Gaijin Gourmet: Need a Drink & Yakitori in Shibuya? I Got a Fantastic Place!

I've always thought that, generally speaking, Shibuya is usually a terrible place to eat and drink; it's too expensive; the food isn't very good and the place is loud and full of kids... Great if you are 20-years-old and looking to pick up on girls...

But yesterday, in Shibuya, I was introduce to a real diamond in the rough.

The place is called "Sumire" and, are you sitting down? Well you will be sitting down at this restaurant when you hear this; the price of a draft beer is ¥120!  ¥120 yen!? That's about $1.50 (USD) for a draft beer in a glass! Wow!

Even on weekends and holidays the price is only ¥280 a glass!

Sumire is not really an "eating place" the drink menu is large but the food menu is small: Just a handful of types of yakitori and a few salads and sushi and sashimi dishes... The typical menu at a Japanese Izakaya

See? It says ¥120 for a draft beer on weekdays!

Takoyaki is ¥280 yen 
Gyouza or "Pot Stickers" are ¥280 yen 
The entire food menu is really cheap too and was pretty tasty!

Spacious and very clean.

Telephone number is: 03-5728-3360
Address: Maruyama-Cho 6-2, Shibuya

When we walked in, I saw this sign and thought, "Who does?" 

ADDENDUM ADDED July 11, 2012: For English impaired foreigners, this doesn't say "No Foreigners!" It says, basically, "foreigners who come in here and start trouble, not welcome!" I know lots of foreigners in Japan are English challenged and don't understand this simple sentence and the use of the adjective, "troublesome." So let me make it simple for you; if it said, "Blonde Foreigners not allowed." Does that mean all foreigners not allowed or just blonde ones?... 

You don't need to thank me. Just don't go here and raise hell. They'll call the cops on you.

The food was good and the drinks great so I decided to see if the kitchen was clean and, sure enough, it was. Friendly staff too!

Here's a map to Sumire:

I've circled Shibuya O-East for you. Sumire is about a 2 minute walk. Great place to go before or after a show!


Anonymous said…
So are foreigners not welcome? It seems so given the sign. I wouldn't feel comfortable going to a place with a sign like that.
So.."So are foreigners not welcome?" they write... No... It's pretty plain and simple that, "Trouble some foreigners are not welcomed..." You can't even read English?... You certainly don't speak the local language?... No! ...Dumb illiterates are not welcomed in any language!
Anonymous said…
Yeah you always respond literally to other people's comments. It's still specifically targeting foreigners and makes me uncomfortable as a foreigner who doesn't speak Japanese and doesn't live there. I am not welcome. I not saying I'd burn the place down. I just wouldn't want to go there. Are you trying to force me?
Anonymous said…
It's impossible to know for certain from the English sentence whether they mean that foreigners are unwelcome because they are troublesome, or that only foreigners that are also troublesome are unwelcome.
But the most rational interpretation is clearly the former, since it wouldn't make any sense for a restaurant to, albeit backhandedly, state that it welcomes troublesome people, as long as they aren't foreigners.
As for the joint's "gem" status, I have to say I'm not quite prepared to take Mike's word for it. Tokyo's packed with all types of izakaya and if an establishment in Shibuya, no less, needs to sell beer that cheaply to bring people in, I feel pretty confident to doubt it's overall quality.
But hey, who knows, maybe small-minded semi-literates make killer gyoza and sell it cheap because they just don't know any better.
Jimbo said…
Y120 for 生ビール? Count me in. Also, if I had a shop anywhere in Tokyo, I would have a similar sign as well, as I'm sure it was put up out of necessity.

