It has been a long while since I last went out with clients from work. First, there have been tight restrictions on going out for drinks and party-related activities. Second, it became outdated to organize a kind of business communication with drinks anymore, as many younger folks have found that it goes well without the help of any drinks. Third, the overall harassment management in corporate society, including power harassment, sexual harassment, and moral harassment, has led to a culture of prioritizing non-harassment; that is to say, you do not push or encourage someone to do a specific thing in business. Taking all of this into account, the drinking culture of the “salaryman,” which depicted comically how workaholic Japanese business persons spend their time in daily jobs has turned out to be completely different. After the “bell” rings, they get drunk and go crazy, and their tightly knotted ties, worn during the day, are already taken off and scattered on the dusty floor.
Putting the above aside, we went into the Ueno area. We chose this location for convenience. Ueno is in the neighborhood of the Asakusa area, and the station was once a terminal for trains going to North Japan. It is now forgotten; however, when you go down to the ground floor, you can still feel the memory of the past. The platforms that used to stop all trains were vital for the sleeper express bound for long-distance trips to Tohoku and Hokkaido. Sadly, those trains are all gone and have been replaced by the Shinkansen trains. The busy area in Ueno that you can easily find is the Ameyoko area, south of the station. It is famous for its many souvenir shops and small eateries under the elevated railway paths. And if you go further, you will find the Yushima district, famous for its old-fashioned style of izakaya and bars. We stopped at the standing bar KADOYA for a drink. It only has a counter table in the front and back, with enough space to accommodate up to 10 people. The prices for the drinks are affordable. Since seats are not provided, staying for extended hours might be uncomfortable, but it could be a good place for a quick drink before or after a party to refresh yourself.
The Yushima area is relatively quiet compared to the Ameyoko or station neighborhood. It still needs to be discovered among tourists from overseas, and the people you encounter here are primarily Japanese salarymen. But there has been a change I have noticed recently: we are starting to see new ethnic bars, like the ones from Vietnam. I am curious to know how Vietnamese, in particular, set foot here. Still, the business-minded foreigners full of energy have taken over the bars or restaurants owned by the aging locals. This change, where younger foreigners replace the retiring elder Japanese, is becoming more prevalent everywhere in Japan. It is still a gradual process, but people have yet to learn how it will shape up in 5 or 10 years. Anyway, the Yushima area still maintains some of the lost features of the old Japanese bar districts that you see in old films, and it is only a 10-minute walk or so from Ueno station. English is not commonly spoken or understood, but since foreigners run more and more bars, you can get some clues on how to enjoy and have fun.