The popular natural wine bar Katarina has a friendly and cozy ambience within the appealing, unpretentious atmosphere of Araiyakushi, a neighborhood that’s a mixing pot of old and new.

Visitors can find the famous Araiyakushi Baishoin Temple and a pleasant local atmosphere at Araiyakushi-mae Station, located only three stations away from Takadanobaba Station. In this neighborhood is the popular wine bar Katarina, with its friendly service and cozy atmosphere thanks to its owner Miyuki Iwasaki. The shopping alleys and cherry blossom-lined streets are home to both old and new establishments with a laid-back ambience.
カタリナ 新井薬師前

Miyuki Iwasaki Seibu Line resident for thirty years

She has lived in other areas along the Seibu Line, such as Nerima, Toshimaen, and Ekoda, but now enjoys slightly "hometown" atmosphere of Araiyakushi.

The best way to recommend natural wine is through conversation at the bar counter.

Although the bar only has nine counter seats, patrons can also wait at this window side corner. The cozy atmosphere of this bar is very welcoming.

If only there was a place to go when you want to drink or eat, or just casually drop by alone after work… Katarina, an Araiyakushi establishment that offers natural wine, has no table charge, allowing patrons to drop in casually for just one glass of wine. The bar has wide windows so passersby can check out its appealing, welcoming atmosphere.
"Many female patrons come by themselves. Some patrons say that they had never gone drinking alone before, but felt comfortable enough to come here," says Miyuki.
This establishment is perfect for first-time drinking at a counter, as there are only counter seats and a friendly owner.

The name “Katarina” comes from the Japanese word for “talk,” katari. Miyuki says she selected it because it had a familiar ring. You will probably find yourself hanging around at the counter, enjoying conversation with Miyuki while sipping wine.

Miyuki previously worked at Petit Konishi, a wine bar in Nakano-sakaue. It was here she discovered the delicious world of natural wines. She became an owner of her own establishment at 31; a bar with a counter, just as she had wished for.
"Although the atmosphere of the places I frequent is important, at the end, it's all about the people. Instead of just giving patrons a menu, I wanted to give them recommendations through conversation."
If you're going to drink at the counter, why not enjoy the process of choosing your wine by chatting with the owner?
"When you've been doing this for nine years, it's extremely rewarding to see patrons who formerly didn't have a clue about wine, remember one I had recommended to them and say, 'Isn't this from the winemaker I tried and liked before?' It's moments like these I feel that I've attained my goals."

Unique natural wines and appetizers made with seasonal ingredients

Katarina’s menu is written on a blackboard, and there is only a limited quantity of some items. Piping hot gratins are popular in this coming season. Three types each of red and white wine are available by the glass. The menu of wines by the glass is not fixed, changing as each bottle is emptied.

Katarina opened in May 2012, with a focus on natural wines. Natural wines vary dramatically in taste and personality depending on the maker of each wine. When in doubt, "I recommend selecting one by the label,"says Miyuki.

"There are many different winemakers, and I believe their personalities can be seen in their wine label. When in doubt what to drink, I recommend selecting a label you like. The fun aspect about natural wine is the winemaker's uniqueness, may it be its taste or label. I want to communicate the intent of each winemaker to my patrons as a bar and point of contact for wine."

It is because of the counter seats that one can enjoy conversation with Miyuki, while she efficiently cooks, talking about various episodes with winemakers, unique wine labels, and the delicious taste of wine.

The roasted pork shoulder is 1,400 yen. It is thick, soft, and juicy after being cooked slowly, and comes with a generous serving of side vegetables.

Miyuki says, "Please come during the cherry blossom season as well!" This area is actually a perfect place to view cherry blossoms, although it is not very well-known. In spring, the cherry trees that line Nakano-dori Avenue in front of Katarina go into full bloom. The area becomes lively in the weekends, with people visiting from far and wide to see the cherry blossoms.
"Every year during the cherry blossom season, Mr. Harada from 〈Parlour Ekoda〉 comes and visits to sell bread here.
Katarina sandwiches using Parlour Ekoda bread has been a popular event for the past nine years. We will naturally be holding this event next year as well. My bar rotates five types of bread from Parlour Ekoda daily, which I go to purchase on my bicycle. You can enjoy their bread at my bar every day except Tuesday, when Parlour Ekoda is closed."

山盛りのクレソンといちぢくのサラダ800円に合わせるのは、ロゼのワイン1,050円。オーストラリアの若い男性2人組の造り手「イエティ アンド ココナッツ」のもの。
Rosé wine (1,050 yen) is paired with a fig salad with a generous helping of watercress (800 yen). This wine is from Yetti and the Kokonut, two young male winemakers in Australia.

The broad appeal of Araiyakushi, where the old coexists with the new


Before deciding to live near Araiyakushi-mae Station, Miyuki lived along the Seibu Line at Nerima and Ekoda. She gives the area's livability as the clincher.

