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Catering for men who require a little more titillation than maid cafes can provide but not wanting to step into full-blown fuuzoku establishments, “girls bars” in Japan provide customers with a place to eat and drink while giving them something to look at and plenty of stilted conversation. A cheaper alternative to “hostess clubs”, girls bars are usually staffed by regular college-aged girls who don’t mind showing a little flesh and interacting with customers in an energetic, cutesy manner.

In a slightly different take on the genre, Yokohama’s Sexy Izakaya Natsuko focuses on the theme of summer all year round, dressing its staff in bikinis and sarongs while arming them with tambarines to bash while another member of staff juices grapefruits and serves food and drinks at your table.

After hearing word of the alternative Japanese-style pub, Japanese website Zakzak sent a couple of its reporters down to Yokohama to check it out. Although to be perfectly honest, when I took a trip over to the bar’s official website I found myself thinking I’d rather drink with friends or risk striking up a conversation with female patrons in a regular pub, Zakzak’s men seem to be quite taken with the Izakaya Natsuko, heralding it as a venue unlike anything Tokyo can offer.

Offering both typical izakaya snacks like yakitori chicken, noodles, fries and nabe hot-pot, Natsuko is sure to hit the spot with regular izakaya goers. It’s the constant summer vibe, though, that Zakzak’s men assure its readers will keep patrons coming back for more.

“A girl walks by holding two frosted beer mugs. It’s like something from a beer commercial,” says their reporter, recounting the scene before him when he entered the bar. Before long, he’s ordering his first drink from the expansive menu and, after being joined by a group of girls to congratulate them on a hard day’s work, he’s soon swept up in the party mood.

It’s these “kanpai call” cheers chants that provide Izakaya Natsuko with most of its energy and entertainment. Well, besides the skimpy outfits of course. The chants differ depending on the item ordered by the customer, but usually result in two or more girls arriving at the table and bursting into song. When a grapefruit sour is ordered, for example, your waitress will wrestle with the fruit, squeezing its juices out while the remainder of the cheer squad sing an appropriately-themed song in shrill voices while banging their instruments and inviting the customer to join in. It’s harmless fun that many men would enjoy after a long week of work, but we’d be willing to bet that for some it’d be enough to drive them nuts after hearing it for the Nth time in one night.

▼ The grapefruit squeezing ritual.

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▼ And the “shaka pote” (seasoned fries shaken up) chant…

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The whole experience is not a million miles removed from the routines performed in maid cafes where the waitress will add “love” to the food or drink at the table, usually by making a heart shape with her hands and muttering the magic words involving the words “moé” and “rabu”. There are plenty of izakayas in Tokyo and other cities where the staff will invite customers to raise their glasses in celebration of a hard day’s work when their first drink is served, sometimes with the entire staff yelling “otsukare sama deshita!” (a combination of “thank you” and “you worked hard”), but Natusko’s beach theme and tailor-made songs are something of a rarity.

The girls working at the bar are all aged between 18 and somewhere in their mid 20s. I’ll leave it to you to decide whether the girls employed at Sexy Izakaya Natsuko are likely to set pulses racing, though. Different strokes for different folks, and all that…

▼ Aiko-chan. We’re just impressed that she went to the trouble of dyeing her eyebrows, too.

bikini cafe Aiko

▼ “Milk”-chan has also been reaching for the peroxide by the look of it.

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▼ Rie-nyan

bikini cafe Rieni

▼ Rika-chan rocking a slightly more natural look, minus the fake eyelashes.

bikini bar rikachan


bikini cafe Seira

As well as bikinis, the girls at Natsuko occasionally slip into revealing Chinese dresses and cropped t-shirts made to look like sailor suits. There are also special events and challenges that customers can take part in, such as the Chokobo (chocolate stick) speed eating contest where those who can scoff five wafer bars in just 30 seconds are allowed to choose any one dish from the menu for free.

Perhaps it’s just because I’m British and am required by law to be a miserable sack of spuds 24/7, but I just can’t see the appeal of forcing snack food into my face in the company of 18-year-old girls for the sake of winning a free plate of cheesy fries. But then again I’ve never been very adventurous…

For more information about Izakaya Natsuko, you can visit their homepage here. The always cheery bar is open 5 p.m. – 5 a.m. Monday to Friday and from 3 p.m. on weekends. Food is available from 750 yen (US$7.80) per dish while 90 minutes of nomihoudai (all you can drink) will set you back 2,780 yen ($28).

Source: Zakzak (Japanese)

Images via YouTube なつこ居酒屋

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