The lack of space in Japan has resulted in the need to utilise every square metre possible and thus, to ensure it is put to good use. Combine this with the Japanese people’s love of drinking, particularly beer and you have yourself the standing bar. Best of all, you don’t have to go to Tokyo to experience this, for Hiroshima has the very famous, Shigetomi, right in its own backyard.
Yes, Shigetomi, named after Shigetomi-san, the beer draft Meister, is located on the edge of Nagarekawa, the nightlife and drinking neighbourhood of downtown Hiroshima. But, the bar is a little unusual and it is perhaps its quirkiness that has made it well-known in Hiroshima and in fact, throughout Japan.
Firstly, there is only ever one brand of beer on offer at any one time. By using slightly different techniques when pouring each beer, Shigetomi-san is able to produce five unique tastes. The brand changes each week or so and you can find out when your favourite one is on offer from the calendar on the wall above the bar. Secondly, Shigetomi is open Monday to Satuday for only TWO hours per day. Yep, you read that correctly; two hours from 5-7pm.
Thirdly, you are limited to two drinks, at 500 yen a pop. From my perspective, this is for two main reasons: 1. there is ALWAYS a line outside and 2. This is Japan where any drinking session is followed by another bar and another and yet another… limits people, pace yourself for the rest of the night. Despite the line outside, it moves quickly due to the two-drink rule.
Even better is that there is a menu outside in both Japanese and English, which means you can choose which technique and thus taste you want while you wait. Added to all that, Shigetomi-san personally opens the door and greets each patron and will impart his knowledge as he pours each beer. He will also explain and show you exactly how to drink it.
Yep, the proper way to drink beer does not mean just opening your mouth and taking a swig. It means standing straight at the bar with one hand on your hip so that the beer is digested properly. Drinking it this way, the gas has a clear path down to your stomach and can move easily without the obstruction of you leaning over or slouching as you normally would at a table. See, drinking beer CAN be educational!
It’s a great place to start off a night out or just to have a beer before heading for a meal. It’s also a popular choice for salary men who want (and probably need!) a beer after work. Either way, Shigetomi is an experience you won’t want to miss out on and may in fact, become your new favourite place.