Step off a bustling Tokyo street, down a short flight of stairs, and almost instantly, you can wind up in Fort Worth. Or at least it feels that way.
Takeshi Yoshino and his wife opened the tiny tavern called Little Texas 10 years ago, as a tribute to the state they love. Yoshino’s passion for country music first led him to the Lone Star State more than two decades ago.
In the Tokyo tavern, there are Texas license plates adorning the walls, a giant saddle-bar stool and rows of cowboy boots at the entrance. They serve chicken fried steaks, tacos and even Texas-shaped waffles.
“I used to run a ramen shop,” Yoshino says with a laugh.
He’s happier running Little Texas, where you can find beer and boots, live country music and line dancers like Nabuko Kato. Dressed in a tasseled suede vest, she shows me her crib notes for dance moves — since she just started learning a few months ago.
“You know, I’ve never been [to Texas], and I have not much idea about it. I really want to go,” Kato says.
The basement bar can transport you there, at least for a night. Authenticity was so important to owner Yoshino-san that he shipped the wood for the walls from an old barn in Justin, Texas. He also makes annual trips to the Lone Star State to bring back actual fixtures, photos, license plates and neon lights for the bar.
“Every year for 21 years I’ve been back to Texas. So I think gradually the culture of Texas became like a part of me,” Yoshino says.
And the Tex-pats in Japan seem to love it. They tell him, “This is home.”
While Tokyo is Yoshino’s home, his heart is firmly planted thousands of miles away, and he has the hardware to show it. A few years back, former Texas Gov. Rick Perry made Yoshino an honorary Texan. The declaration is displayed proudly behind the bar.
Chie Kobayashi contributed to this story.