Bar Ginza Panorama: Toy trains get the grownup treatment

by Jessica Kozuka
Metropolis Magazine

When you imagine a train-themed bar, it’s probably as a cartoonish venue filled with gawking tourists and obsessives debating minutiae. But in Ginza the reality is far more upscale.

The first surprise is when you step off the rickety back-alley elevator. Bar Ginza Panorama is entered via a small Japanese rock garden, with hanging framed calligraphy—the owner’s other passion. It looks so much like the entrance to a traditional restaurant, we thought we had the wrong floor.

But the stepping stones lead you through to a small bar all in warm wood. Attractive lighting shows off model trains zipping through a detailed recreation of Ginza along the inside of the bar. A display case on the wall features over 700 scale models.

Panorama seats just 16 at the counter and two tiny tatami tables in the back. So even when full, it’s never overloud, making it great for a mellow drink and chat.

Ask the tuxedoed bartender about their signature train-themed cocktails to receive an enthusiastic explanation. The Romance Car, named after the Hakone-bound express, includes Chambord for its romantic red hue, while the Doctor Yellow—the nickname for the diagnostic high-speed Shinkansen test trains—has a medicinal tang from herbal liquors.

The lack of rail-themed snacks shows Panorama’s aversion to the tacky route—except for Shinkansen-shaped chopsticks, that is. Upscale bar snacks include Iberico ham and baked camembert in the ¥700-900 range and heartier pizzas and pastas from ¥1,000. The ¥420 seating charge includes an appetizer.

We’re not railway enthusiasts by any stretch, but it was fun to listen to the soothing clack-clack of the trains while pointing out flourishes in the Ginza model track—like a drunken salaryman stumbling along one platform. The detail in the locomotives and the display are impressive, and the staff weren’t put out by our ignorance. They patiently explained how the electric tracks worked and pointed out some of the highlights of their collection.

Panorama won’t transform you into an anorak-wearing otaku, but you may feel yourself drawn back for more chic nights on the wagon anyway.

Metropolis Magazine website

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