Eccentric, edgy and a little bit on the gritty side, Harry Juku’s is not for the faint-hearted. Located in the Richmond suburb of Melbourne, Australia, the private bar, lounge and Japanese bath house has a dark and daring edge, having been inspired by one of Tokyo’s most infamous figures.
Harry Juku: porn star, samurai, kamikazi, and the namesake of one of Richmond’s most spirited bars. The inspiration for the character derives from the life of Mitsuyasu Maeno, a pornographic actor known for his suicide attack on Yoshio Kodama – the multi-millionaire, right-wing leader of Japan’s transnational organized crime syndicates, the Yakuza.
In the midst of the Lockheed Bribary Scandals – which saw Yoshio put under house arrest for bribery involving jetplane contracts – Mitsuyasu flew a plane into the property in which Yoshio resided, causing a fire. Although Yoshio was not harmed, Mitsuyasu died in the crash that led to headlines across the international media.
According to legend, shortly after the attack a plane turned up in Darwin under the name H Jukus. Soon afterwards, a notorious bath house, bar and smoking den – which served smuggled Japanese whiskey and opulent opium - arrived in Richmond, Melbourne.
Going by the name of Harry Juku, the man who masterminded the bar – which was located in several Richmond houses to stay ahead of the law – soon became known as Dirty Little Tokyo. All that was known of him was that he was a modern samurai, following the Bushido traditions, and that his face had been burnt off whilst single-handedly taking on the Yakuza during its resurgence in the 1970s.
Could it be possible that Harry Juku was in fact the assumed-deceased Mitsuyasu Maeno?
“Harry Juku’s was influenced by a different side of Tokyo,” says Benjamin Cairns, a member of the bar’s ownership team. “Mitsuyasu Maeno led a life that contrasted vastly from that of a traditional Japanese existence. With a career in the porn industry, run-ins with the Yakuza and a distaste for corruption, this grungy and gritty underbelly of Dirty Tokyo has found a home upstairs at Harry Juku’s.”
Designed by the ownership team, the bar itself merges modern Japanese decor with Western touches. Striking in its play of light and dark, the space is littered with shadows and eclectic objects, including distinctive Japanese lanterns, old television sets and foot spas.