The port town Uno（宇野） sounds not familiar even to the locals now; of course, I meant not the car game we play at parties, but it was the principal port that connected to the main island, or Honshu, to Shikoku island before finally, the bridge connects the two island in the late 1980s, and as you can easily guess the port became so lonely that once flourished downtown filled with the workers mainly working for ship-related industry went down. Later, thanks to the art project to boost the attractions of neighboring islands such as Naoshima, this port, Uno, now connects to those towns by boat and has started to accommodate travelers who visit the islands.
So I visited this town not because of the exploitation of those islands, but just for work, only kicked away by highly priced hotels in Okayama city. I could not find anything lower than 10,000 yen for a single room, a failing budget, I thought, for a business hotel. Uno maintains the railway access from Okayama, but I rented a car for the trip. It took about an hour to reach the coast and then to Uno. I booked a newly established hotel, Uno Hotel, a hostel type, sharing rooms with the other guests in the compartment with a card key. You are given a small space with a comfortable bed but share a toilet and shower. It comes with a ticket for the neighboring Spa facility, Tamanoyu.
After taking a shower to refresh, I went out. It was only half past eight at night. In a glimpse, I could spot only a small railway station and a port facility. It looked empty. The only noise coming was the traffic on the road, which kept flowing before the station. I looked carefully to find the corners for a drink and checked the map so I could spot some bars behind the railway station. As I walked around, I noticed some lights coming off along the alleys, and I was inclined to visit one karaoke bar, seemingly run by foreigners, according to the reviews I read on Google Maps. Queens Bar, it says, and the menu on the stand was written all in English, as you find in the busiest corner in Osaka or Tokyo. Anyway, I took a staircase to climb up to the bar and was welcomed by two ladies on the counter, a Philippino and a Japanese. There were yet to be any guests.
I went inside and again found the place nicely decorated and fashioned like a bar you find overseas. I nodded when I learned the owner was a Russian lady, and this bar was her second opening after the first, located in the neighboring town. She was absent during my visit, but the two ladies hosted me nicely and were later joined by the guests from Hiroshima, who said they had only come to this town for fun. They offer a standard lineup for a karaoke bar for drinks, like beer, shochu, and a regular Suntory whisky with soda. You also need to pay for the hourly fees, like a snack. They also had a stage to sing and dance, which I had never seen in such a karaoke bar. The ladies and the guests were so relaxed, and finally, they went to the floors and danced with each other. I felt so amused that the atmosphere they created was similar to any bar you can find in Tokyo. The songs they sing, the way they go, fun, and so on. Anyway, I feel deeply thankful for encouraging me to stand up on the stage for my poorly sung song. And I recommend anyone who comes all the way down to Uno to have a look. Do not give up on exploring the town from the first glimpse; you always need patience and look carefully to experience something unexpected.