The izakaya restaurant industry is on the brink of ruin thanks to their all-you-can-drink offers being taken up by gaijin diners.
All-you-can-drink courses, known locally as ‘nomihoudai’, are planned based on the average alcoholic consumption of the Japanese clientele, and restaurants adjust their prices accordingly. However, this month has seen izakayas fill up with foreigners as many ex-pats ready themselves to return to their countries of origin and celebrate this by holding sayonara parties, with nomihoudai being a prerequisite for attendance.
This is having a devastating effect on the restaurant industry.
“I have never seen anything like it,” said Gozo Amano, owner of ‘Kabuta’ izakaya in Meieki. “No sooner had they ordered one drink, they were pressing the buttons to order more. They were relentless drinking machines.”
“It was like a biblical plague,” said Daisuke Shimura who runs a yakitori restaurant in Sakae. “They swarmed in, took over the table and just drunk everything in sight. It was terrifying.”
The number of gaijin drinking nomihoudai this month is directly related to the mass-closures of restaurants in the city this month, according to Saya Mitsuda, spokeswoman for the Greater Region of East Aichi Society of Izakayas (GREASI):
“Restaurateurs are unable to cope with the demand of gaijin drinkers, who see nomihoudai less as a menu option and more of a challenge,” Mitsuda explained. “They drink increasing amounts as the night goes on, and it is causing restaurants to go bankrupt at an alarming rate.”
It is not just the financial aspect that is a concern, according to GREASI, as they are hearing reports of increasing numbers of restaurant staff suffering from PTSD after working amongst the drinking foreigners.
“The horror! The horror,” was all Nana Kato, a waitress at Yakitoya in Kanayama, could say.
Gaijin diners, however are unrepentant. “If they are going to put ‘nomihoudai’ on their menu, surely they are expecting you to order rounds of gin and tonics with sake-bomb chasers and nama-dai beers on the side,” said Jason Timms, who has been to eight izakayas in the last week, all of which have subsequently closed down. “It means all you can drink, not all you should drink. That’s semantics, bro!”