Tokyo: Denkiya Hall: Former Electronics Shop-Turned-Cafe

The Yomiuri Shimbun
The exterior of Denkiya Hall in Taito Ward, Tokyo

The Senzoku-dori shopping street in Taito Ward, Tokyo, winds its way through Asakusa’s nightlife district to quarters that were known as the Yoshiwara red-light district during the Edo period (1603-1867).

Along the street is a building bearing an eye-catching Showa-era sign and rounded window frames with slightly smoky white walls. Welcome to Denkiya Hall, a gem of a cafe that has been in business for over 100 years.

As I entered, an antique chandelier cast a soft glow and I noticed elderly customers engaging in small talk while smoking cigarettes. Pop music from the 1950s and 1960s played in the background, and I could see nostalgic furnishings, including seats placed at arcade game tables and a pink payphone. I felt as though I had stepped back in time.

The Yomiuri Shimbun
Arcade game tables, now out of use because they cannot be fixed if they break down
The Yomiuri Shimbun
A nostalgic pink payphone. Such public telephones were installed in many coffee shops during the Showa era (1926-89).

Denkiya Hall was originally an electronics store, founded in 1903 during the Meiji era (1868-1912).

“We lost skilled workers because of the Russo-Japanese War, so we changed to a sweets parlor,” said proprietress Yoshie Sugihira.

The Yomiuri Shimbun
Proprietress Yoshie Sugihira stands at the counter.

The shop was destroyed by fire twice, once as a result of the Great Kanto Earthquake and again during the Great Tokyo Air Raid. However, it was rebuilt in the same location and has continued operating here in northern Asakusa, called Oku-Asakusa. Yoshie and her husband, Koji, are the third-generation owners.

“Due to the shop’s proximity to the Yoshiwara quarters, it was once used as a place for geisha in relationships with construction bosses to meet,” Koji told me.

Nowadays, Denkiya Hall is crowded with locals, and regulars often occupy the reserved seats by the window. They chat, and Yoshie occasionally smiles over the counter as she polishes the glasses. The shop is filled with the warmth of the owners, who “want to care for customers who stop by regularly.”

Asked how the name “Denkiya Hall” came to be, Koji said, “I heard that my grandfather put the words ‘denki’ and ‘hall’ together because he thought they both sounded cool.”

In those days, things new and unusual were given names that included the word “denki,” which means electricity in Japanese. For me, Asakusa brings to mind denki bran, a cocktail that originated in the famous Kamiya Bar in Asakusa.

“People here love trendy things,” Koji said.

On the other hand, Asakusa also preserves tradition. Signature dishes served at Denkiya Hall follow original recipes, impressing the taste buds of regular customers, who say, “This is it!”

Said Koji: “Customers come here for the nostalgia. We shouldn’t change the atmosphere.”

Denkiya Hall

Address: 4-20-3 Asakusa, Taito Ward, Tokyo

Access: 14-minute walk from Asakusa Station on the Ginza line

Hours: 11:30 a.m. to 8 p.m. (Last order at 7:30 p.m.) Closed Wednesdays

Note: Smoking area only. Those under 20 may not enter.