AUDIE CORNISH, HOST:
Now to Tokyo, or - wait; is it Texas? There's a place in Japan where it's easy to get the two confused. NPR's Elise Hu takes us there.
ELISE HU, BYLINE: Step off a bustling Tokyo street into a basement bar, and it sounds a lot like Fort Worth - well, at least until the singer starts speaking in Japanese.
UNIDENTIFIED SINGER: (Speaking Japanese).
HU: Country music fan Takeshi Yoshino and his wife opened up this tiny tavern 10 years ago to celebrate their favorite place. You can find Don't Mess With Texas signs on the walls, a saddle-turned-barstool and rows of cowboy boots at the entrance.
Before this was a bar, what did you do? Did you own a different restaurant?
TAKESHI YOSHINO: (Speaking Japanese, laughter).
HU: He used to run a Japanese ramen shop, he says. But these days, Yoshino seems much happier manning the honky-tonk known as Little Texas, where you can eat chicken fried steak, listen to live country music and join two-steppers like Nobuko Kato. Dressed in a tasseled suede vest, she shows me some of the line dancing moves she's been practicing with pride.
So have you ever been to Texas before?
NOBUKO KATO: (Through interpreter) I've never been there, and I have not much idea about it. I really want to go.
HU: Well, this basement bar gets pretty close to taking you there. Authenticity was so important to owner Yoshino-san that he shipped in the wood for the walls from an old barn in Justin, Texas. He also makes annual trips to the Lone Star state to bring back actual fixtures, photos, license plates and neon lights for the bar.
YOSHINO: (Through interpreter) Every year since 21 years ago, I've been back to Texas. So I think, gradually, the culture of Texas became like a part of me.
HU: Yoshino says the Tex-pats here in Japan seem to love it.
YOSHINO: (Through interpreter) They say this is just like home.
HU: While Tokyo is Yoshino's home, his heart is 6,000 miles away, and he has the hardware to show it. A few years back, former Texas governor Rick Perry made Yoshino an honorary Texan. The declaration is displayed proudly behind the bar. Elise Hu, NPR News, at Little Texas...
UNIDENTIFIED WOMAN: (Speaking Japanese).
HU: ...In Tokyo.
(SOUNDBITE OF SONG, "DEEP IN THE HEART OF TEXAS")
GENE AUTRY: (Singing) The stars at night are big and bright deep in the heart of Texas. The prairie sky is wide and high deep in the heart of Texas. The coyotes wail along the trail deep in the heart of Texas.
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