On the third floor of a nondescript building in the narrow streets of Ueno-Okachimachi is mr. kanso. This small, unapologetic canned food bar is just one of the some 50 now scattered across Japan.
Boasting a range of over 300 different kinds of canned foods, the first store popped up in 2002 in Osaka, but the chain has now even expanded to Taiwan.
I have a soft spot for unusual establishments, so I couldn’t resist checking out a branch nearby my current apartment.
The canned food bar experience
At mr. kanso Ueno-Okachimachi, shelves stacked with an assortment of canned and packaged foods greet you as soon as you enter.
To the right is the bar counter, where the owner stands preparing drinks. As he apparently used to be a professional boxer, you can see memorabilia decorating the bar here and there. This includes boxing gloves and a framed artwork of the lead character from the manga series Ashita no Joe.
The bar is a small one with a rather spartan décor, such as a completely exposed ceiling. Circling around the shelves you will find three modest tables that seat four each, and a table that seats two. There is also a handful of counter seats.
But back to the canned foods. There is so much range, as the bar stocks canned food not only from Japan, but from around the world. The chain has even created their own original brand of canned food, featuring meals such as takoyaki, curry and paella. They even have their own take on the faux Chinese dish chinjao rosu.
In a mix of horror and morbid fascination, we took a while to decide what to try. According to the tags, the most popular product is canned whale.
Among the “rare” meats, there was also canned sea otter, deer, bear and wild boar. Of course, canned beef, chicken and pork in various flavours, as well as more “normal” canned foods such as spam, tuna, sardines and nuts were also available.
After much deliberation, I elected to try the seafood paella in a can for 650 yen. While there was barely any seafood, the taste of the rice reminded me an overly salty and non-sticky version of zongzi (粽子), a traditional Chinese dumpling wrapped in bamboo leaves.
It tasted fine, but nothing like paella.
How to order at mr. kanso
The system is simple: each can has a coloured sticker that corresponds to its price. The cheapest are cans with red stickers which cost 200 yen, with the most expensive black-stickered ones at 2,000 yen. What is available differs at each branch, but most popular cans are usually in the 500 to 650 yen range.
There is also a selection of crackers and cheese sticks (not in cans) that choose from to complement your meal. You can even get a bowl of white rice for around 300 yen.
Once you’ve made your choices, you take the cans to the bar counter, where the owner will open and heat up the contents for you. At the same time, you can order your favourite alcoholic (or soft) drink to wash it down. Drinks are the standard price in Japan, with beer starting from 390 yen, wine from 400 yen and cocktails from 560 yen.
At the Ueno-Okachimachi branch, it is cash only but this may vary at other locations. There is no table charge.
And if the bar scene isn’t really your thing, but you still want to try the canned foods, you can order them online at the mr. kanso web shop.
Getting to mr. kanso Ueno-Okachimachi
Mr. kanso Ueno-Okachimachi is easily accessible from any of the stations serving the Ueno area. The closest is JR Okachimachi Station, where it is a two-minute walk from the North Exit. If taking the subway, Exit A7 of Ueno-Okachimachi Station (Oedo Line) / Ueno-Hirokoji Station (Ginza Line) / Naka-Okachimachi Station (Hibiya Line) will get you there in around the same time.
Address: 東京都台東区上野６丁目３−7 UPS三浦ビル３F
3F UPS Miura Building, 6-3-7 Ueno, Taito-ku, Tokyo
The bar opens in the evening everyday from 5pm to midnight, but closes half an hour earlier on Sundays and holidays. Unfortunately smoking is allowed throughout the bar.
For details on other locations, please refer to the official website (Japanese only).
Fancy running your own canned food bar?
Mr. kanso branches are actually franchises, which means you can start one yourself with a capital of as little as 3 million yen! The official website says you don’t need any experience as long as you understand the chain’s canned food concept.
While you do need to pay a royalty of 50,000 yen each month to the head company for various support, restocking and promotion on the official website, it seems everything else is completely independent.
Fancy yourself the next canned food bar owner? 😉
If you’re looking for more wacky establishments in Tokyo, check out my other reviews of interesting themed cafes and restaurants in the capital!