About 25 minutes from Tokyo Station on the Sobu Line Rapid Service as you are hurtling towards Narita Airport you arrive at Funabashi - one of the biggest cities in Chiba prefecture. Famous for its gigantic shopping mall Lalaport, dilapidated racecourse and ludicrous but hugely popular mascot Funassyi, Funabashi is used mainly as a “bed town” for people working in Tokyo. Situated on Tokyo bay the city, however, has some unique charms such as the elegant shrine Daijingu and Andersen Park – a quaint tourist spot devoted to the life of Hans Christian Andersen.
One of the city’s best kept secrets, however, is playing host to probably the most-loved local bar in the country. It’s a steep claim to make but for anyone who has ever stepped over the threshold it’s a bar you never forget. A short walk from JR Funabashi station, Danke Schön is a German bar which has, since 1983, been serving top-quality imported beers and hearty fare to the good people of Funabashi. Run by the charismatic and always jolly Katsuhiro Okawara, a Funabashi native and former Lufthansa sales employee, Danke Schön is an establishment which you automatically tell your friends and take your overseas guests.
For many years it was one of the only bars in Japan which sold Germany’s glorious Bitburger beer on draught. It also has Guinness and Heartland on tap, Becks, Lowenbrau and Erdinger in bottles and an amazing selection of traditional sausages such as Nurnberger, Chorizo and Thuringer which are all lovingly handmade by an 80 year-old German man based in Atsugi, Kanagawa prefecture.
The drinks menu isn’t restricted to beer. The bar has a healthy selection of standard cocktails, beer cocktails, whisky, schnapps and German wine - with the delightfully named Franken Wein being a particular favorite with the regulars. The food menu also includes some other gems (which are all homemade by Okawara and his staff) such as German potato, beef stroganoff, spare ribs, leberkase and sauerkraut as well as other smaller snacks and meals.
Okawara, whose cheerful face graces the bar’s façade and menus, welcomes everyone with a friendly “Guten Abend” and sets about ensuring his customers feel instantly at home. The locals, too, never fail to make guests welcome with polite chit-chat whilst genuinely taking an interest in where you are from and what you’re doing in Japan. Never intrusive it’s the perfect balance of hospitality and quality products which make Danke Schön such a local treasure. The bar also organized Funabashi’s first Oktoberfest near the station in 2013 and there are plans to hold it again this year (dates to be confirmed).
The interior, which has never changed since opening in the 80s, can only be described as enchanting. It resembles a magical cave with wooden tables and seats, postcards from Okawara’s frequent visits to Munich and other places in Germany, a healthy collection of authentic German beer steins, all topped off with a real, functioning cuckoo clock. It’s surreal but in a nice way.
If you hit the jackpot you might make it on the special nights when Okawara decides to treat his loyal patrons to a huge glass boot filled with beer – passed down the bar while everyone sings German drinking songs intermixed with delirious cheers. The scene wouldn’t be complete without Okawara donning his traditional German feathered cap and ringing a bell attached to the end of the bar. It‘s quirky but it’s what Danke Schön’s all about.
Danke Schön: Honcho, Funabashi-shi 4-16-33 ダンケシェーン - 橋市本町４－１６－３３
- Written by
- Paul McInnes
- Austin Rea