I'll have to check that place out next time I'm in Shibuya... whenever that will be.
Anonymous said…
It's called "Private property" and "We reserve the right to refuse service to anyone." - Lew Rockwell
Anonymous said…
Mike, here is a big 'Whatever' to your response. It's neither here nor there.
Dear Anonymous,
You wrote, "makes me uncomfortable as a foreigner who doesn't speak Japanese and doesn't live there. I am not welcome."
No. That's just nonsense. You don't live here and don't speak japanese? Well, you'd most likely enjoy the Japan experience by going to Denny's or McDonalds where they have picture menus... Duh!... Say you are a foreigner and live in the USA and don't speak the local language... What do Americans say? "Get the F*ck out! Go home!" It's pretty simple that the sign means "foreigners who cause trouble not welcomed!".. Easy to spot from "Foreigners not welcomed!"
I wrote about folks like Anonymous at 8:03 am who writes in a witty retort, "here is a big 'Whatever' to your response. It's neither here nor there.""White Cultural Superiority Complex
Steve McClure said…
Hi Mike. Thanks for the head-ups about this interesting-sounding place. I am not inclined to patronize it, unfortunately, as long as they have the sign mentioning "troublesome foreigners." It is patently discriminatory and offensive. Are troublesome Japanese welcome, one wonders? Libertarian arguments about private businesses having the right to refuse service to anyone miss the point in that it is their right to refuse service to individuals who behave or dress inappropriately, for example, but not because of their nationality or ethnicity. Private businesses exist in the context of a given society, and as such have to obey laws and regulations governing such such businesses. I think the best thing to do in this case would be for you and me to go to the bar in question and have me attempt to explain my position to the manager. But he might then see me as a troublesome foreigner and kick me out!
Steve, Thanks...
No... Read it again. That's not what the sign says. It clearly says, "trouble some foreigners." You've been here long enough to know that the Japanese have a very hard time with simple English, let alone with adjectives... They can't even get, "troublesome" correct and write it "trouble some"... If they wanted all foreigners out, they'd have written "NO FOREIGNERS"... Point of fact is that I entered and dined and drank with another foreigner, no problem... PS: It's asinine to think, "Are troublesome Japanese welcomed?" NO, of course they aren't. But the staff speak Japanese and can easily tell them to "be quiet" or "Get out or we'll call the police!" Do you think minimum wage labor are well educated enough to speak English, Chinese and Korean langages? Think about it for a half-second, if they could, they wouldn't be working at a cheap restaurant.
PS: Plenty of places in Iidabashi and Kagurazaka (especially pachinko and slot establishments) that have signs that say, "No Foreigners." The Japanese can write that if they wanted too...
PS: Everyone discriminates all the time. It is foolish to think otherwise. It is also ignorant of Libertarian thought to think that discrimination should be limited to people who behave or dress differently (point in fact, this article is about poor behavior). Interested in learning more about true Libertarian thought on discrimination? "The Case for Discrimination
Anonymous said…
I now know that you'll pretty much bend over backwards (and do a triple lutz salchow combination) in order to defend any and all Japanese cultural practices, even those of some random bar in Shibuya that you've grown fond of.

All I pretty much said, as clarified in my second post, is that by singling out foreigners, albeit "trouble some foreigners", its not a leap of the imagination to expect that I might think the people who work here are not so welcoming to foreigners, and thus it is not unreasonable to expect that I might not want to go there for that reason.

Similarly, I wouldn't begrudge a Japanese man traveling alone who thought twice about entering a bar in Bangkok that had a sign saying "no troublesome groups of Japanese men welcome".

