The following article was originally published in Issue 6 of inCiderJapan magazine.
Kanda in Tokyo’s northeastern Chiyoda ward is historically known for being one of three areas (together with Nihonbashi and Kyobashi) that made up the core of Shitamachi, the original downtown center of Edo-Tokyo. But it also might go down in history as being home to Tokyo’s first cider bar.
Bar & Sidreria Eclipse first (more about the bar’s name later) opened four years ago on June 15, and is owned and run by Tatsuro Fuji, who originally moved from Gunma Prefecture to Tokyo after graduating from high school to become a professional boxer. Following a brief career as one, he retired and, noticing there was suddenly a lot more time on his hands, starting frequenting bars to rekindle his taste for alcohol.
Admiring the politeness and refined manners of his favorite bartenders, Fuji thought to have a go at dabbling in the art of mixology. Once he started, however, it didn’t take long for him to really get into it, and he decided to leave his day job to become a full-time bartender. In doing so, Fuji consequently became intrigued by whisky, eventually leading him to take a trip around Scotland. Ten years later, after extensive studying and training, Fuji became independent and launched Bar & Sidreria Eclipse first.
Open every day from 3 p.m. Fuji’s bar is less than a five-minute walk from Kanda Station’s north entrance, although he laughingly admits (as does this article’s writer, who has experienced first hand despite being a semi-regular frequenter) that it can be difficult to find depending on the area’s conditions – including your own. And while, like many other bars, opening the door and taking the first step inside might seem intimidating to some, Bar Eclipse is a very welcoming place.
The bar’s amber-lit interior is filled with a cozy atmosphere. You can relax at the wooden counter seating five in front of where Fuji works, or at one of two tables each comfortably accommodating up to four people. There are also another two tables for two, if you don’t mind a slightly tighter squeeze.
For roughly 900-1200 yen per glass, choose from the bar’s ten different ciders on offer, or decide on any one of their 30 bottles. Ciders range from domestic favourites to new releases, as well as international ciders that Fuji goes out of his way to collect. In addition to regular cider, Bar Eclipse also carries a selection of pear ciders, ice ciders, and apple brandy drinks pommeau and Calvados. And it goes without saying, as a testament to the 15-year road that Fuji is proud to have travelled, Bar Eclipse boasts some 400 kinds of whisky.
The bar’s food menu has a variety of small dishes to compliment the drinks, and it’s worthy to note that on weekends between 3 p.m. and 5 p.m., apple juice from Matsui Apple Farm is free for kids under elementary school age – provided their parents are with them, of course.
While one can easily imagine a whisky bar in a city visibly teeming with them, the question ultimately begs, “Why cider?” Fuji explains that during his travels around Scotland experiencing whisky, he noticed cider on draught at many of the pubs he visited along the way. Being curious, he tried a few and was fascinated by the fact that there were alcoholic drinks being made from apples. Himself hailing from Numata City in Gunma, one of Kanto’s prominent apple-growing areas, as Fuji’s desire to start his own bar grew from idea into a reality, so did his wish to connect his hometown’s affiliation with apples to cider.
Fuji makes it a habit to visit as many foreign cidermakers as he can each year, bringing back to Japan the best of what he finds to share with his faithful customers. He’s even appeared in newspaper articles in Spain for his passion to scour the lands. And while Bar Eclipse is certainly about the cider and keeps Fuji more than busy, he also works actively behind the scenes of Japan’s cider community, including helping promote the JCMA (Japan Cider Master Association) and being involved with an ever-growing popular apple-picking and cidermaking tour based in Joshu Numata.
Now, about that name: Bar & Sidreria Eclipse first.
As Fuji tells the story, one of his customers is responsible. Fuji, a longtime animal lover, had been considering naming his bar after one. When his son was born, in the year of the horse, he started thinking about horse names. Fuji mentioned it to a patron he knew liked racehorses and was told about “Eclipse” – the name of a famous British racehorse in the first half of the 18th century who went undefeated, winning 18 races including 11 King’s Plates. Eclipse was considered to be invincible during a time when horse racing wasn’t yet well established, with people when asked to guess how the horse would perform in an upcoming race saying, “Eclipse first, the rest nowhere.”
Borrowing on the account of Eclipse having gone down in history as a one and only special horse, the patron suggested the bar adopt the name in order to become a one and only special bar.
We certainly think it is and recommend Bar Eclipse as a must visit venue on any cider lover’s visit to Tokyo whether you go there alone, with a date, or with friends, and whether it be in the afternoon for a quick refresh or start to the evening, or late at night for an adventure around town.
BAR & SIDRERIA ECLIPSE FIRST
〒101-0044 Tokyo, Chiyoda-ku, Kajichō 2-7-10
Hirose Building 1F