The cheapest night out/in

March 10th, 2010 by Felicity Hughes

Koenji's nameless econobar

Koenji's nameless econobar

Setting the bar (geddit?) even lower for cheap spaces to drink and/or enjoy a quiet cigarette in was this new establishment spotted in Koenji last weekend. Japan Pulse already blogged about standing bars that are offering cheap drinks and no table charge in exchange for enjoying your brew in a no-frills environment. But this place takes that frugal concept even further by doubling as a refuge for beleaguered smokers who can enjoy a ciggie in a quiet atmosphere for only the price of a can of vending-machine coffee.

Alcoholic drinks, which can be bought from a hole in the wall, cost a mere ¥300, while soft drinks can be bought for about ¥130 from a bank of machines lining one wall. The bar, doesn’t have a name (such luxuries as signage were probably seen as frivolous), but it does have wide screen TVs showing sports programs to its penny pinching patrons.

For those who want to further strip away the cost of a night out on the tiles, you might want to set up a Skype nomikai with your friends. That’s right; in the digital age drinking at home alone is no longer considered sad. Plus, you’re economizing even more on travel costs when you don’t have to pay to reach a drinking venue. J-Cast reports that this trend is booming and it’s not just Skype that’s being utilized. Twitter users in Japan are using the hashtags  #wanabeer and #twinomi to group together and chat while boozing, be they at home or in a real bar.

Suntory is encouraging the trend. Last year the beverage company set up a Web site to encourage customers to go online and chat about their experiences drinking the company’s Chu-Hi Horoyoi drink, which is marketed as a drink for young people to enjoy alone at home and Suntory re-launched a promo site called Horotter yesterday that also allows visitors to chat about their drinking experiences.

Once you register on Horotter, you can design an avatar for yourself that could include wearing a flamboyant Fuji-san hat. After that you can join a chat room or just let your posts float up as clouds into the Horoyoi world and hope they catch some like-minded person’s attention. The site is linked to Twitter and posts are broadcast on the service. Horoyoi means tipsy and the drink itself is only 3 percent alcohol, so we’re guessing Suntory are targeting a demographic that includes sensitive herbivorous men and their gentle female counterparts.

Visitors can win cans of the newest Horoyoi product white sour (shiroi sawa), enjoy regular kampai (cheers) time and even hang out with celebs online (an event on March 19 will feature celebs Maki Horikita and Michiko Yanai).

The site is a great marketing tool: Visitors must first specify which Horoyoi brand is their favorite before entering and Suntory can gather Tweets for marketing purposes. The folks at Suntory might not always like what they read though: “I can’t write, I drank too much,” writes one visitor to the drinking room who we would describe as a little more than tipsy. “Today I’m drinking Hoppi and eating yakitori,” said another visitor disloyal to the Suntory brand.

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