This year’s hanami in Tokyo is set to be one of unprecedented sobriety. In respect to the recent tragedy in the Tohoku region, the cherry-blossom-viewing parties traditionally lubricated with liberal amounts of alcohol are being discouraged by park authorities. Many officials are calling for citizens to show self-restraint (jishuku).
As our sister blog Yen For Living pointed out, this seemingly well-intentioned approach makes little economic sense and is only adding to the woes of the service industry, which is already suffering from rolling blackouts and shorter business hours.
However, according to Tokyo Walker, one izakaya chain is taking a unique approach the dilemma of whether we should revel or not. The Takada-ya chain of pubs, which has 54 branches nationwide, launched a special party course menu from April 4. The course, which includes dishes such as tempura and shabu shabu, costs ¥3,000 for groups of four and upward, and ¥500 yen of that will be donated to the Japanese Red Cross and other such organizations.
Takada-ya is already participating in the relief effort. With the cooperation of other businesses they’re working to distribute food to those in the disaster-struck areas. In Hitachinaka in Ibaraki Prefecture on March 20 and March 30 in Ishinomaki in Miyagi Prefecture they served up warm soba noodles. They plan to do the same in the future in Fukushima and elsewhere in Miyagi.
Takada-ya isn’t the only company to find a loophole in the jishuku guidelines. American Bar Oldies, in Katsushika-ku, Tokyo, will be hosting a drinking party to raise money for victims of the disaster on Sat from 7pm (reservations are necessary). According to the bar owner’s blog, his high school friend, who was getting a bit sick of the atmosphere of self-restraint, suggested the idea.
Not everyone believes it’s necessary to do your drinking indoors out of respect. A sake brewer in Iwate has made a video in which he calls for people to enjoy drinking sake made from the regions hit by the earthquake to stimulate economic recovery. Elsewhere on the web, a site called Save the Tohoku Nihonshu has been launched to showcase the sake of the disaster-hit breweries.
So for those about say “kampai” under the blossoms, do it with respect and buy a nice bottle of Tohoku tipple from your local sakaya.