Hanbey: Showa Infused Izakaya
Looking for a place for a drink in Japan? Izayaka are the causal Japanese bars popular for group gatherings or a quick after-work drink. But if you are looking to take your Japanese experience to another level, Hanbey (半兵), is a great place I recommend.
This Izayaka has over 60 shops across Japan, and their speciality is the Showa period inspired theme inside the shop. When you walk into the shop, you will be surrounded by posters and toys from generations ago. Old movie posters from the 60s, advertisement signs, country flags used during school sports days, discontinued Astro-boy figures…… every decoration is displayed to make you feel like you have returned to a different time period. For customers who missed the old days or those who have never experienced it, this is a great dining place for a time-travel trip.
Look around. Can you see your country's flag?
Look closely. Can you find the Astroboy character?
The other sell-point of this chain is their principle of “low profit, sell more”. With this leading concept, everything on the menu is cheap. Yakitori (grilled chicken skewers) start around ¥50 when many other places sell them for ¥80, and many drinks are around the ¥200-300 range. The portions may be slightly smaller than other shops, but this encourages customers to try out more items from the menu, which is even more fun when you’re drinking.
The menu is inspired by both unique points of the shop together: cheap and nostalgic food.
It’s an izakaya, so staples like yakitori, chicken wings and sashimi are of course on the menu, but that wouldn’t match the unique atmosphere of the shop, would it? To bring back the nostalgic memories, there are a lot of cheap simple foods on the menu.
You can get yourself a plain onigiri (rice ball) for merely ¥50, for example. If you are feeling fancy, get the seaweed and egg on rice for ¥190. Just want the egg? The sunny-side up egg is there to order for just ¥90. Don’t want the rice? How about the flour-pancake for ¥100. Heck, you can even get an instant-noodle here for ¥250. Surely they might not seem worth the price for what you can easily make at home, but you are there for the atmosphere and fun, so there’s no need to be too stingy over some couple hundred yen food items.
Around the shop, you also see a bunch of dagashi (old-school candies for kids) so adults can have a drink and a taste of their childhood for under ¥50 each. There are also drinks and desserts from the Heiwa-period that we wouldn’t see in other izakaya or other shops nowadays.
Also, grilled frog………… I did try it (and the drunk teachers I went with even ordered a second one just for fun). They grill and put the whole headless frog on the plate for you to rip apart and devour. The texture was like chicken but with less taste to it. It may look gross but it tastes quite decent, as some may not expect. The few hundred yen is definitely worth the experience.
With the concept of “low profit, sell more” and the Heiwa-theme, Hanbey is an izakaya that brings a nostalgic experience to some and a brand new experience to others. It offers something different that you cannot get from other izakayas. Especially for tourists, it is certainly worth a visit!