The soba stands often seen in train stations and office districts are convenient for both customer and seller ? it is a quick stop for a meal and the high turnover rate is an efficient way to make a profit. But recently, it isn’t just soba served like this ? “Tachinomiya” (standing bars), where customers can wine and dine standing up, are on the increase.
It is said that the culture of standing and drinking already existed back in the Edo Period. It seems that people were accustomed to purchasing drinks at the liquor store and downing them on the spot. The custom has remained to the modern age, but disappeared during the rapid economic growth period. However, in the last couple of years, tachinomiya have made a comeback as part of the retro revival and thanks to their reasonable prices compared to conventional Japanese bars.
Without a doubt, the best part of a tachinomiya is its affordable price. Even around Ginza, one of Tokyo’s most expensive areas, a tachinomiya has appeared with a low-priced “all 300 yen” menu. It is so affordable that customers can visit every day, thus many of the regulars casually wander in at the end of the day for a drink.
Speedy service is also another of its charms. Drinks and nibbles are immediately served to customers. It resembles a fast food experience. Another tachinomiya advantage is the smaller portion per dish so one can enjoy various dishes that go well with whatever drinks he/she is having.
There are some tachinomiya that use a cash-on-delivery system. Baskets are set on the table; so if the budget for the evening is 1,000 yen, just place a 1,000-yen bill in the basket. The waiter will take the money and leave the change in the basket every time an order is placed. This way, the customer will not go over budget and can enjoy their drink without any worries. Since the customers drink standing, most of them leave in one or two hours.
As these tachinomiya tend to have less floor space, there are no partitions between the tables. Tables are set closer together and most of these tachinomiya have customers lining up in a counter top setting. Occasionally after a drink or two, customers may have a nice chat with the strangers next to them. But that’s not all, says tachinomiya regular, SHIMURA Mio. “When you go to a tachinomiya close to your home, you soon become acquaintances with the people in your community, and this is how I become an active member in the neighborhood society.”
Text: TSUCHIYA Emi
[From January Issue 2010]