Shot Bar Zoetrope
Photography by Jeff D. Griffin
Atsushi Horigami has a problem. Japanese whisky has become difficult to find, everywhere, but particularly in Tokyo where Horigami-san is the proprietor of Shot Bar Zoetrope, a third floor bar bathed in the neon glow of Shinjuku.
Horigami-san opened Zoetrope in 2006 to showcase his two passions: silent film – played on a continuous loop at one end of the bar – and Japanese whisky. A drought of the latter caught many off-guard as local store shelves were cleared almost overnight. And it’s become a conundrum for Zoetrope: business is booming, despite the challenge of stocking an interesting variety of Japanese whisky to satisfy the hordes of foreigners searching out this elusive, world class spirit. On any given night Horigami-san turns his attention to the door, non-stop, as would-be guests arrive. “Four? Sorry, no room.” Like most Japanese bars, the option to stand is neither offered nor de rigeur. Given the small space and sustained procession of customers looking for a seat, the vibe is more ramen-shop than relaxed, and the pressure to order – soon – is palpable.
Horigami-san actively promotes Japan’s smaller, independent distilleries and pours a number of his own private labels. There is always something intriguing on offer, including an eclectic collection of Japanese takes on rum, vodka, brandy and grappa. His initial tenor is usually brusque, though he is known to soften once engaged in whisky banter with genuine enthusiasts, even going so far as to sell one of his private bottles of Hanyu to an unassuming couple one night. A din erupts in the bar and Horigami-san tries to quell the furor that has broken out. “No, no! No bottles for sale here! Special exception for Toronto whisky tasting!”
The protests continue. The strangers make their way from Zoetrope swiftly, like Deckard and Rachael, slipping into the urban sprawl that is Shinjuku. Horigami-san quickly fills their empty seats. Fade to black.
Shot Bar Zoetrope
3rd floor, Gai Building #4
7-10-14 Nishi Shinjuku, Shinjuku-ku