It’s not news that the Japanese are among the longest living races on earth: reasons put forward as to why include high levels of fish in their diets, generally low body weights, green tea consumption – but I believe I have come across another potential link. They stand to do things that the rest of us don’t!.
Anyone up on their health research knows that sitting is rapidly becoming a major health enemy. Sitting alters levels of a fat absorbing enzyme in your body potentially increasing lipid levels in your blood, it raises risk of diabetes (with the latest studies saying that in populations at high risk of the condition, even formal exercise doesn’t counteract the risk), some studies even claim it makes your bum bigger as stretched out fat cells (which is what happens when you sit down) actually find it easier to grow. There’s more too. Sitting for long periods at a time is therefore evil.
In Japan though many things can be an upright experience: take eating we saw stand up noodle joints on train platforms, local nibbling spots without a seat to be seen and even stand up sushi bars where your fish is trimmed at virtually eye level; or drinking. This is definitely an upright experience – entire bars have no seats at all and patrons will happily stand quaffing a beer or two with no complaints, you can even buy standing tickets at the theatre. Could this be part of the puzzle? I’m thinking so – scientists reading this, you can thank me in your paper!
Tourist Tip: Piss Alley – Time for a Rant (hey, it’s my blog, I’m allowed)
The other reason why you drink and stand in Japan is many bars are small and charge a ‘seat’ fee of 200 yen or more. This is not a problem if you intend to spend the whole evening in one bar but doesn’t work so well if you’re like The Boyfriend and I and want to visit numerous establishments in a night. The most common areas for table charges in Tokyo are Golden Gai and Roppongi – and most places we went to that had them told us we walked in, had signs outside or on the door (in English) or marked it somewhere else for you to see. Most bars that is except Bar Albatross in the delightfully named Piss Alley – or Memory Lane if you’re going by the name the tourist board would like to swap too.
I was really excited about visiting this place – it’s a strip of tiny bars/eating places so named as there’s only one toilet for all the bars. I’d read heaps of articles on the place – and no-one had mentioned table charges so I hadn’t been expecting it to be an issue here. We arrived there about 7pm on a Sunday evening – it would have been 6pm but we got hopelessly lost. If you’re going there, look for this sign above, that’s the entrance.
Because we were late only one place had seats left – Bar Albatross. We sat down and they gave us a menu. 600 Yen for small beer was a bit steep but it was a bit more upmarket than the other places we’d seen, plus we’d been walking round (and rowing) for an hour so we figured okay we’ll have one and move on. The bill came to 2200 yen – they’d popped on a 500 yen each seat charge which we hadn’t been told about (and if it was on the menu, it wasn’t at the top like everywhere else we saw). Nice! Since then I’ve discovered the seat charge is mentioned on their website – but, it might have been nice to mention it in person, before we ordered drinks and while we could leave! To add insult to injury, the seats in there are really uncomfortable!
The Boyfriend was fuming and so we didn’t get to stay in Piss Alley – instead we went to a stand up bar round the corner where they couldn’t charge us for plonking our bums. So be warned – Bar Albatross will charge you a seat fee – and in my opinion, it’s not worth the money! There’s more atmospheric places in Piss Alley, and nicer ‘posh’ bars in Tokyo. Rant over. I feel better now.