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Salud! Cheers! Na Zdrowie! : Times Writers' Concise Correspondents Course in Cosmopolitan Conviviality

March 16, 1986|Sam Jameson

TOYKO — Aside from a hotel, it's not easy for a couple in Tokyo to find a place to have a pleasant drink or two.

Perhaps 80% of the bars and night- clubs filled with hostesses cater only to unaccompanied men. Another 10% or so, including many of the friendliest bars in town, admit only members. Overlapping both categories and including about 5% of the rest are nightspots where the Rockefellers would cringe at the bill.

The watering holes that a foreigner who doesn't speak Japanese can patronize, therefore, are not numerous. Discos are one option. But for an off-beat, out-of-the-way place where you can choose between music and conversation without a mob surrounding you, Reverie is the place.

As an oasis unto itself--no other nightspots exist in the neighborhood--it attracts no off-the-street customers. And as a piano bar, it's unique to Tokyo. All of the songs are American; most are oldies or Broadway hits done in jazz style. When customers (90% are Japanese) choose to sing, the singing is in English.

Reverie draws music lovers who sometimes perform songs Americans have a hard time recalling. An example: "Gone With the Wind"--not the movie or its theme, but the 1940s song. One regular knows the words to the original version of Bob Hope's theme song, "Thanks for the Memory."

For three drinks apiece (six total), a mandatory snack of tortilla chips and a 10% tax thrown in, the bill comes to a little less than $50, about a third of the tab for the equivalent in Tokyo's Ginza section. Hiroyuki Nishioka, a pianist with a 600-song repertoire, chats with customers in both English and Japanese. The walls and the piano are decorated with photographs of old-time American movie stars.

Closed on Sundays and holidays and open from 8 p.m. to 1 a.m. on other nights, Reverie offers a refined but friendly atmosphere. Customers often strike up conversations among themselves around the piano. Tables are available too.

Located in the basement of an apartment building, Reverie is relatively easy to find. Coming from the center of town, take a taxi from Tameike-Roppongi to Shibuya, turn right at Takagi-cho and stop at the second traffic light (which is usually blinking).

Across the street, at the entrance to the Fine (that's pronounced Fee-nay) Building, if you look carefully, you'll find Reverie's small, dimly lit sign. Even if you don't see the sign, Reverie is the only business establishment in the basement.

Address: Basement, Fine Aoyama Building, 2-13, 6-chome, Minami-Aoyama, Minato-ku. Telephone: 498-0866.

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