- 4 min read

Kamikaze Counter Bar in Zama

A place where everyone will know your name

In the small town of Zama there’s a place where everyone knows my name.  And if you go there more than once, they will probably know yours too.  Kamikaze Counter Bar seats about 12 souls, but on any given night, usually a weekend, there may be 20 or more jammed into this tight hallway of a bar. The kampai is always served with sincerity and warmth, the drinks are stiff and delicious, the food is excellently crafted, and the company is unforgettable.  When I first moved to Zama the first place I noticed was the Kamikaze, and after sitting down for my first drink there and meeting the two brothers who own and run the place- Taka-san and Shu-san, I knew that I could proudly call Zama “home.”  Kamikaze’s aesthetics reflect the music loves of Taka and Shu- from international hip-hop and dance, to California punk, and American and Japanese heavy metal.  Their taste in drink and food reflects class and attention to detail.

The younger brother, Taka, is the bartender.  He dresses nattily in a vest and tie and shakes his elixirs with gravity and aplomb. His signature drink-the Kamikaze-will knock you off your barstool, and he dashes up all of his creations with the entrancing, rhythmic percussion of his shaker.  If you can’t decide what to have, take a look at the exhaustive menu of prohibition classics, or better yet ask for what your seat mate is having. The regulars here know what they like, and their orders are without fail delicious and refreshing.  You’ll almost always get a “service” snack on the house, but there is no cover charge, so you don’t have to worry about extra charges showing up on your bill. I’d advise you to save some room for a snack or a meal, because Shu-san, the older brother and chef, will amaze you at what he can do in his tiny nook of a kitchen.  Shu dresses in a casual skater style with a trucker cap and T-shirt.   I’ve eaten a lot of bar food in my day, but let me tell you, Shu’s fried chicken might be better than my mother’s (sorry Mom!) and that’s saying a lot!  His unique take on takoyaki blows any other interpretation I’ve tried out of the water, and his pasta dishes-from squid ink, to bacon and tobikko (flying fish roe) to carbonara-are all outstanding and always cooked perfectly al dente.

Taka and Shu grew up in Zama, went to school here, and still are a vital part of the community. Many of the regulars are schoolmates of theirs and they still maintain close ties to the community, including recommending other local businesses and participating in the local shrine festivals. 

Kamikaze opens at 7 pm, but business doesn’t really pick up until after 9, and around midnight on weekends when people finally make it back after the last train stops running is when the place starts bumping. Inevitably, when it is standing room only and people have had a few drinks to lubricate them socially, LMFAO’s “Party Rock” will crank up and the small bar erupts into a dance party. LED lights flash, the disco ball turns and shimmers, the charming regular who looks exactly like Mick Jagger pulls his shirt up, the truck driver local pulls his pants down, people scream your name as you walk in the door, and the night ends somehow in a delightful, blissful blur.  Not to worry, though, as the bar is just a few steps away from Zama train station on the Odakyu line, and if you can’t spring for a taxi back to your destination, the Kamikaze will likely stay open until the first train starts running in the morning. 

To get there, take the Odakyu Odawara line to Zama. Take the east exit and walk across the road at the crosswalk and continue following the road south, and Kamizaze is about 50 meters ahead on the right.

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