Have you ever wondered where you could enjoy a meal while train watching at the same time? Or okay, maybe you haven’t. But if you are visiting Japan and would like to experience the Japanese train system in close proximity, I highly suggest visiting Cafe and Bar N3331 mAAch ecute Kanda Manseibashi (神田万世橋)! (I didn’t realize how long this name looked in English until now, but the main name of the cafe and bar is N3331.)
The old Manseibashi Station was originally built in 1912, even before the beginning of World War I, just for historical perspective. The area prospered after the Meiji (明治) era and therefore, the private sector built railroads in order to allow easy access to the prospering Manseibashi area.
The original building was made from old red bricks, the same kind used in the original Tokyo Station (東京駅), and some of the stairs are carved from precious rocks. The station was actually designed by the same architect as the Tokyo Station, Kingo Tatsuno (辰野金吾), and the original station included waiting rooms for important personnel, as well as a food court, bar, and meeting room.
The station prospered the most during the Taisho (大正) era but ironically enough, the creation of the Tokyo Station stole the role as the terminal station of the JR Chuo Line (中央線), affecting the popularity and usage of the Manseibashi Station. The station was further affected by the Great Kanto earthquake (関東大震災), which resulted in the rebuilding of a smaller, simpler station due to the immense damage.
Due to the loss of customers, the Manseibashi Station was, unfortunately, closed in 1943. It is currently located between the Kanda and Ochanomizu (御茶ノ水) stations on the JR Chuo Line and you can see its current remains from the train windows when you pass.
N3331 is built on top of the ruins of the old Manseibashi Station near Akihabara (秋葉原) and is perhaps the closest cafe and bar to an active train track in the world. The cafe was made in order to transmit traditional Japanese culture as well as the kind of active community that existed in the old Manseibashi Station.
After being taken down, the station was actually turned into a transportation museum, but that also closed in 2006. The remains of the museum have now been transformed into mAAch ecute, an innovative space that reuses old ones in order to create a shopping complex filled with fancy cafes and shops. There is a total of 12 shops, restaurants, and cafes including N3331. They range from bakeries, wine shops, interior shops, to sweets, ramen restaurants, and gallery shops.
After Manseibashi Station closed in 1943, it was only opened on the rare occasions that there was a train history related event, etc. The original building of the station was taken down, but the platform of the station itself was left as is and in 2013, it was used as a viewing deck and was turned into the N3331 cafe.
The deck is decorated with station name signs, which usually line railway platform pillars, to give it the atmosphere of the station that used to be there. The deck is now covered with glass, providing a view of the JR Chuo Line that runs on both sides of the old platform. Apart from being a cafe, bar, and deck, it is also used as an alternative space for artists to host exhibitions and events at.
N3331 serves casual lunches, drinks, and sweets, as well as a full-blown assortment of traditional Japanese alcohol at night in order to spread the Japanese food and drink culture.
Their lunch menu is extremely affordable! And to those who don’t or can’t drink, I highly recommend visiting this cafe during the day to enjoy their assortment of curry and hashed beef, accompanied with your choice of drink which could range from anything to coffee, ginger ale, or smoothies. The lunch menus are mostly curry related, but the Hayashi-raisu (hashed beef and mushrooms with rice) and the vegetable-based Pro-minority Curry are both extremely popular among the crowd.
The “Pro-minority Curry” was actually created by the artist, Souhei Iwata (岩田草平), after he went to India and began mud-based architecture. The dish is made from curry that Iwata got from the people in the town of Siara in West India. The “Pro-minority Curry” is a symbol of many things – sustainable building materials, India, curry, cross-cultural interaction, and art creation.
In the evening, the menu at N3331 changes to a more alcohol-related menu, with appetizers like mixed nuts, pickles, and ham & cream cheese which sound amazing with some wine. They also have proper dinner menus such as various salads, meat, and fish dishes. Their wide-ranging alcohol menu includes things such as beer, homemade sangria, and fruit-based alcohol. But if you have the chance to go to bar N3331, I highly recommend trying their various alcoholic drinks made from rice, sweet potato, wheat, and brown sugar from different places around Japan.
N3331 also provides seasonal menus that change according to the availability of ingredients in season, so it would be fun to visit the cafe in all four seasons to try out the various kinds of menus that they offer.
N3331 is the perfect location to visit to enjoy the history and culture of the old Manseibashi area. It is also great for anyone who wants to enjoy close proximity to the current Japanese railway system. Additionally, it is more convenient to visit as there are fewer people here in comparison to its nearby stations, Tokyo and Akihabara. If you are in the area and interested in learning about both the current and old Japanese train systems, mAAch ecute and N3331 are the perfect places to visit.