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Sayonara: A Taste of Tokyo

Created to be a microcosm of Tokyo’s historic Harmonica Alley in Salt Lake City.
Anime+themed+booth+with+a+neon+sign+that+reads+SEE+YOU+SPACE+COWBOY+from+Cowboy+Bebop.+%28Photo+by+Andre+Montoya+%7C+The+Daily+Utah+Chronicle%29
Andre Montoya
Anime themed booth with a neon sign that reads “SEE YOU SPACE COWBOY” from “Cowboy Bebop.” (Photo by Andre Montoya | The Daily Utah Chronicle)

 

The newest edition to Salt Lake City’s burgeoning nightlife scene is Sayonara (Japanese for “goodbye”). It’s a loving ode to Tokyo that brings a unique perspective to the streets of downtown.

Located in the coveted corner space once occupied by Ginger Street, Sayonara opened at just the right time. Nightlife currently exceeds pre-pandemic levels, a fortunate portent of things to come.

A Passion Project

Kewpie-themed booth decorated with various knickknacks and decorative items from Japan, at Sayonara. (Photo by Andre Montoya | The Daily Utah Chronicle)

Owners Ashton and Elle Aragon decided to open a Japanese-style restaurant after traveling through Japan after their wedding. 

The couple, along with Ashton’s business partner Max Shrives, partnered together and spent seven months getting everything just right for Sayonara’s July opening. Aragon and Shrives own and operate Tradition which opened in 2017 near Liberty Park.

Hand-drawn wall art of Keonashi from the Studio Ghibli film “Spirited Away,” at Sayonara. (Photo by Andre Montoya | The Daily Utah Chronicle)

The two brought dozens of items from Japan to decorate Sayonara. There are dolls, maps, lanterns, banners, posters, flags and Elle plans to bring even more.

“I really love it in Japan,” said Ashton Aragon in an interview with the Salt Lake Tribune. “It’s my favorite place, it’s our favorite place.”

It was created to be a microcosm of Tokyo’s historic Harmonica Alley. Four booths in the center serve as snapshots of Tokyo. There is a vintage kewpie booth, a lantern-lit inari booth and a glitzy anime booth.

“We wanted each booth to feel like its own little shop in Tokyo, how they’re all different,” Elle Aragon said.

Another unique contribution to Sayonara is artwork hand-drawn by Elle herself that adorns the walls. To name a few, there is an Oni in the restroom, a lucky cat, a variety of animals and Keonashi from the Studio Ghibli film “Spirited Away.

The booths are the centerpiece of Sayonara of course. Aside from this, there is seating at the bar, supplementary tables, a pool area and outdoor seating.

Ordering a drink from the bar is not strictly necessary, as the waitstaff visit each table or seating area individually.

Spirited Away

The hand-drawn menu boasts six house cocktails. The most popular is the “Wasabi Mule” ($11) a mix of vodka, wasabi, lime and ginger beer. Astoundingly, the sharp taste of wasabi and the after-taste of vodka complement each other nicely. It’s best enjoyed with an order of sushi.

Other notable cocktails include the “Snowcone Chuhai” ($13) a mix of sochu, ramune syrup, yuzu, and nigori. Or, the “Watermelon Cooler” ($12) a mix of vodka, watermelon puree, and lemon. Perfect for the warmer nights of August heading into September.

Non-alcoholic “mocktails” are offered at the same price. Patrons do need to be 21-years-old to enter the establishment.

Aside from the cocktails, there is a full bar available. A beer can be bought anywhere, but at Sayonara there are imported beers ($6-11), sake wine ($6-120) and Japanese specialty whiskey ($23-49).

Vintage Japanese albums featuring stars such as Bruce Lee, Madonna, and Elvis, at Sayonara on August 26, 2023. (Photo by Andre Montoya | The Daily Utah Chronicle)

As of now, there is no official food menu. However, Axios Salt Lake City highlights the savory pork gyoza that comes with a citrus dipping sauce and the shrimp skewers.

If the kitchen is closed, there is a vending machine available full of snacks, all of which have been imported from Japan.

There is no official website yet, so look for updates on Sayonara’s Instagram and Elle Aragon’s TikTok. Sayonara is open seven days a week from 5 p.m. to 1 a.m. The restaurant is located at 324 South and State Street directly on the northeast corner.

 

[email protected]

@apm_andre

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About the Contributor
Andre Montoya
Andre Montoya, Arts Writer
Andre Montoya is a senior at the University of Utah double majoring in English and communications with an emphasis in journalism. He began writing for the Arts Desk at the Daily Utah Chronicle in Fall 2022. Previously, he has written for the West View Media and Voices of Utah, formerly run by now retired U professor Dr. Kim Mangun. He can often be found around campus glued to his laptop working on assignments or at the Student Life Center exercising. In his free time, he enjoys reading novels, photography, binge-watching shows and movies, or spending time with friends.

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