Lastly, I need to note that the retardationedness of this comment speaks for itself: Say you are a foreigner and live in the USA and don't speak the local language... What do Americans say? "Get the F*ck out! Go home!"
"retardationedness"? That's not even a word. You just made that up...
Anonymous said…
Mike's defense of the sign boils down to its authors being only semi-literate in English, which is pretty funny, given the post's initial theme.
And no, Japanese businesses can't discriminate however they'd like. If the sign said "Filthy burakumin unwelcome,'' Sumire would have a civil-rights lawyer up its arse in no time.
Maybe we should be less concerned about the sign's civic decrepitude than its conceptual idiocy. The troublesome, by definition, go into places where they are unwelcome. They also tend not to self-identify as troublesome.
So the sign has zero chance of serving its only defensible purpose -- epic fail, especially from a marketing point of view.
Can people that small-minded pour good, cheap beer and make good food? It's certainly theoretically possible, but can you imagine what's like to work for someone who's that stupid?
Anonymous said…
Why is everyone upset? There's no shortage of genuine and even tragic cases of race/ethnic based discrimination, why get all worked up a sign on a cheap restaurant that may or may not be discrimination? At 120 yen a beer, I am sure they have had their share of loutish foreigners looking to get as drunk as possible for as little as possible. There are loutish Japanese as well, but it's far less common for Japanese to take advantage of cheap prices to drink themselves into oblivion in a public place. For whatever reason, that's generally not done.
Anonymous said…
Ghoti: it's the stupidity.
How anyone can possibly think this is stupidity (unless they are looking in the mirror) is beyond me. The sign plainly doesn't say, "No Foreigners!" As supposedly educated native English speakers, I'd hope your reading comprehension is at least to that level (not to mention, like I said, we foreigners were allowed in).... Even if this were a case of "discrimination" your PC ideas are nonsense and just plain ignorant of normal daily human behavior that even you, yourselves, exhibit every waking second: You practice discrimination. May I quote a black professor on this subject in an article that, coincidentally, just came out today: "How about the statement that people should not engage in race or sex discrimination? Whatever the emotional worth of such a statement, it's a value judgment, with no facts or evidence to back it up, plus interpreted literally, it's nonsense. Think about it. Discrimination is simply the act of choice. Whenever we choose, we discriminate. When we choose one person for a mate, we discriminate most of the time by race and sex. Would we want a society in which there are penalties for such discrimination?" "What Does It Mean To Say, 'Racial Discrimination Is Wrong'?".
Anonymous at 10:52 am writes a pretty funny statement; "I now know that you'll pretty much bend over backwards (and do a triple lutz salchow combination) in order to defend any and all Japanese cultural practices..." Just in whose interpretation could a defense of grammar and spelling be defending Japanese cultural practices? THAT'S VERY FUNNY INDEED!
Anonymous said…
Like I said, the civic decrepitude involved in discriminating on the basis of nationality isn't, in itself, what's most problematic with the sign.
It's the stupidity of thinking that troublesome people would or could be deterred by a sign saying they are unwelcome.
The proximity of this idiocy to the bigotry apparent in the sign -- without accounting for volition -- is of course mere correlation. We can't be sure the sign's author is a bigot, but we can be sure he's not very smart. If you're a betting man, surely both is the way to go...
Anonymous said…
And shouldn't you at least attempt to analyze this from a marketing perspective, rather than hilariously spraying it into your absurdly narrow Libertarianism for Dummies stencil to produce the prefab slogan?
It's so obvious what the market would state (it's not pre-fab)... For every action in a free market a reaction arises. Say the owner doesn't want to serve foreigners and completely denies them access to his restaurant? What happens? If there are enough foreigners to support a business, then an opportunity opens up for an entrepreneur to cater to those foreigners... If the restaurant owner denies entry to foreigners and enough people dislike that (locals included) and stop patronizing this establishment, he goes out of business. How much simpler could it be than that? Do some people have such a loose grasp of basic business principles that this has to be explained to them? I guess so...
PS: Anonymous 9:58... The idea about signs not deterring people... Has it ever occurred to you that the sign maybe be an effort to deflect criticism from neighboring businesses that are upset that people get drunk near their premises (because of the bar) and start fighting outside their places of business? Has it ever occurred to you that the person who placed the sign might have done it to placate the neighbors and in an effort to show that they are trying to control the situation? Seems not. As a business owner, I can see that in a second.
Think about the "No Dog Poop" signs you see everywhere. Of course the dogs can't read them... Do you think people who allow their dogs to crap and not clean up are deterred by a sign? Probably not.
Anonymous said…
This is a lot like the argument that was made against Rand Paul for claiming a business owner should have the right to exclude anyone he wants. Rand's argument is that if you truly have a free market, the private property owners should be allowed to run whatever type of business they desire, and if it is in such bad taste that nobody supports it, then the market has spoken. Predictably, media types simply branded this as evidence of racially-motivated discrimination.
Anonymous said…
I placed this comment at the following post but think it needs to be here too: This post (and the next one on discrimination) wins an award for possibly teaching at least one very important thing to some people who are willing to learn; and that is "What is private property versus public property?" This is what Wikipedia says, "Private property is the employment, control, ownership, ability to dispose of, and bequeath land, capital, and other forms of property by persons and privately owned firms.[1] Private property is distinguishable from public property and collective property, which refers to assets owned by a state, community or government rather than by individuals or a business entity." Mike is right; restaurants are not public property in any interpretation of the law.... Except in possibly North Korea. Wiki link:
Anonymous said…
This comment has been removed by a blog administrator.
Anonymous said…
Any foreign resident of Japan who has been here for more than a year, unless they are completely lazy (there's many of those), should be able to decipher what this sign says. A literal translation of "troublesome foreigners" into Japanese would be "面倒くさい外人" (Mendoukusai Gaijin). This does not, in any translation at all mean "all foreigners are troublesome." It means "Foreigners who cause trouble." If the Japanese want to say "外人は面倒くさい" (Gaijin wa mendoukusai) "Foreigners are troublesome" they'd have probably written "Foreigners are troublesome and not welcomed."
In contrast, I ask foreigners even with a rudimentary knowledge of basic Japanese, does "いい人" (ii hito) "good person" mean "all people are good?" No! It means "(that) person is good." I think the foreign resident who cannot discern this basic Japanese must not even be ready for JLPT Japanese-Language Proficiency Test N5 - the lowest level.
- I passed JLPT N1 level in 1991.
Anonymous said…
It's great to see that this post by Mike brought in many good comments for once and not the usual blind support of his usual fanclub of 3. One comment asks, "Why is everyone upset?" Probably because of the way Mike callously attempts to humorously brush off the sign by saying "Who does?" It is obvious, despite what we can all argue about what this sign actually meant, that the establisment oozes anti-foreigner sentiment. Mike would have a fit if some place in the U.S. had a sign that said in bad Japanese - "No mendo(space here)kusai Japanese." It wouldn't be totally clear that it just means "No ONLY to Japanese that are troublesome." And Mike would be personally unhappy about any place in Japan that had a sign saying, "No mendokusai 1/2s or 1/4 or 1/8 Japanese."

