American Bar & Cafe Mates: A Fusion of Western Culture in Araki-Cho

When you live in Japan for as long as I have, you often find yourself on the prowl for good western food. Living abroad inverses your status quo—what used to be daily staples now become rare treats. Japanese food is amazing, but as my colleague David says, “Sometimes, you just want some good comfort food.” That’s when it’s time to pay a visit to American Bar & Cafe Mates, located in Araki-Cho, Shinjuku.

2018-09-05   Bars & Restaurants, Arakicho, Tokyo,

It’s all in the name

First, let’s address the elephant in the room: What’s up with the name? The bar owner’s quick response to my question clearly signaled that this is something that he has been asked many times before.
“If you rearrange the letters in my name, Toru Amemiya, you can spell out I am your mate.”
So, why the American theme? Amemiya-san enthusiastically replied, “I love American beer.”

That works for me. I found it peculiar that an American-themed bar was named using a primarily Australian term for “friend,” but that’s one of the things I love about Japan. It’s a place where language and culture are imported and repurposed in fascinating, amusing, and convenient ways.

Another thing to appreciate about American Bar & Cafe Mates: There’s no seating charge.

Come for the food

When it comes to beer, American Bar & Cafe Mates is fulfilling its vision. A solid selection of draft and bottled American craft beer is available, and a few Japanese options round out the menu. During my visit, Lagunitas IPA, Hitachino Nest American Lager, and Sierra Nevada Pale Ale were all on tap. Visit the American Bar & Cafe Mates website to see the current menu and discover Amemiya-san’s favorite beer.

Cheers (or as we say in Japan, kanpai)! David, a fellow Tadaima Japan writer, as he prepares to try a Sierra Nevada Pale Ale.

When it comes to getting that comfort food fix, American Bar & Cafe Mates doesn’t disappoint. The menu includes American classics such as hotdogs and hamburgers, but there are also plenty of snacks and munchies for those who aren’t up for a full meal. From edamame to mixed nuts, it won’t take you long to find a tasty treat to enjoy with your craft beer. All that being said, the french fries are the standout item on the menu. Served with malt vinegar (ironically a Canadian tradition), they have the perfect level of crispiness and are loaded with flavor.

One of the bar’s defining features is its huge flat-screen TV that can be comfortably viewed from most of the seats and tables. This makes American Bar & Cafe Mates a great spot for watching major sporting events such as the upcoming World Cup.

Japanese hot dogs are typically thinner than their American counterparts. Fortunately, Amemiya-san makes up for this by doubling down on the portions.

Stay for the hospitality

Perhaps my favorite thing about American Bar & Café Mates is its welcoming atmosphere. Located right on one of Araki-Cho’s main streets, Sugidaimon-dori, the well-lit bar’s door is wide open (weather permitting), revealing the entire place for all passersby to see.

Behind the counter: currencies from around the world.

Upon entering, Amemiya-san quickly welcomes guests, gets them seated, and ensures that they have drinks in hand within minutes. I noticed how in tune he is with his guests, anticipating our questions and orders before we could finish our sentences, even if we happened to be speaking in English.

So, the next time you are in or near Araki-Cho, and that urge for comfort food strikes, fear not. You’ll find a friend in American Bar & Cafe Mates.


Here is a short clip taken at MATES:

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Writer / Translator

Originally from Riverside, California, I've been living, working, and writing in Japan since 2009. Japan has become my second home, and I'm especially fond of Shinjuku, Tokyo. That being said, I also love getting out into the countryside and exploring the entire country. Through Tadaima Japan, I hope to share the wonders of Japan with a wider, international audience. Check out my articles if you enjoy exploring on foot, convenient cafes, and affordable dining.


Address 160-0006 Yamamoto
Building 1F,
4 Funa-machi,
Tokyo, 160-0007
Hours 15:00 – 24:00
Price 1500-2000 Yen
Close Mondays
Access Five-minute walk from
Yotsuya-sanchome Station
(Exit 4)
via the Tokyo Metro
Marunouchi Line
Phone 03-6457-8314
Language Japanese