During my first year in Japan, it became clear that I really missed the “pub culture” of home. That’s not to suggest that I’m a heavy drinker. On the contrary, since graduating from university my alcohol intake has drastically decreased. Even more so since I moved to Japan. Instead, I miss pubs as a place to meet friends, play darts, watch sports, and drink a couple of pints. Pubs are one of the most historically important, and iconic institutions of British culture, history and way of life. Famous writers, events, and figures have emerged from their walls. They’re such a quintessentially and intrinsically British thing that whenever I mention my nationality, most Japanese people understand the concept of one.
During my three years at university, my friends and I would go to our “local” three or four times a week, drink beer, chat about random things and watch the football. My clubbing days lasted a year and a half at most. After that I just couldn’t stand the atmosphere, music and the clientele. I just didn’t see the point. To dance? To shag girls? To drink? Yeah, while other students chugged cheap vodka from bottles and lay comatose on the dance-floor, we’d move from one pub to the next, “sampling” ales, talking about nonsense and going to our local Turkish eatery at the end of a night. That was always a solid night out. After finishing university, I used to go drinking with my dad and his friends. And after a Sunday shift at work, I’d go to the pub with my workmates to watch the football and attempt to throw darts. In fact, some of my fondest memories have occurred in pubs, which may seem rather underwhelming.
Sure Japan has “Pubs”; Irish/ English versions with flags, pictures of the queen and leprechauns, and serving Guinness and Bass (the first foreign beer to be sold in Japan). Like any cheap imitation, they lack the certain atmosphere and charm that those back home have. Everything feels fake, they’re always playing crappy music too loud, and a pint of anything costs the equivalent of seven British pounds (so….London prices). The Japanese equivalent would probably be an izakaya. Essentially an establishment where office workers and businessmen drink, smoke and chat about their wives, while indulging in Asahi SuperDry and a variety of fried goods. After which, said wives complain about their lateness and them wasting money. I can definitely see the comparison, but it’s a different style of culture.
I guess I’ve grown into a bit of a snob when it comes to pubs. I probably take after my father in that regard. He avoids chains such as Wetherspoons, preferring more local establishments where the choice of drink isn’t reduced to Fosters and Strongbow. He’s fortunate to now live in York, where there’s a decent pub on nearly every street. Lucky him. But this genetic “pub snobbery” has definitely influenced my reaction to Japan’s attempts at “British Pub Culture”. Maybe I should but my criticisms and cynicism behind, and give them another go.