Location, location, location!

For years, a restaurant specializing in udon, soba, and curry called Katsura stood on Geijutsukaikan Sreet just outside Koenji Station in Suginami, Tokyo.

▼ A 2013 Street View of Katsura

It was unique among restaurants in that its floor space was less than one meter (three feet) wide, but with such a prime location, Katsura stayed in business until 2018. Then, it all came tumbling down… literally.

In that year, Typhoon Trami made a collision course with the metropolis, causing widespread damage which included knocking the entire restaurant off its tiny foundation. Unfortunately, in such a state it became a safety hazard and needed to be unceremoniously removed as soon as possible.

However, in its demise, Katsurua found a whole new notoriety. Images of the absurdly small eatery crumpled over reminded people of a cheaply constructed set in a sketch comedy show that had fallen over. As such, it was nicknamed “Dorifu Udonya” after the popular Drifters comedy show Dorifu Daibakusho which featured the late Ken Shimura.

Since then, the 12.33 square-meter (133 square-foot) plot of land went unused. It even came in third place in the 2018 Crappy Property of the Year awards, held by the National Real-Estate Transaction Twitterer Association.

▼ The opening title sequence to the 2018 Crappy Property of the Year

This association, known as “Zentaku Tsui” for short, is made up of real-estate professionals, formed out of boredom during the economic crisis of 2008 and subsequent stagnation of the real-estate market. They are quite an eccentric group, whose various activities warrant a whole separate article, but all their efforts each year culminate in the Crappy Properties of the Year ranking.

Unfortunately, because of COVID-19 many of the group’s projects have been cancelled in 2020. On the other hand, because of yet another economic slow-down, they also find themselves with a lot of time on their hands. So mainly for the heck of it, they decided to try and resurrect Dorifu Udonya through crowdfunding.

The main reason that the land had continued to go empty is that the owner clung to it and felt that despite its tiny size it was worth a lot more money than people were asking. After a long and hard negotiation that began soon after Katsura fell, these real-estate renegades narrowly beat out a vending machine management firm for the rights to rent out the Dorifu Udonya ruins.

▼ 2019 Street View of the Dorifu Udonya ruins, not to be confused with a spice garden

Zentaku Tsui then hired a builder who was more than enthusiastic at the challenge of designing a restaurant on a meter-wide strip of land that was also built to code. In the end he came up with a rather elegant design in which the interior and outer seats are the same unit.

To run the restaurant, Zentaku Tsui selected one of its members going by the handle “Taro Shinjuku” who had become unemployed due to COVID-19. He is currently apprenticing to learn the ropes of tiny-restaurant management.

That doesn’t solve the problem that he can’t cook worth a damn, even if they could fit a kitchen in there in the first place, so instead they opted to outsource the food preparation from a local catering service and sell it along with an array of alcoholic drinks. Interestingly, this restaurant will also be completely cashless, only accepting prepaid cards, credit, and possibly other electronic payment services.

Thanks to a very successful crowdfunding campaign, they already smashed their stated goal of 5 million yen (US$47,800), so it looks like this is going to happen. If the business itself is successful too, Zentaku Tsui may look at making more such minimal eateries in other size-strapped locations.

▼ This plan view gives a nice sense of scale when you compare it to the crosswalk or toilet.

It’s said the original Katsura was erected after the road in front was widened by the government, leaving only a thin strip of space with little use. Not knowing what to do with it, the landowner was approached by an optimistic restaurateur who convinced him to rent the space so its location could be capitalized on.

It looks like history is repeating itself but with another group of venturous individuals, so feel free to continue donating to the project linked below and help them out. Afterward, whenever you’re hanging around Koenji Station, keep an eye out for this new yet-to-be-named micro-restaurant that’s one-third as wide as the sidewalk in front of it.

Stop by for a drink and a bite too, because keeping it around sure beats yet another row of vending machines in Japan. We already have more than enough of those.

Source: Campfire via J-Cast News
Images: Campfire
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