“If you miss your last train, you are welcome to sleep here for the night”
These were the last words we heard from Yan Chan as we left his bar late one Thursday night. A kind offer from someone we’d met just a few hours before. We had gone out that evening to meet a good friend of ours for the first time in four years, he said he was meeting someone at Yan Chan’s and suggested we join as it’s an interesting place to experience. And interesting it was! The vibe was friendly from the outset, the interior was defined by the array of things all over the bar, that by the looks of it had accumulated over many years. Vinyl records will always be a thing, but when you spot a shelf full of homemade cassette tapes, you know they’ve been there a while.
After the first beer, it was time to go exploring. Happy that the camera was in my bag I spent half an hour getting lost looking at all of the stuff on display, whilst trying my best the capture the atmosphere of the place. It really felt like we were round a mates house, having a few beers whilst listening to a good selection of music. And from the cash left lying behind the bar for the duration of the night, it was obvious that Yan Chan treated his customers like friends, and trusted everyone in the room. I feel that this kind of trust is built over many years of good experiences.
There is a menu over the bar, but all of our dishes were decided by Yan Chan, our friend Tabo would signal over the bar that we wanted something else to eat and a little while later a dish would arrive, always very different from the last. Yan Chan had a lot of creativity when it came to cooking, with a strong belief in organic foods and veggies grown in his garden. After snapping some more pictures and enjoying another round of food and drinks, Yan Chan was winding down from a pretty busy evening behind the bar. I took that opportunity to find out how this place came to be.
25 years before, Yan Chan left high school and found himself renting this place. Lots of his friends started to visit, and somehow it quickly evolved into a bar. With the help of a few friends he erected the wooden, metal roofed structure that acts as the main bar area, that joins onto the living room of the existing house. There’s almost no blank spots on the walls, it’s got a real diy feel to it, and everything shows the textures of time. I couldn’t help but think what it must be like to look at life from that side of the bar for the last 25 years, the jokes, the characters, the stories told. It made me think that there are so many ways in which we can see the world. Mayu and I choose to travel by bike, skimming the surface of so many cultures, but Yan Chan has dedicated many years to his craft, and running a place that instantly feels like a home.
Japan has a very particular bar culture, the setting is often small and intimate, and after no time at all everyone is interacting with one another. Which is interesting, as it’s a stark contrast to the streets of any big Japanese city. This bar gave me the sense that places like these are needed by society, to unwind and connect with one another, giving us all the feeling that we are welcome any time at Yan Chan’s house for drink and something to eat. If you are interested in this experience pop into Yan Chan’s world in the bay area on the south side of Osaka.