and luggage racks, the upstairs at Kiha recreates the nostalgic experience of sitting on an early version of Tokyo’s subway cars—but with even more drinking. In keeping with period details, the bar serves two things: canned sake and canned food, both typical items eaten on trains in the days before bento boxes.

Over the years, the bar has acquired and decorated its walls with train-related collectors’ items such as ticket stubs, miniature models of train stations, and announcement speaker systems of yesteryear.

Thorough thematics draw the heartiest of Tokyo’s train fans out of the woodwork, niche groups known for visiting as many stations as possible and dedicating complex timetables and transit routes to memory. Test their mettle after a canned sake or five.