Looking more like a vintage toy emporium than a drinking hole, Characters, a self-styled “cafe/bar/fleamarket” offers the unique opportunity to drink while browsing for used toys. A shrine to Western retro pop-culture, you can knock back beers or coffee in the company of ancient McDonalds Happy meal toys, stuffed Bugs Bunnys and plastic Pink Panthers. Colourful and weird, it looks like a bar you might find in Sesame Street. If you’ve ever wanted to get wasted in Toys R Us, you can finally do it without getting arrested.
Although all the toys and trinkets within seem to be of American origin, Characters bar is a quintessentially Japanese joint. Mad places like this don’t exist anywhere else in the world because drunken lads would be too tempted to steal the toys for souvenirs, as an amusing alternative to traffic cones.
Most of the toys are for sale, but they ain’t cheap, even though most of the merchandise could be found gathering dust in every attic or charity shop in the USA. However, if you’re getting smashed, be careful you don’t become overwhelmed by nostalgia and fork out a fortune for a Gremlins lunchbox or a Flintstones frisbee, as I once did.
In addition to the pleasing presence of artifacts like ALF dolls and Mr T action figures, the music is fittingly old-school and fun. Tunes by the likes of Duran Duran or KC and the Sunshine Band are usually spinning, and often old 1980s music videos are being shown on the TV behind the bar. They do a nice selection of cocktails, and Characters has the dubious distinction of being one of the only places in Yokohama where you can buy 7Up.
As ever in Japan, space is at a premium, and the place is so crammed with shelves and cabinets full of valuable toys and commemorative plates, you might feel uncomfortable about making any sudden movements. When you add alcohol into the equation, the words “bull” and “china shop” spring to mind.
Closing time is 2AM (or midnight on Sundays), so if you want to continue the night somewhere more hedonistic, there’s another bar directly above called “Party Animals” which should fit the bill. But by that time you’ll probably be feeling dizzy from all the bright colours, and uneasy from the benign gazes of Smurfs.
Kikuya Bldg 1F
1-19 Ishikawa-cho, Naka-Ku,
Yokohama Shi 231-0826
Tel: (045) 6503080
Open on Tuesday to Saturday from 3PM to 2AM, and Sunday from noon to midnight.