yatai mura, Takasaki (Photo: Hollie Mantle)

Yatai Mura

Outdoor style bars in central Takasaki

yatai mura, Takasaki (Photo: Hollie Mantle)
Hollie Mantle   - 3 min read

It’s the kind of place you drive past and wonder what is beyond the gate adorned with twinkling fairy lights.

In Tokyo, these kinds of minuscule wooden bars are packed with hoards of suited-up salary men. In the more rural prefectures these only-seen-after-rush-hour types are replaced with locals who know one another by name, and, despite having met you only once for five minutes, yours to boot. They seem to have an endless and patient curiosity about you, your country and your experience of Japan. If you’re studying Japanese this is one of the ideal places to come and practice your chat, good or bad, minus the price of a language tutor.

It’s the close up atmosphere that does it. When the next person is a mere 5 cm distance away from you, or sometimes closer depending on the amount of discomfort you’ve shown, it’s incredibly easy to strike up a conversation. You are never without someone to talk to. Even the friendly bar man are part of the social scene here; friends with everyone who comes in and often sharing a drink or two too.

As well as beer, sake, and any alcohol typical to old fashioned izakayas, Thai, Chinese, European, Yakitori, Korean, and of course Japanese cuisine are all on offer from the small kitchens behind the bars. The prices are reasonable, the cooking is good, and the atmosphere is fantastic as you enjoy the experience of either sitting out in the open aired sunshine, or snuggled inside the bars, grouping together like penguins for warmth.

All of the bars serve drinks at rates typical to the Japan outside of Tokyo: 500 yen for a decanter of wine, 450 for a beer, or just hand the barman some cash and ask for “something special” if you’re more of a risk-taker. The bars are all open 6 days a week and alternate their nights off so that something will always be open and ready to serve you. Opening hours are roughly 6pm until 3am.

If you’re a big drinker, a coke-sipper, or simply an avid yakitori eater, this place wont disappoint you as here is where a solitary pint on a Friday promises to turn into a photo album of memories, a host of new friends, and a story to tell.

Hollie Mantle

Hollie Mantle @hollie.mantle

Plotting away in Japan's mountainside.