By Peter Sidell
Needing an idea of somewhere to go for dinner on my first night in Hachinohe, I asked for a recommendation from the friendly guy at the candle store in Hacchi, the city's information and craft center. He recommended Bon, a little izakaya in the warren of streets in the downtown area south of Hon-Hachinohe station, so that's where I went, and I came to be very glad I did.
The interior is small and cosy, with just a few stools at the counter and a couple of tables, though it also has an upstairs room with more space (I assume). It's dimly lit, with chilled background music, and a complete jumble of a mix of a melting pot of decor: spice and sauce bottles on the counter, posters, prints ornaments, knick-knacks and banknotes around the walls, The result is an atmosphere that's both mellow and lively, a place where you can relax but be uplifted at the same time.
The menu is a bit of a pan-Asian hodge-podge, with Thai curry rubbing its spicy shoulders with Vietnamese pho and a range of other dishes from across south-east Asia and the subcontinent; it's all in Japanese, but the capable English-speaking owner/master can help you decipher it. I opted for steamed chicken on lime rice, and had a smooth guava juice while I waited. The chicken was certainly worth waiting for; the meat was sumptuously tender and tasty, and was offset nicely by the rice, with its soft texture and subtle tang of lime.
I could guess from his colorful psychedelic T-shirt and rugged but young-at-heart demeanour that the master had an interesting past, and so it proved. Over a tasty cocktail made from lychee liqueur and pineapple juice which served as my dessert, he told me that he'd traveled a lot in Europe, India and Thailand, and that for several years he'd organised trance parties where he'd performed as a firedancer.
As the evening went on, we chatted more with some other customers over further cocktails, some bouncy trance found its way onto the CD player, and I stayed longer than I'd planned because I was enjoying the vibe so. It's clear that the master's travels and experiences have shaped his personality, and his personality has shaped his bar; this is what makes it such a friendly, interesting place to eat, drink and hang out.
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I came to Japan from Manchester, England in summer 2003, and have travelled a lot since then, around Japan and in Asia. When I`m not working I write satire at www.iothern.blogspot.com and perform stand-up comedy in and around Tokyo. Check my youtube channel `CunningPunster` for a taste.