AMPONTAN

Japan from the inside out

Hashigo in Hakodate

Posted by ampontan on Monday, September 12, 2011

BAR-HOPPING is a casual affair for most people — they meet at one joint and when the spirits move them, they decide where they’ll hop next. Most Japanese boozers make their choices the same way, but here they don’t hop from one place to another. They climb the ladder — the expression used is hashigo-zake, hashigo being a ladder.

Up north in Hakodate, however, they’ve turned liquor ladder climbing into an official event, with a schedule and a pre-determined itinerary. The logistics are made easier because there’s a district in town called Bar-gai, where many eating and drinking establishments are concentrated. Groups throughout the country thought that was a splendid idea, so the Hakodate Bar-gai Executive Committee decided to hold the first national Bar District Conference on Saturday for everyone to share their experiences. Roughly 100 people from 18 different regions showed up, including Fukuoka City and Itami, Hyogo.

The meeting included a panel discussion, during which the representative from Itami reported that their 2009 event, Itami Machi Naka Bar, sparked similar expeditions in 23 other locations in the Kinki region. Another participant was Ide Osamu, the director of Idea Kyushu-Asia, a non-profit involved in activities to promote tourism. One of those activities is Barwalk Fukuoka. Said Mr. Ide: “It’s important to maintain the quality and community spirit of bar districts.”

I’ll say! It’s also important to maintain your balance so you don’t fall off the ladder during a Saturday night of bar-hopping! The participants at this conference had a more sober outlook, however. After the morning meeting, everyone went out for lunch instead of out ladder climbing.

The idea of an organized bar-hop in general, and a non-profit sponsoring an evening of bacchanalia in particular, will make a lot more sense once you’ve seen a video of the 2008 Hakodate barwalk. No sawdust, peanut shells, or air hockey tables here. They even chose a nice place for the customary ramen shop stop on the way home.

And of course Idea Kyushu-Asia has a Japanese-language website.

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One Response to “Hashigo in Hakodate”

  1. toadold said

    Bar and Pub foods: From my ancient days, I remember a small bar near a training school that I went too, that had simple dish of navy beans,topped with chopped onions, and shredded cheese that was delicious. An English expat that I know longs for pub food that he can’t get in the US. There was a Japanese TV show that I watched about a female police detective. One of the running gags was that the bar the characters frequented had a bartender that could cook any thing. One character would say something like,” I really feel hungry for …….,” and the bartender would say, “I can make that.” and he could. Where he stored the ingredients was as much a mystery as his skill as a chef.

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