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Community bar “Sunakku”
Katamachi, Fukui City
April 18th, 2017
by Yoshihiro Hosokawa

If you want to enjoy Japanese language and culture through communication with Japanese locals, what is called a Sunakku is really recommended.  Sunakku in Japanese is literally “snack,” which is short for “snack bar”.  (You might want to avoid this kind of place, especially when you are somewhere new.  However, Echiwa wants to challenge some stereotypical views on Japanese snack bars.  To make it easier to express our views on snack bars in Fukui, let us spell them Sunakku, just as the way we say it in Japanese.) 

 

Sunakku were born in the 1960’s and serve as community bars.  Sunakku are where community is formed, as is the case of pubs in Britain. Katamachi, Fukui City, is full of sushi restaurants, Japanese tapas bars, and Sunakku

 

The lady who serves at a Sunakku is called “mama” by her customers.  “Mama” serves her customers from behind the counter.  “Mama” welcomes various people and listens to their complaints and love problems.  So, it can be said that the main dish there is conversation with “mama,” besides the regular menu of alcoholic drinks such as whiskey, and shochu (a kind of Japanese vodka), and snacks such as peanuts and crackers.  Repeating customers leave their bottles so that they can drink theirs the next time.  The bottles are displayed on the shelf behind “mama” at the counter.

 

Here is how you can find and enter Sunakku.  In Katamachi, you can see the signs of Sunakku (スナック), pubs, Japanese tapas bars and many other kinds of entertainment at the entrances of a buildings where these drinking and eating businesses are run.  Usually you need to go upstairs by elevator.  Getting out of the elevator, you often face some doors in a hallway.  At this point, you may need a little more courage to open one of the doors.  So, just go ahead!  Pull the door, step inside, and you will see the world of Sunakku that “mama” creates.  However, it may be quite challenging for foreigners to pick a nice Sunakku.  So it is recommended to ask a local to invite you to his or her favorite Sunakku.

 

Now, you find yourself in Sunakku “Sara.”  “Sara” is located on the third floor of a building in Katamachi.  Masayo Kobayashi, serving the role of “mama” for 35 years, runs this Sunakku all by herself.  She named her Sunakku “Sara” simply because the previous bar in the same space used the name.  Now, it is about 9 pm.  Today, as usual, people who want to enjoy conversations with “mama” enter “Sara” after having dinner at Japanese tapas bars, Yakitori (grilled chicken) bars, and so on. 

 

“Mama” prepares a comfortable place for everyone to enjoy talking to her.  She behaves like an orchestra conductor by forming a harmony simultaneously with her customers, which include people such as company employers and employees from young to old. 

 

Karaoke also adds to the characteristics of Sunakku.  “Mama” inputs the number of songs that her customers request.  Then they sing merrily in front of others.  Alcohol helps them relax, which fosters conversation among them.  Even those who meet for the first time often hold a microphone together while others enjoy watching such scenes.  Eventually, people become friends and show happy smiling faces with “mama” interceding them.  “Mama” says, “Sunakku is not a place to sell alcohol, but is a place to provide fun conversation and good times.”  This love from “mama” recharges her customers for the next day. 

  

Now, the counter seats of “Sara” are fully occupied by men.  They enjoy talking to everyone as if they had known each other for a long time.  However, surprisingly, all of those men met there for the first time.  This shows Sunakku is where “mama” plays the role of the key person to connect people.   One of the customers said, “You can easily make friends with people here,” and disappeared into the neon street with his new friend. 

 

A good number of “Hanawa,” which make the views of Katamachi impressive to visitors, give you visible evidence that Sunakku are loved by people in the community.  Hanawa, giant flower garlands, are displayed with messages hung down to celebrate newly opened Sunakku, clubs, and so on.  They are also displayed to celebrate the anniversaries of businesses.  They are gifts from other shops or even from customers.  Every shop displays such Hanawa as if they are competing to see which are the most loved by the community.

 

Katamachi literally means “one-sided town.”  During the Edo era, there was a waterway of Fukui Castle running along the eastern side of the street, so the buildings lined up only on the western side.  In the Meiji era, the waterway was buried.  Both sides of the street were developed as a commercial and entertainment district that now includes movie theaters, play theaters, and Sunakku.  

 

People come to Katamachi in search of encounters and empathy.  There are Sunakku here and there welcoming you.  Why don’t you go on an adventure of discovering a Sunakku that will make you feel at home?  Here is the best tip to find a nice Sunakku – get to know the locals first and ask them to invite you to their favorite Sunakku, and you will make your debut in the wonderful world of Japanese community bars.

