We ask the difficult questions, like what the hell is a “happening bar?”
Located in the shady corners of Japan are establishments known as “happening bars.” Not to be confused with “a happening bar,” as in a popular and lively drinking establishment, “happening bars” are bars that may provide happenings of a sexual nature.
However, you could spend an entire evening there and also have nothing out of the ordinary happen. Going to a happening bar involves a bit of luck as you need a “happening” to occur organically, but of course by being social with others involved could facilitate a “happening.”
That might sound like a vague description, but that’s only because these places are vague by design, making it difficult to know what goes on inside…until now!
Our reporter Yuichiro Wasai sat down with someone who visited a happening bar so we can learn a bit about what goes on behind those unmarked doors.
First of all, what is a happening bar?
If I put it in a single term, it’s a microcosm of life.
You’re going to have to use more terms. I don’t understand that at all.
To put it more concretely, as the name suggests, it is a bar where happenings occur. Essentially, it is a place where strangers play together. You could say it’s a place where your ability to adapt to and deal with social happenings is tested.
So what actually happens in a “happening?”
That is a good question. About four years ago I was so consumed by that question I couldn’t sleep. I thought, “Happening… Why is that so vague?!”
I had a friend who felt the same way, so we decided to go to one to see what it was actually like. I won’t give any specific details, but it was a place in Tokyo.
So how did you do it?
Well, first off, how does one choose a happening bar? Like anything these days we searched the Internet.
But information regarding happening bars online is very limited. You can’t know who goes there, so they can’t put photos up and such.
So, I checked the bars’ message boards for examples of customer reviews. I made a list of some places that looked good or were nearby. After getting a short list, I chose the one that stood out the most because it seemed to have extra big happenings.
You were very careful about your selection, weren’t you?
The place I chose had certain precautions like, “Those who come to this bar must contact us on the message board in advance.” So, I typed that I would go at such-and-such a time on such-and-such a day and that, “I am a single man and this is my first time. Thank you in advance.”
Just making that initial contact with the bar must have been a pretty big leap.
I was very nervous. My fingers were so sweaty they stuck to the keyboard. I was also thinking of things like if my friend and I sent a message together we might seem snobbish, so we did it separately.
That’s smart. Get a feeling for it bit by bit.
A short time later I got a reply on the message board. They said, “We are waiting. Please come to the designated place and call us.” So, I hurried to the shower.
I hosed my self off like I was using one of those beach showers. Then I took an accidentally large swig of mouthwash, threw on socks without holes, and left home with plenty of time to spare.
You were clearly excited.
Oh yeah. I ended up arriving at the designated area about 40 minutes before the time we agreed on.
What was the designated area like?
What should I say… It was normal. People were everywhere. It was a normal street. If you’re standing around, even for a while, no one would notice.
The bar must have put a lot of thought into this too.
Indeed. So, I killed time out there for a while and then called about 10 minutes before the time I promised.
Were your hands sweaty again?
Oh like a frog’s skin, but I tried to force a calm tone into my voice when I called. The person on the other end sounded like they were in their 30s and told me the directions to the place like, “Turn left and go past the such-and-such sign…”
The whole thing had a “secret society” vibe to it.
Right. Somehow I got to the location, but the floor of the building I was told was entirely closed. There were no signs either. I picked a doorbell and pressed it, praying that I got the right one.
I heard the voice of the person on the phone say, “I’ve been waiting.”
Thank you. Anyway, I had made it inside. It was a lot bigger than I had expected. I wondered what I would do if there was no one to talk to.
My friend told me he would come in 30 minutes, so as the man explained the rules to me I couldn’t stop chanting, “Please come soon, please come soon,” in my head.
By the way what are the rules?
Every place is different so I can’t speak universally, but basically, men pay a lot and women get in cheap. Couples are even cheaper. There are two charges, an initial entry fee for first-timers and a general admission for everyone, and for both women pay less.
I guess without that kind of system, the bar can’t set up the right conditions.
If you are a single guy going alone, you should be prepared to spend well over 10,000 yen (US$90). In the case of regulars it might be different. I ended up paying nearly 20,000 yen ($181) for both the initial entry fee and general admission to get in.
Well, I guess you are also investing in future visits with that 20,000 yen.
Even more severe than that, they take a copy of your ID so you can’t get in under an alias or anything. Then, the guy kept reminding me of obvious things like “Don’t badger the women with questions” or “Don’t act like a jerk.” Maybe other places are different.
