They are called snacks, but that is a mere euphemism for classy bar. These bars are by no means what one might expect a bar to look like – a long counter, beer taps, beer kegs, a TV telecasting a football, rugby or soccer game and his and her toilets, smelling disgusting because they are not cleaned often. That is the description of a public bar in Australia, New Zealand and a few other countries around the planet. About the only thing a Japanese karaoke snack has in common with the western public bar, is the bar itself. These places are decked out with expensive decor. Often having a marble counter, chromium plated bar stools, silk covered sofas, thick carpets and the entire bar, lit with soft lighting. TV monitors and microphones are placed in comfortable positions, around the room in preparation for the next wannabe Pat Boone wishing to croon the night away.As for staff: most snacks employ pretty girls wearing short skirts and low-cut tops that reveal just how well endowed they are. These girls are at every customer’s beck and call. The owner, or manager, of the snack is usually an older woman – mid 40’s to 50’s – and is called “Mama san”. Her job is to make sure the girls keep the male customers “happy”. It is important to note here, that the percentage of male patrons is probably around 98%. Snacks are popular places to go, for Japanese office workers, after eating and drinking in a restaurant. Different types of men go to snacks for different reasons. Groups of young drunken men will arrive prepared for a night of singing and chatting with the young girls. As soon as they open the door, the Mama san’s eyes light up as she sees “money” enter. “Irashiemase!” (please come in) a chorus of female voices resonates around the room. The men smile and flop down on the sofas – which have been arranged for such a group. Typically, one of these drunken males, is the most senior and therefore – to use a Bushism – is the “Decider”. He will yell to the Mama san to bring whiskey and food. The Mama will smile, nod and order one or two of the young girls to sit with the men. The girls will laugh and giggle at the stupid jokes of the men and constantly refill the glasses. A single male enters and pulls himself up on one of the bar stools. The Mama san and probably, one other girl, will cater to him. He’s a disgruntled business man who has had a lousy day. The Mama pours him a tall glass of whiskey from the bottle he bought a month earlier. Sensing he’s not in the best of moods, she ll make light conversation with him and continually replenish his glass. As he begins to relax – he starts to complain about his job. “I’m just a cipher in the office, Mama, the manager never listens to my ideas. “The Mama will nod in agreement and tell him what he longs to hear,” Tanaka san, I’m sure your boss would be lost without you there. You have so much ability and in the near future you’ll be calling the shots, really. “He smiles and asks,” Do you think so? “” Yes, of course, have another drink. “He does and after an hour or two, is a lot happier. The Mama san will then suggest that he sing because he has “such a beautiful voice”. He sings and finishes to the applause of all the staff. Over the course of the evening, various lonely and not so lonely office workers come and go. The Mama san doesn ‘t like to see customers leave and will use a slew of tricks to encourage customers to stay. The girls, on the sofa with the group of drunken men, also adjure the boys to hang around longer. The girls, in these snacks , flirt with the male customers. Touching their inner leg, talking about the size of his penis and telling him he is handsome and that he must have many girlfriends. Sex, however, is not an option or even offered and although these girls tease, customers are generally not allowed to touch. There are places, that will permit touching, however, they are few. So, how much does it cost for a night in a snack? Well, depending on the area, anywhere upward of 30,000 yen ( around 400,00 dollars) for about two or three hours of plastic entertainment. Drinks are sold at ridiculous prices. If you have had the pleasure of a female staff member’s company, you will pay more money. Each song you sing, you are charged a few hundred yen per song. So, with these places being expensive, why do Japanese males visit? Simply, to feel important for a night or to speak to someone who will “listen”. Or perhaps because many Japanese men have nothing else to do in life.
One of the popular drinking spots in Osaka, Japan. Namba.