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Stand-and-Drink Bars Enjoy Renewed Popularity (January 4, 2005)

A standing counter
Tachinomi, or drinking while standing up, has long been a part of salaryman culture. Standing at a bar counter for a quick drink on the way home is a way for middle-aged white-collar types to relieve the stresses of the working day. Tachinomi bars enable them to gather informally and gripe about their jobs before heading off to catch their trains home. But the custom of drinking while standing is now no longer limited to disgruntled businessmen. More and more trendy bars and restaurants have been setting up their own standing counters, which have proven particularly popular among young women.

Inexpensive Bar Tabs
"Having fixed seating forces people to stay put, as you'd imagine. Tachinomi has the advantage of quickly shrinking the distance between people," the owner of one stand-and-drink bar says. Many young Tokyoites who prefer to stand while drinking head to the fashionable district of Ebisu, where a number of bars and restaurants have been renovated to accommodate standing counters.

At one typical bar, the customers are packed shoulder to shoulder along a long, narrow counter, even before sundown. Many of them are women. A big attraction here is the prices of the food and drinks. A small bottle of Japanese sake goes for a very reasonable ¥300 ($3 at ¥100 to the dollar), a mug of beer for ¥400 ($4), and a glass of shochu (distilled spirits) for ¥350 ($3.50). A daily selection of appetizers is available at ¥220 ($2.20) per dish. So for just ¥1,000 ($10) or ¥2,000 ($20) a customer can have two or three drinks and some food on the way home from work.

The prices are similarly reasonable at the growing number of kushiyaki (grilled meat and vegetables on skewers) restaurants that have been installing standing counters. At one, a stick of grilled liver or kidney goes for ¥100 ($1). Draft beer costs ¥430 ($4.30) a mug, shochu ¥400 ($4) a glass, and an original cocktail ¥390 ($3.90). "The sensation of drinking while standing up is the greatest," says one young woman, a regular customer who was out one night with a female friend.

For the owners of such establishments, a big advantage of setting up standing bars is a high turnover of customers, which tends to boost sales. It's common for drinkers stick around for a mere 30 minutes to an hour. There are a few, however, who prefer to linger for hours on end. "I'm thankful for each and every one of them for giving us their patronage," a bar owner says.

The Advantages of Tachinomi
Stand-and-drink bars have even caught on in some of Tokyo's most upscale districts, such as Ginza, Nishi-Azabu, and Marunouchi, where drinking is traditionally a formal and expensive affair. Here, the accent is on blending informality with luxury and style. Much of that is achieved through offering exquisite food that is freshly and expertly prepared. In one Japanese-style bar in Nishi-Azabu, such dishes go for ¥300 ($3) each. Many women, reassured by the classy ambiance, have no reservations about showing up alone at these places. The refined palates of the customers in this district mean that bars have to keep their food up to a very high standard.

Italian restaurants and Latin music bars are also part of the stand-and-drink trend. One such place allows customers to bring wine and other liquor to the bar for a ¥500 ($5) corkage, as long as it's bought at a store on the premises. This offers groups, in particular, the chance to cut their bar tabs substantially while still enjoying a great night out. Asked why so many tachinomi counters have sprung up recently, a bar owner says, "The prices are attractive, so it's not a financial burden for salarymen or young people who may have limited pocket money to spend on going out."

What was once the preserve of tired businessmen seeking a quick respite from the stresses of the working day has now become a popular way for young women and others to spend their evenings, and this will likely ensure that the tachinomi revival is more than just a passing fad.

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Copyright (c) 2005 Web Japan. Edited by Japan Echo Inc. based on domestic Japanese news sources. Articles presented here are offered for reference purposes and do not necessarily represent the policy or views of the Japanese Government.

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