Open for over 30 years, this small, cluttered little bar is a wonderfully relaxed place run by the mama-san until late evening, then her son till much later. An establishment so relaxed in fact that a good-sized rat that ran along a shelf behind my pal and I, caused only the briefest of distractions — a nod of recognition basically. Then, just as before, the drinking and conviviality continued on.
Last year, knowing nothing about the town other than that it was a good location on the way to, and from, some of Hokkaido’s more scenic spots, I spent an all too brief stopover in Muroran. Like so many other places in the region — and Japan as a whole outside the big cities — the jobs, and subsequently the population, have shrunk enormously, leaving behind a sad scene of former glory and faded memories. Photographs of which can be seen here.
Yet despite, or perhaps because of its decidedly forlorn nature, Muroran was somewhere I liked — a lot. It was peaceful. Fascinating in a sociological sense. Plus the people there were wonderfully friendly. And so, on a recent trip to some of Hokkaido’s small coastal towns, Muroran had to be on the itinerary.
Initial impressions, however, were that it had changed. A lick of paint and a freshly tarmacked road gave it the air of an area potentially on the rise. A hint of unexpected prosperity perhaps?
Needless to say, however, that wasn’t the case. The people are still lovely of course, but the quiet loneliness.
And the slightly surreal emptiness.
Is still very much the same.