Tokyo tavern holds Texas close to its heart

Beer, boots, and belt buckles help authenticate this honky tonk, but geographically, it's a little out of place. News 8 Photojournalist Taka Yokoyama takes us inside Tokyo's only honky tonk bar, and Jason Whitely reports.

TOKYO – Beer, boots, and belt buckles help authenticate this honky tonk.

But geographically, it's a little out of place.

"I guess it's in a little bit of an upscale neighborhood, actually," said customer Steve Waymire. "It's definitely not a place you'd expect to find a honky tonk."

Definitely not.

In the middle of the most crowded city in the world, Tokyo holds Texas close to its heart.

"Texas is so special. I love Los Angeles and New York, and I love USA. But Texas is a little different," said Natsuco Grace, co-owner.

She and Takeshi Yoshino run a bar in a basement called "Little Texas."

The tavern in the Meguro district of Tokyo celebrates their favorite place on the planet.

"I used to run a ramen noodle restaurant here," Yoshino said. "I completely transformed the location into this."

You don't have to speak the language to appreciate the culture.

"He collected all these items and brought them from the U.S.," Waymire said.

They are as genuine as you can get.

The wood on the walls, for example, came from Denton County. It used to be part of an old barn in Justin that was dismantled and shipped 6,400 miles overseas to Japan.

"One day, I was on my way to Justin Boot outfitters for shopping," Yoshino said, describing a visit here. "Then, I saw an abandoned barn nearby. Looked like no one was using it. So I found the owner, and asked him if I could buy it."

The menu at Tokyo's Little Texas is just as credible.

Jack Daniel's sits next to Japanese sake.

There's also chili, chicken fried steak, and taco salads -- all eaten with chop sticks, of course.

But Yoshino said he had trouble replicating one popular item.

"I tried many different methods to make barbecue sauce. It was, and still is, hard," he said.

Turns out, the spices necessary to make barbecue sauce aren't even available in Japan.

So twice a year, Yoshino and Grace fly into D/FW Airport, rent a car, and drive to a Wal-Mart in Arlington to purchase ingredients needed like "liquid smoke" to create barbecue sauce.

But their love affair with this state expands beyond their bar.

Twice a week, Grace teaches the two-step in a studio on the fourth floor of a Tokyo office building.

She originally visited Texas years ago to improve her horse-riding skills, but learned to line dance along the way.

Grace now charges Y36,000 Yen, or about $300, for classes.

She started out with about 30 customers.

"Now? 500," she said.

Five-hundred students, who might not always understand the lyrics, but love the rhythm of country music.

"I love Texas! My mind is all Texas," she explained.

Yoshino and Grace admit they don't know enough English to fully describe how much they love the Lone Star State, but hope this Eastern outpost is a testament to it.


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