On 15 August, 1945 Japan had announced their surrender and set the end of World War II in motion. However, in one small space tucked away in Kagoshima City the atmosphere of that time over 60 years ago has been preserved.
Upon hearing of this unique location one of our reporters headed down to see if Nation at War Tavern (Gunkoku Sakaba) could really take us back to a very different Japan. The following is their report.
■ Yossenbo not welcome!
Nation at War Tavern has steadily been getting attention for its front sign which reads “Yossenbo not welcome!” Yossenbo is a regional word that’s used for a weak and useless person akin to calling someone a “maggot.”
So, it would seem you have to have guts to enter this place. Girding my fundoshi, I head for the entrance.
■ Wartime songs can be heard outside of the shop
Nation at War Tavern is located on the fourth floor of the building, but as I approached the first floor I could already clearly hear a military anthem being played. It followed me as I climbed the staircase plastered with various quotes such as “we want for not until victory” and “luxury is the enemy.”
Combined with some unusual blue lighting I was getting a strange feeling about this place, and I haven’t even entered it yet.
■ Waiting for me… inside…
Entering the bar I was met by a woman with a bob cut who immediately shouted “One to enlist!!” This woman is the 81-year-old mama-san (lady-in-charge) of this bar, Yoko Yokomichi. She had grown up right through World War II and still wore a sash that read “Dai Nippon Kokubo Fujinkai” in archaic kanji characters. This sash was worn by members of a nationwide women’s group who supported the soldiers during the war.
■ This place is intense
The décor is really something and can’t help but make an impact on patrons. Everywhere, seemingly random heaps of World War II memorabilia were scattered. On the counter sat a IJA Type 92 Heavy Machine Gun and on the wall hung a Type 38 Infantry Rifle, or at least what was left of it.
Upon ordering a beer I was met with mama-san’s spirited voice yelling “Torpedo!!” I soon learned that “torpedo” is what a bottle of beer is called here. That’s not all if you want a cup of shochu you should ask for a “bomb” and if you just want to relax with a cup of oolong tea then just say “China”. If you want anything else, then tough luck. This ain’t a pleasure cruise.
Out of nowhere, mama-san’s voice again cut through the 1940’s music with “Rations!!” She then began carefully distributing Kanpan (seabiscuit or hardtack) and Konpeito (candies) into shallow metal dishes.
As I reached for a candy may hand jumped upon hearing “Ammo!!” followed by another dish of peanuts. Finally, “Grenade!!” and a third dish with a single hardboiled egg rolling around inside.
And that’s all there is at Nation at War Tavern, where luxury is the enemy.
■ Relive the past while enjoying your drink
The real charm of Nation at War Tavern comes as you enjoy your drink. Mama-san begins to talk about what it was like living in Japan during the war. She talked about how her rations consisted of a single Konpeito and 5 Kanpan and how her school playground was used to grow crops of sweet potatoes.
Listening to what she had to endure to provide food for the soldiers as I nibbled on my own Kanpan really helped to touch what it was like to live back then.
As I arose to leave, mama-san called out “One to discharge! Godspeed!”
She had told me while I was there, “from this place I want to try and support the young people who have spirit in them.” And that’s Nation at War Tavern in a nutshell: a bar and a women that witnessed the past and hopes for the future.
Original Article by Seikai No Shogo
Photos and Video: RocketNews24
Nation at War Tavern (Gunkoku Sakaba)
4th Floor of Tenmonkan Gion Bldg, 6-17 Sennichi, Kagoshima, Kagoshima
7:00pm – Midnight, Monday – Saturday
▼ The strangeness begins quickly.
▼ The sign says Nation at War Tavern has operated for 50 years but actually it’s 45.
▼ The signs were all made by mama-san to imitate the type of propaganda posters she saw back then.
▼ The entrance to the tavern
▼ “This tavern is intended to remember what life was like during war and to remember friends and family lost during that time. Please enjoy a drink to reflect on that time. However, drunkards and people acting unruly will be removed from the premises.”
▼ Next to the sliding door, and old-fashioned pink public telephone sits.
▼ The tavern was put together by mama-san’s husband over four months.
▼ Type 38 Infantry Rifle
▼ A naval area marker
▼ IJA Type 92 Heavy Machine Gun
▼ A vest stitched by one thousand different women. Such garments were worn by soldiers in the hope they would bring luck in battle.
▼ Karaoke is available here!
▼ Kanpan and Konpeito “rations”
▼ Peanut “Ammo”
▼ and a “Grenade”
▼ The counter is called the North China Area.
▼ All the tables and seats are named after battlegrounds, such as Manchuria.
▼ This table is Rabaul.
▼ “Forever Luck in Battle”
▼ A photo of mama-san back in the day
▼ You can take unfinished rations home with you.
▼ In the toilet: “No matter how urgent, always aim carefully!”
[ Read in Japanese ]