When you say Narita, many people probably think of Naritasan Shinshoji Temple, but it is not the only thing to see. In Narita, there are many people who provide hospitality to visitors, and I would like you to know about them. Here, we will introduce them to you as “People of Narita”!
Our guest this time is Shigeru Kanazawa, owner of Pub Lounge Emi. He runs a lounge where you can sing, play, and drink for more than 60 years in a back alley along Naritasan Omotesando. We spoke with him in detail about the changes in his pub and his goals for the future.
ーFirst, please tell us about your career to date.ー
I was born and raised in Narita and have always lived in Narita.
My mother was going to finish this bar in her generation and I was going to get a job, so I was allowed to go to college, but my father died when I was a junior in college, so I had to take over the business in a hurry. If it had been just a bar, I would not have done it, but since I was also running a retail ice shop, I decided to take over at the same time I graduated from college.
Emi was started by my mother in 1959 under the name of Tris Bar Emi. My mother, who is now 93 years old, told me that in the days when a highball was 80 yen per glass, it was a fun time with regular customers who came in every day.
But I didn't want to take over in the way my mother had been running the bar. I couldn't take over a bar that did business with girls. As a condition for taking over the business, my mother retired and asked me to quit all the female employees and let me work in a way that did not do business with hostesses.
So I got my mother's approval, and since I was the coach of the Narita High School soccer alumni team, there was no shortage of part-time jobs for boys, "Cool guy, work a little bit, get a part-time job" (laughs). I was apprehensive at first, but Narita is a place with a large female clientele. Even if there were no girls there, it was a good place for groups of women and men to go out for drinks. The number of customers from the airline industry increased considerably, and I thought there was no need for girls. That's how it's been ever since.
I was a player myself on Narita High School soccer alumni team, but when I turned 50 or so, I was indeed no longer able to play soccer, and when I thought about what I would do next as a hobby, I decided to play the guitar.
ーDid you start when you were 50?ー
I started playing guitar when I was 50 years old. So the bar became a little more like a live music club. There was a time when we hired a professional singer to play guitar for a while, because I couldn't play yet. He worked for me for about five years, but he died in an accident.
Until that time, he was a professional singer, so it was not in the form of playing, guests were just listening to him. But when he passed away, I thought I would take his place, and the guests around me said, "I can do it, too." (laughs).That was a good thing, on the contrary, because it turned out well into a form of guest participation.
Now we have made the Narita String Festival our presentation, rented Lion, and have made it our goal to participate in that once a year for the last 15 years or so, and that's what we are doing now.
ーWhen it opened, was it just a place where you could drink alcohol?ー
Tris Bar Emi, Snack Emi, and now Pab Lounge Emi. Each time, we have changed the form of the bar a little, but we are still here today.
ーWhat about the name Emi?ー
It is her mother's name. Even now, people often ask me, "Shall I go get her? She is 93 years old." (laughs).
ーWhat is your favorite spot in Narita?ー
I love Emi so much, I hardly ever go out (laughs).
I used to have a day off every week, but then I realized that it costs a lot less to have a drink here with guests than to go out for a drink, and the clientele is really good. Cheap but good.
ーIt is at the end of an alley, so it may be difficult for first-time visitors to enter.ー
Most of them are regulars, and those who come for the first time are usually introduced by someone else.
ーHow would you like to work toward the future?ー
I hope it continues to be the place I enjoy the most (laughs).
ーDo you have a message for our readers?ー
It is a city where you can taste everything: airplanes, tradition, history, and modernization. I want you to feel that.