 

地元の人との交流を通じて日本語や日本文化を楽しみたいなら、「スナック」がとてもおすすめです。日本語で「スナック」とは文字通りの意味としてはスナックバー(おつまみ程度が楽しめる飲み屋)です。(ただし、初めて訪れる場所でこのような類のお店に行くのはあまり考えられない方もいらっしゃるかと思います。Echiwaは日本のスナックのもしかしたらダークなイメージとは違った、福井で体験できる素朴なスナックを知っていただきたいと考えました。Echiwaがお伝えしたいスナックを表現するために、日本語で発音するそのままの言い方で敢えてSunakkuと綴らせていただきます。)

 

スナックはコミュニティーバーとして1960年代に誕生しました。英国のパブと同様に、スナックはさまざまな地域でコミュニティー形成の場として親しまれています。福井市の片町には軒を連ねる寿司屋、居酒屋などと並んで何軒ものスナックがあります。          

 

スナックには「ママ」と呼ばれる女性店主がいて、カウンター越しに接客してくれます。夜ごとに変わるお客を受け入れ、仕事の愚痴や恋の悩みなどさまざまな話を親身になって聞いてくれます。メニューは、ウイスキーや焼酎といったお酒と軽いおつまみ。メインディッシュはママとのおしゃべり、といったところです。常連客がお酒のボトルをキープしていて、カウンター奥の棚にずらりと並べてある店もあります。

 

片町に立ち並ぶ数多くの雑居ビルの入り口には、中にある店の看板がずらり。エレベーターを上ると、各フロアにドアが並んでいます。奥の様子がうかがい知れず、初めてのお店は入るのに勇気がいるかもしれませんが、思い切って開けてみると、ママとお客が織りなす独特の世界がそこには広がっているのです。でも、初めての方には安心して入れるスナック選びは少々難しいかもしれませんね。そんなときには、地元の人におすすめのスナックに連れて行ってもらうのがベストです。   

 

ここは、片町のビル3階にあるスナック「紗羅」。片町で働いて35年のママ・小林昌代(こばやし・まさよ)さんが一人で切り盛りしているお店です。ちなみに「紗羅」の店名は、前に入居していた別の店が使っていた名前で、看板代がもったいなくてそのまま同じ名前にしたのだとか。午後9時。きょうも、ママを慕う常連客が、1軒目の居酒屋や焼鳥屋で食事をすませてやってきました。

 

 

ママはお客に会話を楽しんでもらい、居心地の良い場づくりをしていきます。サラリーマンや経営者、若者から年配まで、さまざまなお客に合わせて即興のセッションで場のハーモニーをつくるママの振る舞いは、さながらオーケストラの指揮者のようです。

 

 

カラオケが楽しめるのもスナックの特徴です。自分が好きなナンバーをママに入力してもらい、お客の前で歌声を披露します。酔いが進めば、お客同士の会話も生まれ、初対面の人たちが一緒にマイクを握ったり、カウンターの隅にはそれを楽しく眺める人がいたり。店にはいつのまにか、ママを通じて仲間と笑顔が広がっていきます。ママは「スナックはお酒を売るのが仕事じゃない。会話と楽しい時間を提供するのが仕事」と話します。お客にとっては、そんなママの優しさが、あしたへの活力になります。

 

カウンターは男性客で満席になりました。昔ながらの仲間のように会話が盛り上がっていますが、なんと驚くことに全員が初対面だそうです。これも、人と人を結び付けるママの人柄がなせる技でしょう。お客の一人は「同世代が集まったらこんなもんですよ」と話し、意気投合した初対面の男性と一緒に、再び夜のまちへと繰り出していきました。

 

片町を歩くとまず目につく「花輪」にも地域の人々がスナックに寄せる温かい気持ちが表れています。「花輪」はスナックやクラブなどの開店祝い、周年祝いで他のお店や業者、時に常連客からそのお店にプレゼントされるもので、造花を集めた大きな円形の装飾とともに、お祝いのメッセージが添えられています。各店はまるでどのお店が一番地域で愛されているかを競うかのように、この花輪を壁面に積み上げます。

 

片町の名前は、「片」は片方、「町」はタウンを意味し、由来は江戸時代にさかのぼります。当時、福井城の一番外側を水路で囲ったお堀が、ちょうど今の片町通りの東側を南北に走っていました。つまり、建物が通りの西側だけ、片方だけに並んでいました。明治時代に入って外堀が埋め立てられてから、次第に通りの両側が商店街として成長し、映画館や劇場が建てられるなどして歓楽街に変貌していきました。

 

お酒を介して人と人が心を通わせる町。そんな片町のあちこちにスナックがあり、きょうもママが常連客を出迎えています。まずは地元の人と知り合いになって、おすすめのスナックを紹介してもらいましょう。きっと、日本のコミュニティーバーの素晴らしさを体験できるはずです。


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