Drowning recession sorrows in cheap booze

October 5th, 2009 by Felicity Hughes

¥790 vodka nomihodai!

¥780 vodka nomihodai!

Standing outside Shimokitazawa station on a gloomy Saturday afternoon were these two guys trying to brighten up the day with an almost unbelievable offer: one hour’s worth of vodka nomihodai (drink all you can) for only ¥780.

Welcome to the wonderful multicolored, slightly vomit-spattered, world of recession drinking.

In addition to a proliferation of nomihodai offers, cut-price tachinomi (standing only) bars, where the customer sacrifices the comfort of a seat in return for cheap drinks and no table charge, are becoming ubiquitous. According to the Yomiuri Shimbun the number of standing bars in Sendai has increased fourfold since last year.

While the style of the bar may be Western or Japanese, Spanish tapas bars, also offering cheap eats such as tortilla are proving to be a particularly popular format. The average price of a drink in these places is usually around ¥500, but we spotted this bar in Ningyocho the other day that was selling beer for only ¥300 a glass, highballs for ¥100 and Japanese liquor with mixers of tea or juice for ¥100.

We spotted this bar where beer is only 300 yen

We spotted this bar where beer is only ¥300.

If you’re still not satisfied price wise and are prepared to take your booze home with you, or, indeed, enjoy it out on the street, a can of dai-san can be bought for around ¥150. It’s a kind of fake beer that contains hardly any (or no) malt allowing the makers to circumvent higher taxes on drinks made with a higher malt percentage.

While the alcohol content remains the same, we can’t vouch for the taste – if you’re interested in how it tastes read this article on dai-san in the Japan Times. This February Dai-san sales had jumped up by 47.3 percent since last year, showing the growing appeal of the sparkling beer-like beverage in the rather flat economic climate.

While the warm autumn weather holds, you can spot groups of beleaguered businessmen gathered in parks or around convenience stores, drowning their worries with a quiet can of dai-san or three. As winter sets in clientele look set to pack themselves even more tightly into the relative comfort of the standing bar.

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