Plus they’ve got waffles!
The Asian Winter Games have just wrapped up in Sapporo and it’s a long wait till PyeongChang 2018, but you can still get a hit of winter sports fun at Ice Wonder Roof, a rather unique pop-up bar on the roof of the Tokyu Department Store in Tokyo’s Shibuya neighborhood, Ice Wonder Roof combines sweets, alcohol and curling. We popped in to see if we’ve got a shot at gold, or barring that, at least get a consolation shot of whiskey.
▼ You never know what you’ll find atop a department store in Japan.
If you’ve never seen it before, curling is kind of like a cross between darts and bowling, but on ice. Basically, teams slide heavy stones down an ice alley towards a goal of concentric circles. Two members use a brush to melt the surface of the ice ahead of the stone, trying to change its direction enough to stop close to the center or knock an opponent’s stone out.
▼ To see what it looks like, check out this video of the pros of the Norwegian national team, famous for their curling skills and flamboyant pants.
Now, before you start imagining yourself gracefully gliding down the lanes like those fellas, we should say that the rink at Ice Wonder Roof is not competition standard. Think of it as the training wheels version. The lanes are about a fourth of the length of a real curling rink and the stones are actually made of wood and only a fraction of the weight of standard ones, which weigh in at around 18 kilos or 44 pounds. They do have a few real ones on hand you can try hefting if you are feeling burly though.
▼ A lightweight stone for a curling lightweight.
Also, to make things a little safer—combining a slippery surface with groups of drinkers generally not being considered wise—they’ve done away with brushing sticks and the pitching is done from a carpeted platform, not on the ice. Not to worry, though, there’s still plenty to challenge and entertain a newbie.
Up to four people can use a lane, which costs 3,000 yen (about US$27) to rent for 15 minutes and 4,000 yen for 30 minutes. After that, it’s 2,000 yen for each additional 15 minutes. Reservations are recommended.
▼ The score card and explanation of the game
The rules for this version of curling are simple: try to get your stone as close to the center of the circle as possible and keep it there. A stone entirely in the center is worth 10 points, the red ring is worth 5 and the blue ring is worth 3. If your stone hangs over the border of the ring, it’s worth 2 points on the inside or 1 point on the outside.
Alternately, you can play an easy version where the closest stone to the center after 5 pitches is the winner.
We opted to play the point version and after a short explanation by the staff, we tried pitching our first stone.
Neither one of us even made it to the end of the lane! Turns out it’s kind of hard to get any power behind your pitch when you are squatting down on the ground.
▼ After several failed tries, the staff kindly gave us some pointers.
My partner got the hang of it and even managed to overshoot the goal once. At this point, I was really just trying not to embarrass myself by failing to reach the rings even once.
▼ Come on, core muscles, don’t fail me now! What did I do all those sit ups for in elementary school if not for this?!
By some miracle of luck, I not only managed to get the stone to the end, but it also knocked one of my partner’s out of the way and came to rest on the red circle!
▼ Awkward victory dance!
▼ Look at that (completely accidental) perfect placement.
Sadly, the bar was not yet open for the night when we were there or I could have celebrated my crushing victory with a hot toddy or an alcopop, but I suppose the knowledge that my 10 minutes of hard training paid off was enough to keep me warm.
▼ A selection of beer, wine, flavored drinks from sponsor Smirnoff and soft drinks is on offer, plus hot cocoa made with Godiva liqueur. For nibbles, you’ve got waffles, chocolate fondant cake and pancakes shaped like a curling stone.
I can definitely see this being a lot of fun with a group of friends or as a family outing, particularly for those like me who have a competitive streak a mile wide, but if you want to try tossing a few stones around, better hurry. Ice Wonder Roof is only open until March 12.
After that, it’s back to the cat cafe for your evening entertainment…
Ice Wonder Roof
Address: Tokyo-to, Shibuya-ku, Dogenzaka 2-24-1, Tokyu Department Store Honten Roof
Open 11:00 a.m.-10:00 p.m.
Bar open from 5:00 p.m. weekdays, 3:00 p.m. weekends
Video: YouTube / World Curling TV