If you find yourself in Tokyo during basketball season, in need of a place to watch some Hawks basketball, Coast 2 Coast is the place to be.
Located in the fashionable Harajuku Ometosando region of Japan’s capital city, the restaurant/bar provides full service accommodation to fans who want to watch their NBA teams. Are you on vacation in Tokyo and itching to watch a random Hawks/Bucks game in the middle of December? Call in to reserve a spot at the bar, sit down for your morning coffee (local NBA start times are typically around 8:00 a.m. in Tokyo), and watch a game from the many screens that Coast 2 Coast has at their disposal. The bar gets a diverse litany of visitors from all over the world—a large portion of the bar’s overall demographic is American tourists—but they all share one interest: watching basketball.
“We wanted to create a place where people can connect, with basketball being the key,” Coast 2 Coast founder Megumi Wakazuki told HawksHoop.
In a country that isn’t exactly enamored with basketball—football (soccer), sumo wrestling and baseball dominate sporting culture in Japan—there is a dearth of venues for NBA fans to express their fandom. Coast 2 Coast is one of those places.
“In spite of the fact that basketball is pretty popular in Japan, not many people start businesses in basketball,” manager Ryo Wakazuki said. “There are very few chances to have a close relationship to basketball in Japan, and we try to make that possible by providing opportunities to expand Japan’s interest in basketball—no matter where you’re from or your experience level.”
I sat in for Game 3 of the NBA Finals, and the ambience of the cafe definitely corroborated Wakazuki’s want for the ambience to cater to a worldly audience. More than 30 people piled into a large living room-sized bar to watch the game, the environment fitting for both Oakland and Cleveland. The staff was interested in the many countries from which people traveled thousands of miles to come from—all speaking one language: basketball. Basketball apparel and Coast 2 Coast’s own clothing designs littered the walls—as many American sports bars tout—but so do a variety of Japanese, European and Latin American-infused street art. The language heard most commonly inside the bar is English—the world’s lingua franca—as opposed to Japanese.
It’s still surprising to see a community center for basketball fans do so well in Japan. Japan’s relatively low interest in basketball is reflected by the constant mergers and folds that happen to franchises in their top professional basketball league. In fact, the very structure of their first-tier basketball league is nearly always in flux—the country has had three different leagues claim “top-flight status” in the last five years. The current incarnation—the B.League—started in 2016, which Wakazuki said has helped his business a little bit.
Despite the instability of basketball in Japan, Wakazuki is still optimistic that the sport can, one day, surpass the traditional powerhouse sports in popularity.
“I think that, one day,” Wakazuki said, “basketball can be the most popular sport in Japan.”