Late Sixties Tokyo
Perhaps some of my fondest memories are of when I was a student in Tokyo between 1967 and 1970. No doubt university life is memorable wherever you spend it because although age-wise you are an adult, as a university student you are treated a bit differently, more generously perhaps; it’s hard to say exactly, but it was a time when I felt special. Going to a university in Tokyo was also an exciting experience, a time when I could meet other young people from all parts of the world and enjoy their company both in class and outside of class just socializing.
Compared to today there were not many bars or places for university students. More often than not the most typical place to meet would be at a coffee shop as there you could sit for as long as you wanted listening to the music that was played and drinking strong, black coffee, either chatting with a friend or alone reading a book. As for dating, that was something I often did and at the time had an American girl friend whom I met at university and who had gone to high school in Japan, too, so she knew places where we could go to get a Western dinner or have drinks.
One of the places we often went to was Nicola’s, a place where you could get American-style pizza. The lasagna there was also delicious. Nicola’s was started by a former GI named Nick Zapetti in 1954. In 1967 the restaurant was located near the Iikura-Katamachi intersection which is between Roppongi and Tokyo Tower. A little bit down that street going towards Tokyo Tower was an Italian restaurant we also went to a few times called Chianti. It is still there in the same location. When I was a student, though, I only went a few times because it was a bit expensive for my budget. Another Italian restaurant we also went to was Antonio’s. It was located close to the Almond coffee shop but during the Bubble years moved to Aoyama 7-chome.
One place that I really enjoyed was Ann Dinkins Deli. It was located close to what use to be the Boecho and is now Tokyo Midtown and was a true New York delicatessen with delicious pastrami on rye and cheesecake. Ann Dinkins was a colorful character who exuded New York “charm” (which is an euphemistic way of saying she was very sarcastic!). She was always very kind to me, though on more than one occasion I saw her force customers to leave whom she didn’t like!
There were two Russian restaurants we also went to; one was the Volga, located near Tokyo Tower, and the other was Manos in Akasaka. The former was more formal, but the latter was more exciting and the peroshiki were delicious. Charlie Manos was a friend of the father of one of my classmates, so he always treated us well!
Tokyo has changed drastically since I was a student, but being the town where I attended university, it holds many, many memories of places, now mostly gone, where I spent many enjoyable times with college friends.