Heroes of Hachinohe (Part Two: In the bar)

I wanted to find out what the people in the bars of Hachinohe had to say about the baseball players drinking scandal.  And I quite fancied a drink.  So, on a wet night, I ventured into the Miroku-yokocho district: a nest of cosy, brightly lit drinking dens.   

The gates to heaven at Miroku-yokocho, Hachinohe.

Inside the gates, amongst the paradise pens

Each one radiated appeal to me, I wanted to drink in all of them.  For eternity.  Unfortunately I only had time for one, so it had to be Kushiwa (Skewer Harmony).  With a name like that,  I couldn`t go wrong. 

Set-up like a garden shed with windows on 3 walls,  Kushiwa has a two page menu: one for listing drinks; the other for listing the dozens of meat cuts, fish and vegetables which are all skewered, battered then deep-fried.      

A tall smiling bar-girl stood in the middle, with a waist-high counter surrounding her, and a deep-fat fryer below her. 

She welcomed me as I walked in and pointed me to a seat. 


I ordered a beer and asked her about the drinking scandal.  

“It`s a real shame”, she said, “if only they had kept it secret, it would have been alright”.

This keep-it-secret-and-it-doesn`t-matter philosophy is one of my favourite things about Japan.  Nobody knows I ate five packets of chocolate peanuts today, so it is not a problem;  certainly not compared to how many I ate yesterday anyway.  

Feeling healthy, I ordered a skewer of battered baby tomatoes.  Then, in more evidence that I don`t understand Japan, the bar-girl, ignoring my protests, carefully peeled each tomato before battering them. 

“It`s the boss`s order”, she said firmly.  Rules are rules I suppose.  

The owner of Kushiwa recently got married in a traditional wedding ceremony; it was held inside his deep-frying bar.

Inside Kushiwa

A shy softly spoken man was sitting across from me.  He`d been hiding behind a book since I arrived.  Suddenly, without looking towards anybody, he spoke up: 

“It`s a sound upbringing”

I think he was talking about students being a member of the high-school baseball club.  Whatever he meant, it was nice he joined the conversation.  

Aimless comments like his emerge quite frequently in Japanese bars; it seems, the bold assertion, when carefully targeted at nobody in particular, is a respected art rather than a symptom of lunacy.  

Trust me on this,  I regularly blurt out private thoughts and nobody thinks I`m strange.  Trains don`t stop Cambourne Wednesdays.

Now I must stop.  But before that, I will finish this rambling post by recording three treasured memories of colourful characters in Hachinohe: 

1) the giggling girl who abandoned her work-post to help me search for a bottle of Coffee Lager.  What style!

2) the dirty old man who wistfully asked me while we stood in a fruit and veg shop queue if there are soaplands in England.  What nerve!  

3) the grinning fishing tackle shop owner who I asked for directions and who gave me a flyer for a samurai armour exhibition and two squid-hook keyrings.    What?

The battered red jewels of Hachinohe

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