Finding A Little Texas ... In The Heart Of Tokyo | KERA News

Finding A Little Texas ... In The Heart Of Tokyo

Oct 19, 2015
Originally published on October 19, 2015 5:35 pm

Step off a bustling Tokyo street, down a short flight of stairs, and almost instantly, you can wind up in Fort Worth. Or at least it feels that way.

Takeshi Yoshino and his wife opened the tiny tavern called Little Texas 10 years ago as a tribute to the state they love. Yoshino's passion for country music first led him to the Lone Star State more than two decades ago.

In the Tokyo tavern, there are Texas license plates adorning the walls, a giant saddle bar stool and rows of cowboy boots at the entrance. They serve chicken fried steaks, tacos and even Texas-shaped waffles.

"I used to run a ramen shop," Yoshino says with a laugh.

He's happier running Little Texas, where you can find beer and boots, live country music and line dancers like Nabuko Kato. Dressed in a tasseled suede vest, she shows me her crib notes for dance moves — since she just started learning a few months ago.

"You know, I've never been [to Texas], and I have not much idea about it. I really want to go," Kato says.

The basement bar can transport you there, at least for a night. Authenticity was so important to owner Yoshino that he shipped the wood for the walls from an old barn in Justin, Texas. He also makes annual trips to the Lone Star State to bring back actual fixtures, photos, license plates and neon lights for the bar.

"Every year for 21 years I've been back to Texas. So I think gradually the culture of Texas became like a part of me," Yoshino says.

And the Tex-pats in Japan seem to love it. They tell him, "This is home."

While Tokyo is Yoshino's home, his heart is firmly planted thousands of miles away, and he has the hardware to show it. A few years back, former Texas Gov. Rick Perry made Yoshino an honorary Texan. The declaration is displayed proudly behind the bar.

Chie Kobayashi contributed to this story.

Copyright 2017 NPR. To see more, visit http://www.npr.org/.

AUDIE CORNISH, HOST:

Now to Tokyo, or - wait; is it Texas? There's a place in Japan where it's easy to get the two confused. NPR's Elise Hu takes us there.

ELISE HU, BYLINE: Step off a bustling Tokyo street into a basement bar, and it sounds a lot like Fort Worth - well, at least until the singer starts speaking in Japanese.

UNIDENTIFIED SINGER: (Speaking Japanese).

HU: Country music fan Takeshi Yoshino and his wife opened up this tiny tavern 10 years ago to celebrate their favorite place. You can find Don't Mess With Texas signs on the walls, a saddle-turned-barstool and rows of cowboy boots at the entrance.

Before this was a bar, what did you do? Did you own a different restaurant?

TAKESHI YOSHINO: (Speaking Japanese, laughter).

HU: He used to run a Japanese ramen shop, he says. But these days, Yoshino seems much happier manning the honky-tonk known as Little Texas, where you can eat chicken fried steak, listen to live country music and join two-steppers like Nobuko Kato. Dressed in a tasseled suede vest, she shows me some of the line dancing moves she's been practicing with pride.

So have you ever been to Texas before?

NOBUKO KATO: (Through interpreter) I've never been there, and I have not much idea about it. I really want to go.

HU: Well, this basement bar gets pretty close to taking you there. Authenticity was so important to owner Yoshino-san that he shipped in the wood for the walls from an old barn in Justin, Texas. He also makes annual trips to the Lone Star state to bring back actual fixtures, photos, license plates and neon lights for the bar.

YOSHINO: (Through interpreter) Every year since 21 years ago, I've been back to Texas. So I think, gradually, the culture of Texas became like a part of me.

HU: Yoshino says the Tex-pats here in Japan seem to love it.

YOSHINO: (Through interpreter) They say this is just like home.

HU: While Tokyo is Yoshino's home, his heart is 6,000 miles away, and he has the hardware to show it. A few years back, former Texas governor Rick Perry made Yoshino an honorary Texan. The declaration is displayed proudly behind the bar. Elise Hu, NPR News, at Little Texas...

UNIDENTIFIED WOMAN: (Speaking Japanese).

HU: ...In Tokyo.

(SOUNDBITE OF SONG, "DEEP IN THE HEART OF TEXAS")

GENE AUTRY: (Singing) The stars at night are big and bright deep in the heart of Texas. The prairie sky is wide and high deep in the heart of Texas. The coyotes wail along the trail deep in the heart of Texas. Transcript provided by NPR, Copyright NPR.