"Why did I open this bar? (pause) Because there wasn’t any department store where you can smoke a cigar and drink single malt. You can search the whole world; you can only find it at ISETAN Men’s Store. You know, it takes a great amount of courage to start something new.”
On the 8th floor of ISETAN Men’s Store at Shinjuku, Tokyo, lies a bar where you can enjoy single malt whisky and cigars. Produced by writer Katsuhiko Shimaji, “Salon de Shimaji” opened last year on September 12th. Impassionate of single malt, cigars and pipes, Shimaji had originally been inviting congenial guests and serving whisky at his bar-combined-work-place named “Salon de Shimaji Main Store” in Hiroo, Tokyo. One day, Isetan Mitsukoshi CEO, President Ohnishi visited Shimaji’s salon, and the two men hit it off at an instant. Ohnishi proposed to open a store that reproduced Shimaji’s salon at ISETAN, and the rest is history.
"Can you drink?” asked Shimaji at the beginning of the interview. At that, I was served a glass of highball. Refreshing and clear whisky that leaves behind a soft yet spicy flavor of pepper: a tasty drink indeed. "Isn’t it (tasty)? There are a number of people who frequent the bar for this flavor. This is, literally, my salon. The best is to seat six guests at the most, but you can have up to twelve people in here. So I usually end up serving up to the limit. ”
On weekdays, Shimaji spends his entire time writing. On weekends, he transforms into a bartender, or better put, a “barman” as is the English style. With his own two hands, he sprinkles pepper onto the Scottish single malt whisky “Talisker 10 years old” and creates a Spicy Highball. He takes another Scotch, the Speyside Glenlivet Water to mix and create The Mother Single Malt and serves his guests.
“My scripts keep me busy during the weekdays. On Saturdays and Sundays from 13:00 to 20:00, I am constantly up on my feet, here behind the counter. Do I work all through the week without rest? Well, yes. I am 72 right now.”
Shimaji became a chief editor for “WEEKLY PLAYBOY” (published by Shueisha) in the 80’s. The legendary editor who laid the golden era for the million seller magazine is now busy writing essays. “In college, I couldn’t get up in the morning, so I got the idea of becoming an editor or a barman,” Shimaji says.
There are many big names that Shimaji maintains close relationships with. At his salon, calligraphies, words of wisdom and paintings by Renzaburo Shibata, Toko Kon, Takeshi Kaiko, Tadanori Yoko-o and others adorn the wall.
Looking at his collection, Shimaji comments, “You see, all the things here, they all boost your energies. And I am here, which raises your energy even more. Then, guests come in. There are quite a lot of people who made their luck here. This place is the new Power Spot, even for me.”
Salon de Shimaji is not confined to already frequenting, fervent Shimaji fans. First-time customers, whether it be men or women, who have heard on the radio or read about it in the newspaper gather from all over the country.
“Everyone who comes here all go back with reenergized expressions on their faces. I also get stimulated at this place. My original plan was to write in here like a study room, too, but that doesn’t seem probable for the time being. "
In part 2, Shimaji’s shop, lining items filled with his philosophy is reported.