If there were a sign that said no
Anonymous @ 4:13 shows his ignorance in two ways:
1) He can't read, write or speak Japanese so he's totally wrong about what the Japanese would think about a sign that says (what this sign would say had the writer been able to correctly write the sentence in English): 乱暴する日本人は入らないで (foreigners who cause trouble not welcomed).. If a Japanese saw this sentence, they'd think, "Oh? Some japanese have been coming here and fighting?"
2) I have over 1.6 million PVs to this blog in 1.6 years. That's an awesome number. Eat your heart out (and the #2 most read article on LRC in 2005 at 4.5 million reads, "America is Bankrupt."
3) As a victim of racism in the south in the sixties with a "colored" mom, and not being allowed into restaurants, as well as living as a minority all my life, all I can say is you don't know shit... I have been discriminated against and have experienced it before more than, I suspect, you can ever imagine. I've even written about it. Read it and weep: "Confessions of an Extreme Right Winger on the Internet (And Controlling My Temper!)". I've lived in places where I was the only foreigner around. Don't tell me about racism you clod. ou don't know the half of it.
"And Mike would be personally unhappy about any place in Japan that had a sign saying, "No mendokusai 1/2s or 1/4 or 1/8 Japanese."????Ha! ha! Ha! That statement just goes to show ho F'ed up this racist piece of trash is. I'm 1/2 white and 1/2 Japanese. I've lived on both sides of the fence. I don't care about your racist PC BS! ... I don't suffer from a lack of confidence or poor self image like you obviously do. If I saw a sign like that, I'd burst out laughing. If people are so stupid they don't want my superior humanity in their shop, then why in the world should I help them? What clown!
Jimbo said…
Who knew an innocuous post about cheap beer at an izakaya in Shibuya would get people so riled up?
Anonymous said…
I want to ask these people who claim racism or claim that the writer is defending racism (I can't see that at all) to reconsider their thinking as I see it to be totally incongruent with logical thought:

1) If it is racism, then, as you say, "it is stupid." Let's take that as fact. If it is stupid, what are you demanding? The government to step in and outlaw stupidity? I think we have plenty of laws on the books on that front yet people continually break those laws or find ways to harm themselves.