"Nerima has good transportation. It was convenient living there, as there is a UNIQLO and a Seiyu supermarket right after you get off the train. Ekoda has a pleasant mix of art and local flair. There are a lot of tasty ramen restaurants, and of course, Parlour Ekoda (laughs)."
But the deciding factor for Araiyakushi-mae Station was its attractive slightly "hometown" atmosphere. Only a five minute walk from Katarina is the Yakushi Ai Road Shopping Street, where some of Miyuki's favorite stores can be found.
"Another positive element of opening my bar here was that I'm able to recommend various places to regular patrons. One of Araiyakushi's appeals is its slightly "hometown" atmosphere. Although Nakano has an urban feel to it, Araiyakushi's shopping streets still have traditional festivals. There are old-timers living here, and many newcomers too, because it's so easy to live here. There is a mix of old and new. The rent here is more affordable, and it is really convenient. Although there's no electric appliance store here, I think everything else is covered. It's a great place for families and single people. It's a place with something for everyone."

カタリナ 新井薬師前

Although Katarina faces Nakano-dori Avenue, its slightly away from shopping areas and the station. It is said that Katarina has a secluded feel to it, and is a place well-known among connoisseurs. It is a place that makes you giddy with excitement to find in this area because you were not expecting it. A female patron says, "Miyuki-san's food has stolen my heart" and visits Katarina frequently. If you want a place you can visit regularly alone, why not come to Katarina!

About Katarina

カタリナ 新井薬師前

■Location: 1F, 5-5-13 Arai, Nakano-ku, Tokyo
■Telephone: 03-5318-5622
■Business hours: Weekdays and Saturdays 18:00 - 23:00
Sunday & Holidays 17:00 - 22:00 (See announcements for non-scheduled days off on Facebook or Instagram.)
■Closed days: every Wednesday and a non-scheduled day off once a month
■Official website: https://www.facebook.com/KatarinaBiowinebar/
*The information published in this article is true as of the time of the interview, and may not reflect current circumstances.

(photo:Hiromi Kurokawa text:Kayo Yabushita)

Favorite spots!

The cherry blossoms along Nakano-dori Avenue
Visitors can enjoy cherry blossoms in full bloom every spring walking along Nakano-dori Avenue. It is a truly spectacular sight, with approximately 300 cherry trees lining a two-kilometer stretch from the north exit of Nakano Station, to Araiyakushi and the Shin-ome-kaido Avenue. Katarina also faces Nakano-dori Avenue.
The cherry blossoms along Nakano-dori Avenue
The pedestrian bridge close to Katarina at Arai 4-chome, Nakano-ku, is known as the best spot to view the Seibu Railway Shinjuku Line framed with cherry blossoms. The bridge is packed with visitors in the spring, but you will surely not want to miss this photo opportunity.
新井薬師公園では「中野通り桜まつり」も開催。桜の時期に合わせて、特設ステージや屋台などが出店し大賑わい!■住所:東京都中野区新井5-4(中野区立新井薬師公園)■電話番号:03-3389-1111 ■http://nakano-arai.gr.jp/
The cherry blossoms along Nakano-dori Avenue
Araiyakushi Park also holds the Nakano-dori Cherry Blossom Festival, a very busy event with special stage shows and food stalls during the cherry blossom season. ■Location: 5-4 Arai, Nakano-ku, Tokyo (Araiyakushi Park, Nakano-Ward) ■Telephone: 03-3389-1111 ■http://nakano-arai.gr.jp/
Old Nogata Water Tower
This nostalgic-looking tower caught Miyuki’s eye when biking. This tower, an unexpected find in a residential area, was used as a water distribution tower in the past to supply water from the Tamagawa River to various areas.
Old Nogata Water Tower
It was constructed in 1929, but is no longer in use and remains as a regional landmark. The tower was designated as a tangible cultural property in February 2010.
「家と家の間からこの塔の姿が見えるんですが、どこにあるのか? あの塔は何なのか?など、きっと気になるはず。私も通るたびに気になる存在です」(岩崎さん)■住所:東京都中野区江古田1-3みずのとう公園内
Old Nogata Water Tower
“You can see the tower from between houses. I’m certain you’ll wonder where and what it is! I find myself wanting to know more about it each time I pass it,” says Miyuki. ■Location: Within the Mizu-no-tou Park, 1-3 Ekoda, Nakano-ku, Tokyo
Yakushi Ai Road Shopping Street
Miyuki gave us a tour of the Yakushi Ai Road Shopping Street, which she frequently visits. The street features both old and new shops and a laid-back atmosphere. “This is a relaxing place for me,” says Miyuki.
Yakushi Ai Road Shopping Street
When asked about her favorite places, she answers “(some of them are) rompercicci for relaxing and listening to music, Mikasa Shokudo for lunch, Buona ERI is great for lunch and dinner, Aoka for comfort, and the secluded malt bar Paulonia as well”
昔ながらのせんべいやさんやお茶やさん、銭湯の間に、新しいカフェや居酒屋、バーなどもあって、とてもいい雰囲気の商店街です。■住所:東京都中野区新井1-22-6 ■https://www.ai-road.com
Yakushi Ai Road Shopping Street
The shopping street has a pleasant atmosphere with traditional rice cracker shops, tea shops and public bathhouses along with new cafes, pubs, and bars. ■Address: 1-22-6 Arai, Nakano-ku, Tokyo ■https://www.ai-road.com