Find Out Why High-Class Moms Appearing in Kimono in Ginza’s Street in Broad Daylight. | FRIDAY DIGITAL

Find Out Why High-Class Moms Appearing in Kimono in Ginza’s Street in Broad Daylight.

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Aki Shirasaka, a streetwalker, goes out on a Ginza street in the busy evening hours and hands out guide maps with store introductions (Photo by Masakazu Yoshiba).

March 24, three days after the lifting of priority measures to prevent the spread of the disease. Women in kimonos continued to call out to pedestrians and bow their heads in the evening light. About 30 people, including high-class club moms and bartenders, were scattered in the vicinity of Ginza’s Namiki-dori Avenue, handing out pamphlets titled “Ginza Night Map.

I have been in this business in Ginza for more than 25 years, but this is the first time I have gone to the trouble of making a guide map with introductions to stores and inviting customers. Before the spread of the new coronavirus, I often organized bar tours, but not for the purpose of attracting new customers.

Ginza has been a district that has mainly catered to businessmen, but with remote work taking root due to the coronavirus, businessmen have lost much of their drinking habits in Ginza, and there is a good chance that those who used to come here as regular customers will not return. There is a sense of crisis that if we don’t attract new customers, the Ginza district will lose its vitality.

Aki Shirasaka, the owner-mother of “Club Inaba,” reveals, “I have been working on this for many years, and I am very pleased with the quality of the food. While still a student at Waseda University, she worked at a long-established club in Nihonbashi, and in 1996, in her 20s, she attracted attention when she opened two clubs in Ginza, which she later expanded to four. In addition to his own restaurants, he also serves as vice president of the Ginza Social Food and Beverage Association, which was created for bars, clubs, and restaurants in Ginza to cooperate in business development, and currently has about 1,000 members.

In the past, and even today, Ginza has been a social gathering place for top businessmen and a place to measure a man’s “status. Both customers and the restaurants that entertained them were expected to be first-class. Even if a restaurant that has made it big in the provinces were to open a branch in Ginza, it is said that 90% of them would withdraw from the market within a year or less. The average lifespan is only 11 months. Survival itself is an extremely difficult task, yet Ms. Shirasaka has survived as a mother for 25 years.

When Lehman Brothers collapsed in 2008, banks came to her house day after day to pay off debts, and in 2011, when she was preparing to reopen her Japanese restaurant, she experienced a flood of protests just for opening her restaurant after the Great East Japan Earthquake. In 2019, after overcoming such ordeals, champagne sales reached the highest amount in Ginza’s history. If Ginza could welcome the 2020 Tokyo Olympics in this uplifting mood, it might be able to welcome many foreign tourists…

However, this idealistic vision was drowned out in an instant when Corona arrived in Japan in January 2020. In April of the same year, a state of emergency was declared, and the store was closed until the end of May. The Ginza district became a ghost town. Then, about a year and three months later, last summer, when the delta strain landed at a time when the Tokyo Olympics were being held, the stores could not serve alcohol even though they were open on short notice.

The Lehman Shock and the Great East Japan Earthquake were tough times, but this time it doesn’t even compare to those times. First of all, I didn’t think it would last this long. As a business person, I felt as if I were having a bad dream. But Ginza was united in its refraining from alcohol sales in April 2020, when the first state of emergency was declared. It was out of a sense of mission that Ginza is the center of Japan and must set a good example,” says Shirasaka.

Mr. Shirasaka, who also serves as vice president of the Ginza Social Beverage Association, distributes the booklet with Club Noble owner Maiko Ochiai, who also serves as vice president.

During the period when he was unable to work in Ginza, he thoroughly reviewed the restaurant and his own spending once again, living with his family around dinner for the first time.

The issue that came up as a challenge was the rent for the restaurant. Restaurants in Ginza are said to charge 28,000 to 35,000 yen per tsubo, and Mr. Shirasaka’s four restaurants, “Club Inaba,” “Bar66,” “Japanese Cuisine Honohana,” and “Small Cuisine Lounge Inaba 5-chome,” cost 2.5 million yen per month. For one year, the rent alone amounted to 30 million yen. At the end of June 2020, when the state of emergency was declared, “Bar 66” was closed, and although the amount is a little less now, he had to continue paying the high rent while the restaurant was closed.

Even though he was trapped in a difficult situation, Mr. Shirasaka wrote a letter to each of his long-time customers and sent it to about 1,000 people over a period of about two months, along with his book “Iki to Mariyaka na Nippon-ron” (“The Japanese Theory of Japan after All is Well”) that had been published during this period. In addition, to express his gratitude to the medical professionals, he made lunch boxes for the first time at the Japanese restaurant “Honohana,” which he manages, and delivered them to the medical professionals. The gratitude for these activities, the encouragement from customers, and the feelings expressed in the “Corona Sympathy” gifts were the driving force for him to “get back on his feet again.

Ginza is a special place after all, and it’s interesting because there are so many people who are out of the ordinary, in a good way. These are people who live what I call a chic and cool life. Customers can’t come to Ginza if they don’t work hard, and we all can’t survive if we don’t work hard. There is a mutual respect. I’m sure there are other places where you can drink alcohol, but this world in Ginza is definitely like no other place,” says Shirasaka.

For example, when the restaurant becomes crowded and another customer comes in near the entrance, another customer who is already drinking inside sees this and someone casually says, “I’m leaving,” and gets up from his seat. Even if there is no connection between the customer who entered and the customer who left. This is because, at the root of the customer’s wish, he or she does not just want to enjoy himself or herself, but wants all kinds of people to enjoy themselves and the restaurant that entertains them to be well-off. Mr. Shirasaka wants to continue to preserve this “chic” culture.

Mr. Shirasaka, who must have gone through one of the greatest hardships of the postwar period, now even smiles peacefully. He can already see new hope.

Until now, we used to deal with people in their fifties and sixties, but recently the number of customers in their thirties and forties has been increasing, and it’s clear that the flow of customers is changing,” he says. Young business owners are also coming into the vacant tenants. Compared to older people who drink in the Showa era, today’s young people drink more beautifully and have a better reputation among the stores.

Customers who come to Ginza are like migratory fish, so I want to introduce them to good restaurants that can provide good hospitality. I don’t mean to sound rude, but I want to increase the number of fellow restaurants I can introduce them to, while nurturing young managers, female staff, and customers as well.

He feels it is his mission to preserve and convey the culture of Ginza. To this end, he is willing to change if it is necessary to challenge himself to do something he has never done before. The distribution of the guide in broad daylight is an expression of the determination of the moms and bartenders to “revive Ginza.

In the front row, from third from left: Ms. Shirasaka, Ms. Nomiko Ochiai of “Club Noble,” Ms. Yumi Ito of “Club Yumi,” and on the far right, Mr. Yuichi Hoshi, bartender of “Bar Hoshi” and president of the Ginza Social Drinks Association. More than 30 people, including mothers, were busy distributing booklets that day. (Photo by Masakazu Yoshiba)
Photo by Masakazu Yoshiba
Photo by Masakazu Yoshiba
  • Photo by Masakazu Yoshiba

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