Sengoku Buyuden is an izakaya (Japanese gastronomic bar) located in Shinjuku’s famous nightlife district of Kabukicho. But it’s not just any regular izakaya–Sengoku Buyuden is a unique samurai-themed dining establishment, which offers locals and travelers with an interest in Japanese history the chance to experience the culture of Japan’s renowned sengoku (Warring States) era.
Operated by Diamond Dining, a company with over 250 other restaurants across Tokyo and Japan, Sengoku Buyuden’s unique samurai ambiance, original menu, and knowledgeable staff has gained it a loyal base of regulars, as well as continually attracting new customers in the 6 years since it opened. Visitors revel in the chance to immerse themselves in Japanese warrior culture and gain insight into Japan’s sengoku period, while dining on authentic Japanese cuisine.
Sengoku Buyuden’s Customers: From Salarymen to Rekijo
When it opened in 2010, Sengoku Buyuden set out to cater to the typical demographic interested in samurai history and culture at the time–middle-aged salarymen. However, a growing trend of rekijo (young women interested in pre-Edo history) has seen the sengoku-themed izakaya become increasingly populated by these rekijo, who now up around 60-70% of the customers.
To adapt to this changing clientele, and a rising widespread interest in Japan’s historic periods, Sengoku Buyuden also collaborates for event with popular fandoms, like those of samurai-themed video games, to offer fans the ultimate experience of mixing popular and traditional culture.
The Experience Begins at the Entrance
At the entrance, guests are greeted by four breathtaking yoroi (Japanese armor) of renowned historical figures like Sanada Yukimura, Date Masamune, Maeda Keiji and Uesugi Kenshin. The striking appearance of Date Masamune’s golden crescent-moon embellished kabuto (Japanese armor helmet), won him a fearsome reputation. Sanada Yukimura’s outstanding bright red armor makes it one of the most famous in samurai history.
As customary in Japan, you have to take off your shoes before entering Sengoku Buyuden. But the izakaya has a playful take on this tradition, with shoe lockers decorated with crests of popular military commanders. Guests can choose a locker with the mon (crest) of a samurai lord that most interests them.
A Variety of Themed Rooms Provide the Ultimate Warrior Experience
Inside Sengoku Buyuden, there’s a set of counter seats as well as seventeen private rooms, with each room designed to represent a famous military commander.
- Sekigahara no Tatakai area: Named after a battle site in 1600 Japan, Sekigahara can hold an army of diners – up to 50 people. The whole area is covered in traditional Japanese tatami mat, and guests sit at horigotatsu – a dining style where a low table is set over a hole in the floor for leg room.
- Tokugawa Ieyasu no ma: The dining area in this remarkable room is decorated with the Tokugawa family crest and family tree of the man who ruled Japan as the last shogun. This area can hold up to 4 people.
- Azai Nagamasa no ma: Named after one of the daimyo (feudal lords) of the sengoku era and brother-in-law to the powerful ruler Oda Nobunaga, this popular room is embellished with beautiful kimono in the image of his wife, and can hold up to 6 people.
- Maeda Keiji no ma: Maeda Kenji was a famous and wild military commander of the sengoku era who served under Oda Nobunaga. The room bearing his name can hold up to 7 people.
- Sanada Yukimura no ma: Up to 5 courageous souls can dine and drink in the presence of Sanada Yukimura, a military commander also called “The Last Sengoku Hero”.
- Date Masamune no ma: Heir to a long line of strong daimyo, Date Masamune – also called the “one-eyed dragon” – was an outstanding tactician, and is probably one of the most popular Japanese historical figures. Up to 8 people can dine in his namesake room.
Dedication to Detail
The immersive experience doesn’t stop with the decoration and ambiance of Sengoku Buyuden. The food served at the izakaya features a range of dishes that pay respect to traditional Japanese dining principles.
In traditional Japanese cuisine, it is said that ‘you eat with your eyes first’. Therefore, visual presentation is as much a part of the dining experience as the taste of a dish. At Sengoku Buyuden, great attention is given to everything from the arrangement of the food and garnishes to the servingware for each component of the meal. Each choice is made with the intention of enhancing the dining experience for customers.
Here is a selection of artful cuisine you can order at Sengoku Buyuden Izakaya:
Tenkataihei Sushi: Literally translating to “Peace reigns over the Land“ sushi, this colorful dish is a sight to behold. The contrast between the brightness of the ingredients and the whiteness of the rice pleases the eye as well as being delight for taste-buds.
- Sakurazashi: Raw horse sashimi, which has the characteristic sweet and pleasantly gamey flavor of horse meat, but called sakura (cherry blossom) meat due to its elaborate pattern.
Datedorimomoniku no Ichimaiaburi Yuzukosyouzoe: Named after the “one-eyed dragon“, this baked chicken thighs are served with yuzu kosho, a type of condiment made from yuzu (a Japanese citrus) blending with chillies. This fresh and zesty combination enhances the taste of the chicken.
- Sake to Ikura no Harako Seiromeshi:
This elaborate rice dish consists of rice topped with a variety of ingredients and cooked in a wooden steamer. In this version, the gentle and slightly sweet salmon, salted salmon roe and steaming white rice make for a very special taste experience.
Samurai Culture Lives on in Today’s Popular Culture
As well as the continued popularity of Sengoku Buyuden, the continued featuring the sengoku era and samurai culture in pop culture media–manga, anime, historical TV, movie dramas, theatre and video games–shows that there is still great interest in among younger generations.
One example of many can be seen in an online game developed by DMM and Nitroplus called Touken Ranbu, which translates to “Wild Sword Dance”. The player takes charge of an anthropomorphized group of Japanese swords, offers historical information on dozens of swords. Due to all swords being handsome male, the game is especially popular among female gamers who dub themselves katana joshi (sword girls). These katana joshi immerse themselves in Japan’s historical era, spending their free time visiting historical sites, collecting swords, and signing up for courses where they learn about the ethics and culture of Japan’s historical warriors, such as the art of dancing and exercising with katana.
This shows just how popular culture can help to keep an interest in Japan’s heritage and traditional crafts alive in the modern times.
Experience or Own Your Own Piece of Samurai Culture
Come one step closer to a thrilling part of Japan’s past with a visit to Sengoku Buyuden Izakaya. If you wish to own your own piece of traditional samurai armor or sword, browse A-Janaika’s extensive selection of original samurai artifacts and authentic replicas at their online store.