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Thomas Cahill’s 1995 book “How the Irish Saved Civilization” argued that the island’s inhabitants preserved the literature of Europe during the dismal Dark Ages.

The world, however, should be equally thankful for that nation’s other great gift to humanity: the Irish pub.

Wander the streets of most any major city in the world — from Shanghai to Seattle — and eventually you’ll chance upon a happy shamrock swinging on a shingle or plastered on a door.

It’s a comforting sight, and not just because of the ale that waits inside. There’s a consistency in Irish pubs around the globe — the furnishings, the glassware, the walls, the wood, the music.

Take, for example, County Clare Irish Pub in Tachikawa, Tokyo. If you’ve ever sat on the Chuo Line train through Tachikawa, you might have seen the pub’s lofty sign as the train slowly pulled out of the station. Without having ever stepped foot in the place, you know what to expect.

• Ale: Lager beer is fine, but it takes good ales to make an Irish pub. County Clare serves three top United Kingdom ales from the tap: Guinness, Kilkenny and Bass. It also pours a brand of ale not often served by draught, Chimay, brewed by Trappist monks in Belgium.

They’re served up in proper pints; ask for the chilled steins if you like your ale on the colder side. They also offer half-pints for samplers.

Tap lagers include Kirin, Heineken and Hoegaarden.

Of course, draught ales are only a starting point. There are plenty of other bottled beers. County Clare is a good place to try a notable Japanese craft beer, Hitachina Nest, from Kiuchi Brewery. The pub usually features four of the 11 varieties that brewery makes. Try the Extra High, a strong — 8 percent alcohol — Belgian brown ale that’s matured in distilled sake barrels.

• Ambience: The dark-amber wood bar sets a warm, welcoming tone. The pub has a nice mix of small tables, any of which can be pulled together for large groups.

On the other hand, we expect a certain surliness in service at Irish pubs, and some bartenders deliver here. But be prepared for occasional perkiness, particularly from some of the young Japanese women who staff the taps.

You’ll be bumping elbows with a mix of Tachikawa locals — both expats and Japanese — and airmen and civilians from nearby Yokota Air Base.

• Happy hour: Roger, that. All cocktails are half price from 5-7 p.m. At any other time, you can “pint-size” your cocktail for an addition 200 yen.

There’s also a “value cocktail” menu that’s always available — and who isn’t pleased to save a few yen in pricey Tokyo? Among those drinks, gin or vodka tonics and rum and Cokes cost 480 yen.

• Food: With all pleasure comes a little pain, and Ireland — indeed, the U.K. in general — inflicts it with its food. The shepherd’s pie and a basket of fish and chips were all one would expect from an Irish pub: the pie was bland, and the fish was akin to what’s found in a supermarket frozen-foods section. Consider sticking with burgers or pizzas.

Then again, you might want to save your appetite for another establishment that’s uniformly predictable around the world: the McDonalds a block down the street.

County Clare Irish PubAddress: Ozaki Bldg., 2F, 2-15-21 Akebono-cho, Tachikawa, Tokyo

Phone: 042-523-8307

Hours: 5 p.m. to 2 a.m. daily.

Directions: Take the north exit at Tachikawa Station. Take a right down the stairs and follow the road that’s parallel to the train tracks. The pub is on the left about 50 yards down on the second floor.

Prices: Pints of beer are 800-900 yen. Cocktails, 480-880 yen. Burger and fries, 1,000-1,200 yen. Pizzas are about 1,100 yen, and other pub grub runs 500-1,000 yen.


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Wyatt Olson is based in the Honolulu bureau, where he has reported on military and security issues in the Indo-Pacific since 2014. He was Stars and Stripes’ roving Pacific reporter from 2011-2013 while based in Tokyo. He was a freelance writer and journalism teacher in China from 2006-2009.
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