He’s basically telling you to behave like a normal person?
Pretty much. I guess crazy, out-of-control guys who don’t naturally understand these things occasionally come to this place? Anyway, when he finished he guided me to where all the customers were.
You have arrived.
Finally it was time. I couldn’t remember feeling that anxious. It was kind of like the excitement of riding the bus when you used to go on a school trip.
You don’t get that feeling much in everyday life, do you?
No we don’t, but that’s how I felt as we approached the entrance to the customer area. Then he pulled back the curtain and… there was a happening!
Old dudes… Nothing but old dudes…
Aw, that is absolutely the worst possible happening.
I thought I might have accidentally wandered into a baseball team’s fan club, but these guys were even too old to be in something that fun. The whole place was filled with an air of man musk and old man smell.
However, the old guys were all very nice to me. Then again, that is one of the rules of the place.
Or maybe they knew something you didn’t, that being nice benefits you in some way later. Anyway, what was it like inside?
I don’t want to give away too much but it had a bar, tables, and sofas.
So it was just a normal bar?
Yeah, but there was a wide range of costumes in various sizes and a small room that had a bunch of restraints in them and some whips and stuff.
Great for a bar full of old guys.
It was like some bad practical joke. However, my friend arrived after 30 minutes, so there was one more old guy added to the mix.
Intensifying the old guy smell another notch, eh?
Ugh! What the hell!! Anyway, one woman came a little later.
Yeah well, how to describe this woman… In a word she was a “happening” woman.
What do you mean?
I mean it’s a subjective thing so I’ll just give you a rough idea of how she wasn’t my type. If my type were a strike zone, she wasn’t just a late-breaking slider, she was a beanball off the batter’s spine.
In other words, she would trigger a bench-clearing brawl?
Also, going just be how she looked, I think she probably weighed about a tenth of a tonne.
Even still, every guy in the place swarmed around her. They were like slow-moving koi in a pond competing for flakes of food. Let’s call her Ms. A; Everyone was like, “Ms. A, would you like a drink?” or “Ms. A, your outfit looks really cute tonight!”
She’s like the princess of the industrial arts school.
It was even worse than that. Moreover, she was into cosplay and wanted to try on the costumes available.
Did any of the costumes fit?
The largest sizes they had barely fit her. She looked like the bag of someone who just came from an all-you-can-eat candy store – filled to the limit.
It was a happening!
Yeah I guess. Anyway, she was fine. The old dudes though, that was more of a happening for me.
What were they like?
They just heaped praise on her. If she tried on a nurse costume there would be random shouts of “Mrs. A kawaii!” When she put on a sailor suit, “Mrs A, that looks great on you!” would swirl around the room.
That sounds creepy.
As a first-timer I was beginning to get repulsed by the whole atmosphere, so I decided it was time to go.
Yeah, I don’t think it would have gotten any better.
I waited for what I thought was an appropriate amount of time and said to the staff, “Excuse me, but I have to catch the last train.” They let me out but the guy told me, “Would you mind posting a thank you message on our website for the other customers. Just a simple message is fine.”
Even leaving is an ordeal.
I honestly thought to myself, “What a pain,” but they did introduce me to an unknown world and I didn’t want to be bothered later on, so I did it.
What did you write?
I just put something simple like, “Thank you very much for today.” It sounded like what you would say to your opponent after a judo match.
Haha, “Thank you for slamming my head into the ground.”
Afterward, I met up with my friend and we got a drink together. Suddenly, I wondered if my message went through, so I checked their bulletin board and…
What did you see?
My post read: “Thank you very much for a fun time today! Everyone was easy to talk to and I enjoyed it. And Mrs. A was really cute. Whatever she wore looked good on her. Next time I go there please show me that cute figure of yours. See you again!”
That was quite verbose.
I know. I mean I get it that the people that night would probably appreciate a message like that. But come on! People who want to try a happening bar for the first time will use messages like that to make their choice. I thought the staff were deceiving them. I was like, “What the hell guys?!”
I agree, but in a way wasn’t that your happening?
I mean maybe, the “happening” began the moment you posted on their website the first time. All of the suspenseful moments and emotions that you experienced that night was actually what you paid for. It’s probably a night you’ll never forget, and that in itself is a “happening,” isn’t it?
Right… That would be pretty sophisticated… but I really doubt it. I just picked a crappy place by looking at a fraudulent message board. And it cost me 20,000 yen! I want my 20 grand back dammit!!
Feature image: SoraNews24
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