Altstadt
AltstadtPicture Courtesy: Düsseldorf Tourismus GmbH

Discover little Tokyo on the Rhine: Düsseldorf’s Japanese enclave

From Little Tokyo to the ‘longest bar in the world’, dining in Düsseldorf is never a dull affair

Step outside Düsseldorf Hauptbahnhof (central station) onto Immermannstrasse in Germany and you wonder if you have walked into a different country. The entire block is lined with Japanese restaurants, bars, shops and supermarkets; everywhere you look, you will find sushi and ramen, Manga and matcha. Even the street signs are in German and Japanese. You have arrived at Little Tokyo on the Rhine.

Bakery Taka is a place for breads flavoured with Nippon essentials, matcha, melon, coconut, etc., sweet bean paste buns, assorted mochi, and other pastries. Around the corner, the tiny Café N°18 is known for its rather cute mousse tarts. A short walk away is Takagi with a massive selection of Japanese books, magazines and Manga comics. Souvenirs hunters usually make for Kyoto by Japan Art Deco across the street which has fabulous porcelain ware and home accessories.

The food experience here follows a specific culinary arch. For lunch, it is sushi at Naniwa Sushi & More, followed by ramen at local-favourite Takumi. For dinner, book a splurge-worthy meal at one of Chef Yoshizumi Nagaya’s Michelin-starred restaurants, Nagaya or Yoshi by Nagaya. Wind down the day with Japan-inspired cocktails at Sakura Bar or choose from a selection of sake and Japanese beer at ioder8, a standing Izakaya bar. Finally, sing your heart out at Lime Light Karaoke Bar, which is tucked away in the basement of the Clayton Hotel.

Takumi
Takumi

With more than 8,000 Japanese residents, Düsseldorf has the largest Japanese community in Germany and the third largest in Europe after London and Paris. How come? In the 1950s, growing economic ties between Japan and Düsseldorf led to many Japanese businessmen and their families to settle here. With them came Japanese doctors, hairdressers and restaurateurs, making the Immermannstrasse-Klosterstrasse block a Japanese enclave.

Beyond Little Tokyo is a slice of Japan in the Niederkassel district across the Rhine. Here, the EKÕ-Haus of Japanese Culture comprises a Buddhist temple, a house in traditional architectural style, a tea room, and a Japanese garden. Every year, the city celebrates Japan Day, an all-out Japanese culture festival of food, drink, music, dance performances, martial arts, and cosplay ending with a spectacular fireworks display on the Rhine.

If you have had your Japan fix and are hankering after a cold beer, worry not—after all, this is Germany. A short walk from Little Tokyo is Düsseldorf’s Altstadt or Old Town. It houses several historic buildings, but its main claim to fame is the nearly 300 pubs, restaurants, and bars, all located within half a sq km. Hence it is no surprise that it’s known as ‘the longest bar in the world’. Come evening, you will find hordes of people milling outside pubs, all quaffing beer from short, narrow glasses. Servers balancing trays weave around, replenishing drinks at lightning speed.

The beverage of choice here is Altbier, which literally translates as old beer since it is brewed in the traditional manner by using top-fermented yeasts. The full-bodied, amber-coloured beer is malty and crisp and is served in cylindrical 200- to 250-ml glasses. These are specifically designed to maintain the head, carbonation and temperature. While there are many breweries to choose from, Brauerei Schumacher is the oldest in Düsseldorf and has been brewing beer according to old family traditions since 1838.

Find a table inside (or stand outside) and ask for an “alt”. As you finish one glass, don’t be surprised if another magically appears in front of you and the server puts a tick mark on your coaster. As per local custom, the server will keep bringing you beer until you indicate you’re done by placing a coaster atop your glass. If that’s not Prost-worthy, what is?

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The New Indian Express
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