A member of the Japanese rock band Save Our Soul takes a break between sets at The Chicken Shack on Bar Row in Fussa, Japan. The bar has live music five nights a week.

A member of the Japanese rock band Save Our Soul takes a break between sets at The Chicken Shack on Bar Row in Fussa, Japan. The bar has live music five nights a week. (Christopher B. Stoltz / S&S)

FUSSA, Japan — That heart of rock ‘n’ roll Huey Lewis sang about two decades ago is beating just fine these days right in the middle of “Bar Row” near Yokota Air Base.

Live bands fill The Chicken Shack five nights a week to bang out hard rock, blues and acoustic music on a tiny stage just past the bar.

“It’s the best bar in the world,” an unidentified airman said at the door.

Indeed, if you’re tired of the techno, rap and hip-hop scene in other clubs, you’ve come to the right place. It packs a punch with Japanese rock bands such as Megababe, The Call-Up, and babamania — acts that appear on Yokota occasionally.

The Chicken Shack opened in April 1975 and was bought by Nozomu Takahashi and his wife, Kumiko, 14 years later. He heads up the band Save Our Soul, which got the joint fired up with a wicked set on a recent Saturday night.

“It’s been here for 30 years, but sometimes people still don’t know about us,” Takahashi said afterward. “Right now, the (1-6 a.m. base) curfew hurts. It’s damage for me … and business gone down pretty bad. I’ll stay. No place to go.

“I love the people. Place has good music also, but good people.”

Each Thursday night, any one of those people can jump on stage for free jam sessions.

That always draws a big crowd, said Senior Airman Ian Coye of the 374th Civil Engineer Squadron. He plays the drums and has stepped up a few times since arriving at Yokota last December.

“This is the first place I’ll go. It’s one of the few places you can see live music,” he said. “The atmosphere is just awesome, nonstop … They play the same style of music, but it’s different than what you expect. The music is unbelievable. It’s what brings me down here.”

Compact disc covers and rock posters plaster The Chicken Shack’s walls. Like most Japanese pubs, it’s a little cramped. You might wind up sitting at the bar without a view of the stage.

No worries, though. Hearing is never a problem and you can catch the show’s live footage on a TV set — and have easier access to a favorite beverage.

“It’s a really cool place to play music, listen to music, pretty much dive into the city of Fussa and actually be part of a different culture,” Coye said.

As always, if you drink, do so responsibly. Don’t drink and drive.

The Chicken Shack

Fussa, Japan

Drink prices: Most well drinks are 600 yen. Bottled Japanese beer goes for 650, while Corona (700), Budweiser (500) and draft Heineken (600) are other options. Liqueur (700), sake and shochu (500) and wine (400) are available.

Cover: 500 to 2,000 yen, depending on the night and the act. No cover Thursday.

Hours: 8 p.m. until … but closed Monday and Tuesday.

Food: Bar items such as chips and dip, salami sticks, popcorn, cheese, nuts and fries — starting at 300 yen. For a case of the full-blown munchies, you can grab fried rice, Mexican curry, chicken rice, shrimp rice or edamame (Japanese soybeans) for 500 yen a plate.

Entertainment: Live bands deliver hard rock, blues and acoustic-style music every night. Patrons can jump on stage during free jam sessions every Thursday at 9:30 p.m.

Clientele: Open to all.

Dress: Dust off that concert gear.

Location: It’s a 10-15 minute walk outside Yokota’s Fussa Gate, about halfway down “Bar Row” on the left.

Web site:


Telephone: 042-552-4826 or 090-3697-1692.

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