Zoetrope, the Temple of Japanese Bourbon


WordsClémence Leleu

©Kengo Watanabe

In Tokyo, little treasures have to be earned, and Zoetrope upholds this rule. To taste one of the varieties of whisky found in this temple of Japanese malt, visitors have to get through the doors of the seemingly ordinary Gaia Building in the heart of Shinjuku and then head to the third floor before they can finally enter this unusual bar.

At first glance, there is nothing that marks it out from the rest: there are multitudes of bottles lined up behind a wooden counter, in front of which are some high chairs, close to four tables which are slightly squashed into the rather narrow space.

When you take a closer look at where the bottles are from, however, you realise that you are in an exceptional place: it’s the only independent bar in the megalopolis which is dedicated purely to Japanese whisky. Here, you won’t find a single drop of Scottish or other European varieties.

Varieties of whisky distilled specially for Zoetrope

This pantheon for whisky lovers, run by Atsushi Horigami since 2006, houses several treasures, then, which the owner takes great pleasure in talking about. Passionate about hops, he travelled across the whole country for ten years, building up a collection of hors d’âge bottles (some of which came from distilleries which have since closed), before finally opening his bar. And to add an extra special touch to this establishment, some of the alcohol is distilled specially for Zoetrope.

As a final touch, you can enjoy a drink while watching one of the many silent black and white films that are projected onto the walls of the bar – these are another of Atsushi Horigami’s passions. In fact, the bar’s décor is the work of Takeo Kimura, a legendary artistic director from the world of Japanese cinema.

©Kengo Watanabe

©Kengo Watanabe

©Kengo Watanabe


160-0023 Tokyo, Shinjuku City, Nishishinjuku, 7−10-14 Gaia Building 4