A rose by any other name....
is not a "Snack Bar"- which is where I ended up last night. (Okay, translation for anyone not getting the reference: things with the same name are not the same thing - apologies to Shakespeare for that).
I met up with a couple of guy pals in Nakano last night and after a trip to an Izakaya and a Family Restaurant, we went to find a bar. Now finding somewhere to drink that isn't an Izakaya, English pub or restaurant isn't actually that easy, especially in Nakano (a few minutes away from Shinjuku by train), but we went wandering around to find somewhere. After leaving the sex bar side of Nakano, and going to the more 'normal' side, I spotted a bar that had the same name as another bar I'd been in once before for a work party. There were no prices outside, and friend D said we should walk out if the prices were too much.
Peeking down the stairs we saw two people in the bar, but we were thirsty so figured we'd grab one drink before going somewhere else.
To abbreviate the rest of the night:
we drank two bottles of Iichiko, a rather strong barley liqueur and sang a shitload of karaoke, including a Bon Jovi medley. I have no idea who put that on for us, though I suspect it was C - the other friend we were with. Now, unlike all the rest of the karaoke I've done in Japan, which has been in a private room with friends; this was in a bar, with strangers. I announced I couldn't sing in front of strangers, but forgot I'd said that after a couple of drinks. Oh and they had tambourines, so I was happy.
Oh, did I mention yet this was a hostess bar?
To go off on a tangent for a moment: a 'hostess bar' (known as a 'snack bar' in Japanese. Apparantly.) is not filled with prostitutes. And a 'hostess' is not a prostitute. In fact lots of Gaijin and Japanese work in them for extra cash. The deal in most of them is the girls are there to flatter the egos of the men that go in: pour their drinks, laugh at their jokes, sing with them, chat to them. Most bars have 'no touch' policies.
Anyway, it took about 2/3 of our first bottle for me to twig the girl, Haru, who was pouring us drinks and chatting with us, wasn't doing it out of the goodness of her heart. Other things that made me suspect were feather boas, us being the only gaijin, me being the only female.... But the place (a long thing bar) only had six tables anyway. I said to D, what kind of bar do you think this is? And I think that was when he twigged... I'm not sure about C though as he was busy trying to chat with Haru - in French, English and Japanese.
We were a big hit in the bar anyway (or so my drunken self perceived) with the Japanese requesting songs for us to sing, and photos being taken of us. The mama-san (owner) was videoing us with her phone at one stage and later showed us. Haru had earlier said in the five years she'd worked there, we were the only gaijin she'd seen in there.
There were a couple of other groups in the bar, one who enthusiastically tambourined along to some of our songs. There were also a couple of men in there on there own, one who sang loads of crooney songs.
D was living, and C was staying, within walking distance of the bar, whilst I wasn't, so I left just before 1 and they stayed a couple more hours. Dreading what the bill would come to, I asked for the bill, which they took ages to work out. Haru said we were getting a good rate and explained it to me, adding females didn't get charged for being in there. All said, considering we'd elected to drink two 4000 yen (£20) bottles of liqueur and had a night of free karaoke it wasn't too bad. But I managed to negotiate a further 3000 yen (£15) off the bill, meaning the night of hilarity cost only 5000 yen(£25) each.
Totally random night but so much fun!