When bar-owners scratch their chins and try to think up appealing names for their establishments, they usually want words which seem inviting and up-beat. Bright and breezy words like Cheers, that bring forth images of parties and good times, names that would draw in customers like moths to the flame. Not so in Japan!
Take, for instance, Refrain. When you want to let off steam and go a little nuts at night, the last word you want to hear is “refrain”. It’s a word you’d normally see on a list of petty rules on the wall of a swimming pool.
“When you are in this bar, please refrain from eating, talking, drinking, smoking and chewing gum. Strictly no fun allowed!”
Speak Low is a bar with a name that would be more suitable for a library. I can imagine a waspish woman sitting behind the bar, hissing “shhh!” every time you open your mouth to speak.
There is another bar in Tokyo called Prison.
What less pleasing environment could you imagine for a Saturday night party, than a cold, sterile jail cell? A sign on the website says “welcome to prison.”
That’s as terrifying a phrase as I’ve ever heard. I wonder if, for the sake of authenticity, there is a tattooed psychopath waiting to attack you in the toilet. Don’t drop the soap when you’re washing your hands!
Despite the ominous names, I’m sure all these bars are perfectly fun places to hit. Names can be deceptive. I mean, look at Goofy’s Bar. With a name like that, you’d expect the walls to be covered with Disney pictures, whoopee-cushions on the seats and a buck-toothed guffawing moron behind the bar, whistling “Zip-a-Dee-Doo-Dah”.
Wrong! Take a look: