Snacking in Kobayashi
「スナック」：« Snack ».
I think this might be the most frequently used word in Kobayashi past 8pm.
I thought I knew the meaning of this word but Japanese people keep on surprising me. In Japanese, “snack” means the small amount of food you eat between meals but it also means a bar in which you will be served a snack. Interesting use of word, don’t you think?
Oh and of course, snacks are necessarily karaoke bars 😉
That explains why this is probably the most used word after 8pm. Once dinner is over and everyone made full use of the nomihodai menu (“all you can drink”), the need to sing (and keep drinking) is unstoppable. That’s what Japan does to you… beware!
So, you are out of the restaurant and you are looking for a place to keep partying. The thing is, Kobayashi is obviously not Tokyo. It is a small city located in the middle of mountains. No fancy places to drink expensive champagne, no terraces on top of skyscrapers… because no skyscrapers.
However, we have snacks. Lots of them.
（Looking for a snack?）
They are all mainly located in the downtown area, called “Nakamachi”. I asked my boss the exact surface area of Nakamachi to impress you with the ratio of snack bars compared to the surface but I got no precise answer so let’s just say it is a very very small area that contains approximately 100 snacks. That’s just insane! The concentration of snacks must be the highest in all Japan, I’m not kidding! Miyazaki prefecture actually has the highest ratio of snacks compared to the total population. I’m pretty sure the city of Kobayashi is in the national top 3. I mean, you arrive there, and it’s the Disneyland of karaoke bars. You have so many choices and so little time. Moreover, as snacks always seems to have absolutely no window to the outside it is even harder to just pick one. You are only able to judge by the name of the bar, the design of the door and how loud is the inside (the last indicator might be the most important). My personal tactic is to follow the group. Yes, it is not a very impressive or rare tactic but it worked so far 😊
(one of Nakamachi’s streets downtown Kobayashi)
What is so special about snacks?
Well first, as I said before, it is a Karaoke bar, and usually a tiny one. You may need to face your timidity and your lack of talent (I speak for myself at least) and just enjoy the ride! I think there is no way you can fully enjoy the place if you just sit and listen, or if you want to relax while sipping your cocktail.
Another specificity of snacks is the nomihodai system. If you enter a snack in Kobayashi, you will have a drink menu with the usual beers, wine, soft drinks and… Shochu (sweet potato-based liquor). If you pick the Shochu (which is, in my opinion, the best choice) the Nomihodai menu will automatically start. You will enter a whole new world (yes, I have some good musical references). You will be served according to your taste (on the rock or mixed with cold water, hot water, Oolong tea, etc.) and then your glass will NEVER be empty. I mean you will never have enough time to empty your drink as there will always be someone filling it up. I must admit I was very surprised by that the first time. I was like “what’s wrong with this waitress? Why does she keep refilling my drink all the time? I should have withdrawn more money before coming…”.
It costs me 2,000 yens.(The price can vary depending on the bar but it is always around 2,500 yens for nomihodai)
I can tell you it’s cheap considering how long I stayed in the bar and how much I drank. Usually nomihodai lasts for 2 hours, but it always felt like there was no actual time limit when I went to a snack.
So, snack means nomihodai and nomihodai means hangover fun, so snacks are fun!
But actually, the mamas are the ones who make snack bars so special. Indeed, 99% of the time women are behind the bar (yeah! who runs the world?). They are always called the mamas, which is great if you are really bad at remembering people’s names.
When I asked my colleagues if there was a reason for this gender specificity, everyone observed a minute of silence. It often happens when I ask an apparently weird questions. My boss guessed that back in the old days, men probably wanted to talk to women after work, as, I quote, “talking to men is boring” (yeah! who runs the world?). The idea was probably to find a place to forget about work for a few hours, I guess.
Let’s go back to the mamas: to put it simply they are awesome. The first time I went to Kobayashi, I was taken to a local snack called 9-1♡ (to be pronounced “kyu-to” = “cute”). By the look on the mama’s face I assumed she didn’t expect a foreigner to come to her bar. I sat at the counter and she started asking me all these questions to feed her curiosity. After 2 hours of horrible singing but great conversation and laughs, I was offered a hug (rare thing) by the mama and went back to my hotel. 3 months later, when I finally moved to Kobayashi, I went back to the same snack. She remembered my name! As Stevie Wonder would say: isn’t she lovely? And she offered me chocolates on Valentine’s Day! (°◡°♡).:｡
(my favorite mama in Kobayashi)
I have been to numerous karaoke places during my time in Japan, and I have always loved it but snacks have this little extra something to offer: la convivialité = the friendliness. Being able to meet new people, to talk, laugh and sing with other customers (or with the mama!) is what I’m looking for when I go out. Even with a poor level of singing you’ll be sure to have a great time (I am the living proof of that), and anyway Japanese people will never make fun of you for singing like crap (I am the living proof of that).
The ultimate goal
I like games and the snack game is becoming my favorite one. The goal of my newly invented game? Meet all the mamas and see the inside of all the snacks in Kobayashi. I might never improve my singing skills and I will probably have to sing “les Champs Elysees” until my brain explodes but I hope to reach this goal!
One day I will be a snack master.
（The effect of nomihodai on people）
If you want some advice about the best snacks in town, you know who to contact 😉
We wish you a beautiful day with lots of singing～!
We are waiting for you in Kobayashi city 🙂