Skip to main content

nico, a former Sawagi member who runs three izakayas in Shimokitazawa, finds common ground with live music



A circle of friends connected by gootouchi! The “FIST BUMP” corner of the radio program “GRAND MARQUEE” features people who live and enjoy Tokyo in a relay format.

On August 21, nico-san, owner of Shimokitazawa’s izakayas “Mabonen”, “Omukai”, and “Machinaka”, will appear on the show. We asked him about the unexpected similarities he found in the izakayas he opened while playing in a band, as well as his goals for the future.

Opening an Izakaya after touring abroad with a band

nico: My name is nico, and I am the representative of HAUTEN Co. Pleased to meet you.

Celeina (MC): Please do. First of all, let me briefly introduce my profile: I am the former drummer of Sawagi, a 4-piece instrumental band. While still in the band, he opened the izakaya “Mabonen” in April 2017 and its sister restaurant “Omukai” across the street in November; the band disbanded in 2019, but in November 2022, they opened their third restaurant “Machinaka” in Shimokitazawa.

Takano (MC): Is everything going well?

nico: It is going well.

Celeina: It’s definitely going well; you have opened three stores in the same area.

Takano: You said that you opened the stores while being in a band.

nico: By chance, I had the opportunity to go on a rather long overseas tour with my band, and although we could make ends meet for a month or so of touring, I felt that I had reached the limit of desperately working part-time before and after the tour. So I wanted to create a situation where I could make money without being in Japan, and I started thinking about opening some kind of restaurant.

Celeina: What made you choose a restaurant? After all, it costs a lot to start up, doesn’t it?

nico: It didn’t cost anything at all. I could have chosen any restaurant, but I had been working part-time at a restaurant for a long time and happened to be introduced to a property that was a vacant restaurant, so I just went ahead and started.

Takano: Isn’t it difficult to manage a band and a restaurant at the same time?

nico: It was really hard at first. I was playing gigs on days when the restaurant was closed, and I didn’t take a day off for a hundred and ten days or so. It was fun, though.

Takano: Nowadays, I think it is quite mainstream to have a “work-at-home” job, but were there people like that back then?

nico: That was just when the number of such people was beginning to increase. There were people who were working at home and also playing in a band at the same time.

Takano: I heard that musicians gathered at your store.

nico: The reason why I started my store in Shimokitazawa in the first place was because I thought that in this town, I would meet people I know when I walk around, so there would never be zero customers. Many of the live performers use the restaurant for their launches.

Celeina: What kind of restaurant is “Mabonen”? What do you recommend for food and drinks?

nico: We make lemon sour using pesticide-free lemons from the Okunan region of Ehime Prefecture.

Celeina: You are very particular! Sounds delicious!

nico: When we performed at “shima fes SETOUCHI” as a band, we were allowed to use products from farmers we met.

Takano: I like that it is linked to your music activities.

nico: It was just by chance, but yes.

Takano: Have there been any good synergistic effects between the band and the store management?

nico: It’s hard to say now, but if I were still in a band, I think I would be selling well (laughs). (Laughs) Because the people involved would come to the store so much. (Laughs.) Back then, if we wanted to release a CD, we would frantically hand out sample copies, but now I think we could hand out about 50 copies a day just by being in the store. I wish I had had that kind of connection when I was in the band.

Takano: So it is a place where people in the industry, people in bands, and music lovers gather. We have to go there too.

Celeina: What kind of existence does Shimokitazawa have for you?

nico: I feel like I’m finally getting attached to it.

Celeina: Finally.

Takano: You are not from there, are you?

nico: I am from Kansai. Shimokitazawa has developed and changed, but when I saw it after it was completed, I realized that I liked Shimokitazawa before.

Takano: It is always changing. After opening three such restaurants in Shimokitazawa, when did you start to enjoy working in the food and beverage industry?

nico: It was so much fun from the day I started.

Celeina: You mentioned earlier that you worked for dozens of days without a break.

nico: If you didn’t enjoy it, you couldn’t do it. I caught a cold on the day I finally had a day off after working for a hundred and several dozen days (laughs).

Celeina: The moment you let your guard down, you get sick.

Takano: Maybe my body knew what it was doing.



NiEW recommends alternative music🆕

NiEW Best Music is a playlist featuring artists leading the music scene and offering alternative styles in our rapidly evolving society. Hailing from Tokyo, the NiEW editorial team proudly curates outstanding music that transcends size, genre, and nationality.