Hanging With Penguins At Kobe’s “Bar Little Feat”
by Jordan Mounteer
photo by http://drunkman.jugem.jp/?eid=128
It’s hard to say exactly where the Japanese fascination with animals, food, and entertainment comes from, but regardless, it’s a country that has capitalized on the convergence of all three, attracting both locals and tourists alike. And although Tokyo is the hotspot for exotic recreation – ranging from iconic cat cafés where patrons can sip coffee surrounded by pampered and indolent felines, to a coveted place in line at the Fukuro no Mise (or Owl Store) where guests have the opportunity to pet owls – themed establishments exist across Japan.
And there’s a bit of a competitive edge to come up with something unique. There is also a Japanese cultural trend that leans toward the cute, and in the heart of Kobe’s Sannomiya District a reservation at Bar Little Feat will you earn a table across from three adorable penguins in a large plexiglass swimming pool.
The three penguins – Little Feat, Bari, and Luffy, respectively – waddle out of their small wooden house and waver at the edge of the water, almost as if reconsidering. Finally the bravest of them dives gracefully into the water and begins to playfully splash around, eliciting high-pitched giggles and a repetitive exclamations of Kawaii from nearby patrons. There is even a feeding time, where guests can watch (and occasionally partake in) the penguin’s feeding time. Although, given a penguin’s diet, it’s more likely to discourage an appetite – the owner comes in with a tin bucket full of smelly fish and the penguins happily converge, messily devouring their meal.
The bar seems to attract all demographics, from salary men finishing off a long day to teens and couples on a romantic date. And while the main attractions are undeniably the short water-borne mascots, the bar itself is very iconic and hip, located in a labyrinthine basement off a main street and crammed to the corners with antique Americana junk, including a functional 1950’s cash register and an old bicycle and gas pump from Southbend, Indiana with a similar history. A veritable library of old LP’s line the floor-to-ceiling shelf behind the bar’s main row of stools, and there’s always classic music lilting gently through the speakers, everything from smooth jazz to opera.
Japan is not always known for its humane treatment of animals (by way of example, Shikoku still has dog fighting and in the onsen town of Beppu you can find crocodiles chained to the hot springs), so sometimes you have to wonder about novelty bars and cafes like this one. However, Bar Little Feat seems to take the opposite approach – while the penguins are generally on display during business hours, which only really gets started in the late evening, the rest of the time the penguins have another pen to frolic around in.
I was also quite happy to see that they weren’t exposed to really bright lights; the atmosphere in the bar is very laid back and dim, giving a feel of relaxation, and the music is never too loud as to upset the birds or interrupt a conversation. Additionally, all the penguins look very well fed and people are discouraged from tapping on the glass (although this tends to happen anyway). Nevertheless, as a chill place to kick back on a weekend night it has a lot going for it. The drinks aren’t particularly cheap, but the bartender doesn’t skimp on the alcohol and while a classic Kamikaze may set you back 800 yen, you can be guaranteed it’ll be stiff. Their martini and cocktail menu is quite expansive given the smallness of the interior – there are only about five or so small tables and the actual bar has room for about six stools – so there is plenty of variety to choose from.
But again it’s the ‘smallness’ of the establishment that really holds the charm (minus the penguins, of course). Japan is famous for its izakaya culture, consisting of smaller standing type bars or places where one can drink in a more intimate environment, and Bar Little Feat certainly takes this philosophy to mind. It’s not a dance party or club, it’s a soothing place to take a load off, chat with friends, or go on a first date, and if the plethora of salvaged antiques don’t make for good conversation pieces the penguins certainly will.
All in all, if you want a unique bar experience at a reasonable price but are hesitant to indulge some of the animal-themed establishments that comprise the nightlife subculture, Bar Little Feat offers both and a peace of mind that the animals are treated fairly and kindly!
Bar Little Feat
2-12-26 Shimoyamatedori Chuo-ku Kobe Hyogo
兵庫県 神戸市中央区 下山手通 2-12-26 フジモトビル Ｂ１Ｆ
Sun-Thu & Sun 6pm-2:30am / Fri-Sat & Before Holiday 6pm-4:30am