As the half year mark approach since I moved to Ofunato, Iwate, I have come to learn that many restaurants are still reluctant to take the next step when accommodating foreigners. And by ‘next step’, I mean the English Menu.

Now, don’t get me wrong. I don’t mean to blame anyone or point fingers since even I, as someone outside the restaurant industry, can think of several reasons why this is the case.

For one, they don’t have the time or money to make an entire English menu for someone who they don’t even know is coming. Two, even if they do make an English Menu it will be hard for them to confirm if the quality is on par with their Japanese Menu. Three, once they make an English Menu they’ll feel the urge to update the English Menu in conjunction with their Japanese Menu, meaning that it will take twice the cost. Lastly, they don’t know how or where to start. Putting aside the big chain restaurants or those with a wide or firm fan base, I feel that these questions will more or less stop local restaurants from taking that next step.

Because, let’s face it. During this day and age where the pandemic still remains, the expectation of a foreigners coming to Japan is low. But if you’re like me… hasn’t it crossed your mind at least once during your ‘Work from Home’ hours to be able to freely travel again? And that one of the places you thought of going to was Japan? I know a lot of us had this plan in mind when they announced that the 2020 Summer Olympic was going to be held in Tokyo. And although that chance has left us, I’m sure the urge to go has yet to subside.

So, on that train of thought, as someone who’s job is to support this town in accommodating foreigners, I’ve taken the step myself to aid the local restaurants who are willing, with their English Menu. All of this, in hopes that if and when foreigners visit Ofunato, they can enjoy their stay here and possibly be less stressed when they go out to eat, since I’m sure all of us would enjoy knowing what they ordered and not having to guess what is coming. (Although that does sound fun.. Haha.)

So, without further ado, allow me to share with you the first place I helped, “Another World Bar ~KEIJI~”, and in the same time tell you a bit about this place so that you might feel interested in trying out what it has to provide.

Now, this bar’s presence, as the name suggests, stands out from the other within the Kyassen Ofunato Area. There are other bars and restaurants in the area, but the moment you step in you’ll be swallowed by an eerie.. yet warm atmosphere with lights dimmed just enough to see the outlines of the frog decorations that are placed throughout the space. The owner, Keiji, runs the bar with the concept of maintaining that dark yet welcoming mood.

To help give you a clearer image, allow me note that the bar itself is not very big, maybe enough to have 6 people comfortably sit at the bar. But Keiji will occasionally bring out a chair or two to add a few more seats if people are welcoming of a lively atmosphere.

The overall concept of the bar that Keiji made it important to keep, is the feeling of being brought into a whole new world. And I assure you he is on point with that. He illuminates the room with a blueish green light in addition to the numerous decorations placed throughout the bar. Most of the decorations are made up of frogs, which he told me they were all gifted to him by his customers, but he insisted that he likes all reptiles and nocturnal animals as well.

Additionally, Keiji sometime holds themed events such as a sub-culture event where people gather to talk only about manga and anime with a cheaper than usual price! The anime-song-only karaoke night that follows right after is whole ‘nother world!! If you’re interested feel free to note Keiji’s SNS!

[Question]“What do you recommend here?”

[Keiji] If I can I would recommend everything on the menu here since I do put in quite some time in choosing what to keep. But, if I were to select only a few I would say the “Pikkolo Drive” or “Jyorei” since these are customer favorites. If you look at the menu, English or Japanese, you’ll realize that there’s a lot of original cocktails which play on words with sub-culture themes or cocktails including the names of the towns around this area, so it would be great if you can try these out too. And if you enjoy the taste it would be even better if you can use this as an excuse to try and visit the place as well

[Question]What do you keep important at this bar?

[Keiji] I enjoy going to bars and drinking myself, but what I seek in my own bar is slightly different from the bars that I personally enjoy going to. The concept of my bar is this eerie-like atmosphere and I really want people who stop by to enjoy this atmosphere as well and have repeaters just to enjoy this atmosphere.

[Question] What do you want the customers to feel after coming to this bar?

[Keiji] As you can see from how I arranged the bar as well as how I play around with the cocktail names, want I want you to take home is that there is a place like this which enjoys a little playfulness even in the countryside. Although a lot has happened around these parts it would be great if this bar would be the reason why you come back here or better yet end up living here.

[Question] Any last comments to the people outside of Japan?

[Keiji] I really want to say that you are always welcome to my bar as well as to these parts of Japan. Each and every new customer help me broaden my views and thoughts and I feel that this won’t change even if you are foreign to Japan. As you may know, the people of Ofunato has been provided with a lot of support from people in and outside of Ofunato and I personally feel that this is what helps us move forward. Even if you have not been able to help us directly, I want you to see how much we’ve grown and help us grow even further.

Another World Bar ~KEIJI~

Address:              Iwate-ken, Ofunato-shi, Ofunato-cho, Nonoda 12

Established:         August 1st, 2017

Owner:                Keiji Sato

Type:                  Bar

Hours:                 Everyday. 19:00 ~ 01:00 (as of Feb. 2022)



さて、長々しい前置きはこれで以上として、私が手伝いました1店舗目、「Another World Bar KEIJI」の紹介をさせて頂ければと思います。

[質問] ここでのおススメは何でしょうか?

[質問] このバーで大切にしていることはなんですか?
[Keiji] 自分自身良く他のバーに行ってはいますが、自分が行くのが好きな場所と自分のお店で大切にしているのはちょっと違っていて、ここではこの独特な雰囲気を大事にしています。この雰囲気というか空気はもちろんお店の名前の通り、異世界感のような独特な雰囲で、この空気を大事にしてもらいたいと思っています。

[質問] ここに来たお客さんに何を感じて帰って欲しいですか?
[Keiji] このお店の飾り付けやオリジナルカクテルの名前から分かる通り、このバーに来るたびに何か楽しい思い出を持って帰って欲しくて、大船渡にもこんな感じのふざけているところがあるって知って貰えたらいいかな。この周辺ではご存知の通り色々と起こったけど、このバーがここに立ち寄るあるいは住もうと思う理由になればこの上嬉しいことはありません。

[質問] 最後に海外の方々にコメント等ありますか?
[Keiji] まず初めにこのバーを含めこの地域はいつでも海外の方を歓迎しています。自分にとって新しい客との出会いは自分の視野を大きく広げてくれていて、海外の人であってもそれは変わらないと思っています。先ほども触れましたが、支援や応援があって前に進めているのだと常に感じています。なので、直接関われていなかったとしても、我々がどれほど成長したか、そしてどれほど成長し続けるかを見て貰えると嬉しいです。