Anime Genius in Japan: Sin-San
Manga writer, Japanese Matsuri, Delicious Yamanashi Houto Udon
We call him “Master” and that honorific describes him to a “T”. The owner at a restaurant in Japan is often referred to as “Master” or in Japanese pronunciation “Masuta—“.
Senpai Hint! When you are at a loss for how to address the guy in charge at a restaurant or bar in Japan, feel free to use “Masuta—“.
When Sin san’s parents (originally from Yamanashi Prefecture) were ready to finish up with their restaurant in one of Shibuya’s most “Shibuya-like” areas, Sin-san was the angel who came in to save the day.
There are relics and icons all over the wood-based, warm restaurant. Kamen-rider figurines, professional wrestling masks, a shogi set from days long past.., these are little things Sin holds dear. Sin is also what we would refer to as a “Nippon Danji”, basically a “Man’s Man” in Japan. The aura of his Samurai roots are evident in his straight posture, the smooth confidence in his dialogue and the focus you observe as he works behind the counter. There were several aspects of this evening and in Sin-san that I consider some of the reasons people around the world adore Japan.
First, Sin-san is one of those guys who wears a traditional coat and outfit to hold the portable and highly prized shrines for Shibuya’s annual September Matsuri. Sin is the Matsuri leader and organizes a group of 200 all dressed in their ocean blue, insignia festooned jackets. They hold up 14 different shrines and parade the streets of Shibuya, making it even more meaningful and exciting than usual…if that is even possible.
Second, Sin-san himself is a magnet for interesting people and his knowledge on the whole Shibuya area is vast. If you can find his restaurant SinKaya on the second floor of the SG building right up the street off Dogenzaka after passing under the bright red Torii emblazoned with the words “Hyakkendana”.
Direction tip: Let’s say you have the Scramble Crossing at your back. If you look around you will see Shibuya’s super famous shopping building “109” at the fork of two roads. Take the one on the left. Walk up with Hooters on your right and TOHO Cinema on your left. Soon you will come upon the big red Torii on your right. Turn right and walk under the Torii up the street past the perfumery on your left and you will see a building on the corner. It looks old and it is hard to find the entrance…but that is SG building. The address is 2-17-3 Dogenzaka, Shibuya, Tokyo 150-0043 (there is no marking in English for SinKaya, but if you look up to the second floor you should see the Heineken sign). Go Go Go! You can find it!
We were there for about one hour and we learned about some great clubs and hot spots nearby and then, out of the blue, we met and had a lively conversation with a popular Manga writer. This writer specializes in the Bakumatsu theme (Ruroni Kenshin and Shinsengumi might be close to what she does) and she is one of Sin’s many friends. Many regular customers at SinKaya are part of the underpinnings to Japan’s pop culture.
Third, it is the only place in Tokyo you can eat authentic homemade Houtou Udon noodles. As you know, Yamanashi prefecture is located at the foot of Mt. Fuji and the frigid Winters taught people of old how to survive with the warm broth and sweetly boiled vegetables in this Udon delicacy. Sin-san actually pounds out home-made noodles once every two days, leaves them just a bit to emphasize the body of the noodle, and then places them in the delectable Yamanashi specialty soup to complete the Houtou dish.
I am a huge fan of the Chronicles of Narnia books and this dish made me imagine what a Japanese Edmund would consider a delectable “Turkish Delight” in Yamanashi.
Sin-san is himself a vegetarian so most of his menu is friendly to non-meat eaters and though local Japanese may think of Yamanashi as just an hour ride outside of Tokyo…it is a bigger challenge to get there for we internationals.
Plus…just down the street you have Shibuya’s infamous “Scramble Crossing”, a myriad of clubs and shopping, one of the most interesting “pink” areas around and a bunch of entertainment hotels to goggle at. Yep, this is Shibuya in its truest, purest form. Join Sin-san at SinKaya and learn the ins and outs of Pure Shibuya from ground zero.
Former Deep Japan Writer