Space is at a premium in Japan – as we’re often told with Tokyo, Kyoto, and Osaka often ranked as some of the most expensive places to live. Not just in Japan, but also in Asia, and also perhaps around the world. We’re also often told that due to this premium price, that space is utilised to the maximum amount possible – think capsule hotels, internet cafes, and apartments that are just big enough for sleeping in and nothing else.
Japan is also well-known for not impeding on other people’s personal space, no matter how small apartments or office spaces are, people will go out of their way to ensure that personal space is not encroached. Usually on trains, people will take empty seats away from others before sitting in spaces that are occupied either side. No doubt some people will disagree with this but that’s the exception and not the norm.
So it kind of makes sense that bars want to utilise as much space as possible. Most of the beer industry in Japan is set up that way too. Kegs are mostly around the 10L to 20L mark, with the sizes often seen in the States, UK, and other Western countries unheard off. Every little nook and cranny – both inside and outside of the bar – is often used up with napkins, coasters, and sometimes kegs even being stored outside as they wait to be picked up.
Drinking beer should be a social past time – a chance to unwind with friends, enjoy some beers with some locals, or perhaps even make some new friends as you discuss over the tap list or share some beers. We’ve had some good times meeting new people in bars and that has been down to the way bars are organised with open spaces that allow people to relax and feel comfortable without that sense of being shood in like cattle or feeling like we’re sitting on other people. This is what I like about drinking – usually. When I go to a bar, I like to have some space between the people next to me – whoever they are. Friend, co-workers, or family. It’s nice to have a bit of space to stretch out and unwind. However, it seems that some bars are really trying to cram in as many people as they can into a small area to maximise the drinkers and thus the potential profits they can make.
While I like meeting new people in bars, I don’t want to be so close to them so that I can smell their smokey, bad breath. Or their unwashed, sweat-infused suits that haven’t been washed since winter 2016 or some other time before that. The lack of personal space at times in bars, considering also that some bars also charge a table charge for the privilege of sitting that close to someone, is annoying at times and also perhaps a fire hazard too. There isn’t a strict law with the number of people allowed in a bar at any one time, with the decision being left up to the bar owner themselves, so much so that there is no deterrent in bar owners upping the number besides the amount of customer that they can potentially serve.
What I’d like to see in the future is more thought about customer comfort when they’re drinking. It’s bad enough that some places put a two-hour time limit, it’s bad enough that some places also charge you a fee for sitting down in their bar, and then to compound that with being squashed with people next to you, just makes it all worse. Bar owners, give us a bit of space between people – enough so that we can still talk to new people and have a laugh with our friends, family, or co-workers, but enough space so it doesn’t feel like we’re bumping shoulders with the random person next to us.