A chain of bars currently opening up in Tokyo has been getting a lot of attention for its unusual menu, which includes items such as sea lion curry and steamed Korean silkworm chrysalis. Not for the faint of stomach, Mr. Kanso, is a no-frills drinking establishment that offers an impressively diverse menu of 350 items all of which come out of a can.
The chain has its head offices in Osaka and has already been incredibly successful operating in the Kansai area. Its Shibuya branch, which opened in August, is the first Mr. Kanso in Tokyo, but in mid-November, two more stores will be opened in Yotsuya and Tamachi. Decor is quite simply a bunch of cans displayed on shelves creating a retro feel — though each store manager is free to add his/her own personal touch. Because there’s very little to do in the way of food preparation, costs are kept down and a draft beer comes very cheap at ¥350.
Light meals out of a can range from ¥200 to ¥2,000. The selection of canned foods come from all over the globe, but foodies willing to try something new will be keen to order dishes such as bear curry, seal curry, deer curry and sea lion curry, all of which were made in Japan.
As the trend for Showa Era nostalgia shows no sign of slowing down, bars like Mr. Kanso stand to make a tidy profit. Dagashi Bar, for instance, which opened back in 2003 in Ebisu, is now thriving with several bars around Tokyo. Dagashi bars are not only covered in Showa Era memorabilia, including movie posters and toys, they’re also stocked up with cheap sweets that were popular during that time. Table charge includes sweetie tabehodai (all you can eat), a gimmick that further encourages customers to reminisce about the good old days.
But not everyone can afford to pay table charge these days, and spit ‘n’ sawdust establishments in which customers sit on beer crates or lean against standing bars, where you sacrifice a seat in favor of cheaper drink prices have been increasingly popular in recession-hit Japan. We reckon it makes a nice change to find a bar that’s found a fresh new way to interpret cheap and cheerful.