2) If is isn't racism, as the writer says, and you don't feel comfortable going in the establishment, then what do you want? Are you asking that the government force these people to allow you in? If so, then I have to question your lack of common sense: Why in the world would you want to enter a place where you are not welcomed in the first place?

3) It seems obvious through the scientific method (trial and error) that the writer is correct in his assertion that this is NOT an example of racism as demonstrated by the fact that he and another foreigner attempted to enter and did so successfully.

This is a fact and, as such, proves that what the writer claims is most probably truth.

The detractors could only be proven correct if they went to the establishment and were denied entry by their skin color... The writer wasn't. And, if detractors were denied entry then, again, I ask: Would you try to force the government to force people to allow you into an establishment where you are not welcomed? That's just madness... And probably a good way to take a beating at the hands of non-welcoming people... Or, will you call the police after you've been quite rudely "un-welcomed"?
Anonymous said…
I appreciate that this sign is potentially misleading to the eyes of a certain type of people. The fact is, like Mike, I have actually been to the establishment in question, in fact, quite a few times, and seen ethnically-non-Japanese patrons dining and drinking there. The stuff are being perfectly friendly and civilised towards them as they were with Mike and his white British friend. I have witnessed with my own mortal eyes so-called foreigners (trouble some or otherwise) being satisfied customers there so I couldn't possibly label the place as a 'racist establishment'.

To give you more insight, let me share with you what one of the staff there told me - when the restaurant opened (it's a relatively new place), they had a number of, shall we say, "trouble some" customers who tried to leave the place without paying (and may I remind you they only charge 120 yen for one beer) and the manager had to resort to calling the police - over 120 yen beer!!! After similar incidents occurred 3 times within the first couple of months, the management reluctantly put up the controversial signs.

Anyhow, at the end of the day, this is a free world (or so they say...) that we live in and absolutely no one can force you to go there. If you don't like what it says, I respect that. Just ignore it.

- Ken Nishikawa
Thanks Ken... Back to square one: Why the F'ck would anyone want to enter a shop where they are not welcomed?
Anonymous said…
Ken, you did not clarify that his "white British friend" is half Japanese as well as a "celebrity" (if you could generously call him that, since he only briefly used to be on TV a long time ago) which usually wins points from most Japanese, even the xenophobes.

Mike, it seems that you really did have a rough childhood judging from your reply to Anonymous @ 4:13, but I wonder why someone who faced such racial discrimation, cannot be a bit more considerate about anything smacking of racism. I understand that your blog is a form of self therapy and that is OK, but your insulting of any constructive criticism just puts you in a bad light and may turn off readers who would otherwise find some of your posts useful.
Anonymous, Your condescending attitude is only preceded by your closet racism. You also consistently make wrongful assumptions. My British friend is 100% white (not half Japanese) and has never been on TV ever in his life. He is a cameraman and doesn't speak Japanese. By the way, George Williams (whom I think you are talking about has 4 regular TV shows and three regular FM radio shows right now).
This entire thing is not about my "rough childhood." It is about presumptuous assholes like you who claim racism when you don't know what you are talking about.
1) Do you speak Japanese? Probably not.

2) Did you go to the restaurant?
3) If so were you denied entry?
The answers to #2 and #3 above are "no!" yet you presume knowledge about something that you haven't a clue as to what you are talking about. On top of that, you bitch about an innocuous sign on a restaurant and scream racism when your own country is bombing and killing brown skinned people in the Middle East 24/7 yet have you ever even once written a letter of complaint about that? The answer, once again, is "no"... I work for charities for the handicapped; I organize anti-war protests; I write on these subjects and spend time and effort for them; I walk the walk. The world is fucked up because of people like you who only talk and do nothing to get up off your ass. You have two ears and one mouth but your mouth runs tens times more than you use your ears. Please don't come back. I don't need readers like you, thank you very much... After this, I expect that you won't have the guts to respond. Well enough. Don't let the door hit you on the way out.

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