NOTE: Masako closed in early 2010...I'm leaving it here anyways, so people will remember.
Masako in Shimo-Kitazawa is close to perfect, one of those places you could stay in for hours drinking coffee or beer, listening to one album after the next. As one of the oldest remaining jazz cafes in Tokyo it has a regal sort of atmosphere to it. When you walk in you come face-to-face with a large oil painting of Masako herself with the great Mal Waldron, a long-time favorite in Japan. A look further inside reveals a series of oil paintings on the walls, all of famous jazz musicians. What I liked even more were the old concert posters spread around the paintings, some from as far back as the 1950s.
No live music here, just 2000 records and roughly the same amount of cds. Lots of swing and 1950s and 60s albums in the collection, but even some fusion too. Requests gladly accepted if they can find it in the cabinet. There are two bookcases packed with old `Swing Journal` and `Jazz Review` magazines, fun to browse through even if you don`t read Japanese.
Masako passed on in 1984, and the place has been run since then by Fukushima-san. He said there weren`t as many regulars as there used to be, but every time I go there it`s packed so business seems good. (I`ve noticed again and again that jazz bar/cafe owners here often moan about the lack of customers compared to 30 years ago, yet their places are still open and usually at full capacity.... nostalgia for the old days perhaps?)
Station: Shimo-Kitazawa-Odakyu/Keio Inogashira Lines
Distance from station: 2 minutes
Masako is less than two minutes walk from the South exit of Shimo-Kitazawa station on the Odakyu or Keio lines. The map on the website is very clear.