I’ve had something of a hard time seeing my old Tokyo friends since I moved here, for the same reason I have a hard time spending time with anyone in Japan — everyone seems to be busy all the time. Finally, my friend Meg finished a class she’d been taking and had Sundays free. At her suggestion, we met in Shinjuku to go to the Capcom Bar. (For those of you who don”t know, Capcom is a Japan-based video-game publisher with a number of famous franchises known worldwide.)
Japan is full of theme bars and restaurants. There’s a Gundam Café, a Dragon Quest Bar, and numerous others not tied to a specific brand name. We got there for a 4:00 reservation that lasted two hours (which seemed to be the length of one shift). It’s not just a bar, it’s also a restaurant with mini-performances. I saw exactly four employees there: the woman who directed us in, the bartender, and the two servers (who were basically the stars of the show). The whole place was decked out in Capcom regalia: Monster Hunter, Resident Evil (Biohazard in Japan), and some I didn’t recognize. They featured a full bar, a selection of books to read, and three screens with game consoles set up for free play, including Darkstalkers: Resurrection (which was right next to us, and on an Xbox 360 for some reason). The menu was entirely Capcom-related as well, with food and drink named after and/or inspired by games or their characters. There was also a limited submenu tied into Capcom’s latest release: the HD rerelease of the remake of the first Resident Evil (AKA Biohazard).
We started with drinks. I chose a drink from the limited Biohazard menu that was inspired by the red and green herbs that heal you in the game. It was a glass of soda water with two vials (red and green) of alcoholic syrup to add. Meg got something from the same menu called a “Shotgun,” which was basically spiked iced tea with whipped cream on top. For food, we started with Chun-Li’s chili-shrimp chahan (which was good), a plate of Dragon’s Dogma Fire Chips (loaded nachos which were actually burning for a minute or so when we got them), and a 逆転裁判 (Phoenix Wright) plate with a tower of onion rings, a croquette with a french fry stuck in it to resemble a gavel, and a piece of nori specially cut to say 「異議あり!」(Objection!).
Meanwhile, other tables were ordering different things, and when the two servers (a young man and woman) would bring them, they’d often spout off a line in-character, occasionally doing an exchange between them. However, they weren’t doing any of that at our table. We finally asked why, and the young man showed us that on the regular menu, there were certain menu items with a badge beside them that said “Performance Menu.” In addition to the mini-performances, the staff would occasionally call everyone’s attention to them and do something related to one of the games, including a brief trial situation from 逆転裁判.
I had a second drink called the T-Virus: a glass of soda water with an additional blue, brain-shaped piece of ice and a syringe full of blue alcoholic syrup to inject into the glass. The whole thing was a blast. Meg had brought me a Valentine’s gift before we entered, so when it came time to decide on Capcom merchandise to buy, I got her an oversized Capcom-logo t-shirt to wear around the house. They handed us each a couple coasters after we left (one of which we swapped for preferred characters), and we headed out.
After we left, we still had lots of time remaining, so she suggested we go to another theme bar, offering choices: an Anthony Inoki pro-wrestling bar, an elementary-school bar, and a prison bar. I wasn’t up for the wrestling bar, and the school bar was full, so we went to The Lockup, a moderately-famous theme bar patterned after a prison. We got there right at the end of a shift, where a monster apparently escapes and runs loose, so we had to wait ten or fifteen minutes. In short, each group gets a private “cell” with sliding metal-barred door. We didn’t spend much time there, each getting one drink (all with a prison/capital punishment theme). Meg, despite being full from the Capcom Bar, ordered snacks, which we didn’t finish. I will say that after seeing the menu, I can see where Capcom got many of its drink ideas for its own theme bar. A fun aside: all the servers are pretty girls in police uniforms, most likely bought from a costume shop. Our server’s hat read “Officer Naughty,” which made me chuckle. She admitted she had no idea what the hat actually said, so with my poor Japanese, I explained to her what it meant.
Meg and I have already decided to go back sometime, and want to take extra people with us next time. Also next time? I’m ordering from the Performance Menu, dammit.