Yokohama is going to host British national team for the Tokyo 2020 Olympics and Paralympics games. Indeed, Yokohama was one of the first places to adopt British culture back in the 19th century when the city’s port was opened to foreign trade, and, even today, there are still hallmarks of British culture to be found strongly rooted in the streets of the city.
Here, with the aim of getting to know Britain better, I would like to introduce one of the uniquely British cultures, the “pub”.
To do that, I spoke with Clive Poole and Kae Doshin, the publican and chef of “Full Monty”, a British pub they have been running in Yokohama for the last 15 years, about their thoughts on GO GB 2020.
On that note, why don’t we take a look at an authentic British pub to get an idea about British culture?
The pub – a social arena indispensable to the British.
The pub is something that has developed in Britain with a special twist on the public bar. When one mentions the UK, the “pub” is always in the conversation. Even in films, there are often scenes featuring pubs. The ambience of a pub says a lot about the daily lives of British people, but what does the “pub” really mean as a place to the British?
Looking back in history, the formal name for a pub is a “public house”, literally “pub” means “house”. So, what started with the custom of the British inviting people into their homes to socialize became an external affair, with bars jointly run in places such as inns, shops and cricket clubs, evolving into the “pubs” known today.
Thus, the pub is the starting point for revealing how the British like to communicate – namely, drinking and talking convivially in the good company of dear friends.
Pubs are where we British people gather to socialize. As a nation, the British enjoy meeting people and sharing a drink over a chat. So, after work or on the weekend, families will say, ‘Let’s go to the pub!’ and head off to the local. And, it doesn’t matter what the occasion, as the great thing about pubs is how really easy they are to drop into.”
“Groups are welcome, of course, but so are individuals. Customers enjoy the banter of whoever is in the pub in whatever situation. Yet, that doesn’t mean that socializing is a forced agenda. One of the charms of pubs is the comfortable sense of distance between customers. Indeed, among our customers, there are individuals who will quietly spend their time drinking on their own from opening to closing time.
Thus, each in his or her own way is free to do as they please, which means the pub is an invaluable place for British people to relax in. I’d say that the pub is a unique bit of culture that doesn’t exist in Japan, don’t you think?”
In recent years, smoking has been banned in British pubs, paving the way for a growing number of kids’ friendly pubs in the UK, it seems, which is similar to the kids’ spaces and kids’ menus starting to be offered in dining bars in Japan.
Let’s enjoy some “Cider”, the flavor and aroma of Britain, in the setting of a British pub!
I was quick off the mark to ask Clive and Kae about what things are on the menu of an authentic British pub!
First off, drinks. Well, if we’re talking about British pub drinks, then they’ve got to be beers and ciders. Straight off, I have to note that cider is not something we associate with Japanese bars, which doubtless makes it an exotic drink for us Japanese. Cider is “apple juice alcohol”. Incidentally, in France, it’s known as “cidre”.
Ciders are not only made in the UK but also in various other countries, such as France, Spain and Germany. But, in the UK, special varieties of apple are grown for cider, and some ciders are made in accordance with ancient methods. If you get a chance to go to a British pub, do try the cider, as it comes from a deeply intriguing culture.”
Full Monty carries 70 types of cider – an array that speaks of an authentic pub and evidently draws customers from many, many miles away. Most brands come in 500ml bottles, each poured into a glass for your enjoyment.
Beers come in units of “pints” or “half pints”. These are the measures you order in! (BTW: 1 pint = approximately 568ml).
Next is the cuisine. And, of course, the archetypal “soul foods” for British people have to be “fish-and-chips”, “meat pies” and “roast dinners”.
Stewed meat et al baked in a pie. And, at Full Monty, everything – from the pie pastry onward – is made by hand.
Lamb Steaks & Mash with Homemade Gravy”
The gravy – an essential in British cooking – is made from stewed beef bones, cooked slowly in the oven for 5 hours.
A mouth-watering delight of whitefish coated in batter made from flour and beer.
“Just like we have a culture of bonito (katsuo) and seaweed (konbu) in Japan,” says Kae, “so the British feel at home when they smell gravy. The aroma of gravy at dinnertime in the streets of Britain is a unique one. Likewise, at the Full Monty, many of our customers are British who are looking for the flavor of home!”
Things to know about the Full Monty that will make things even more of a delight include the need to order food and drinks at the bar, and pay when you get your order. The pub also employs a unique house rule for groups, where individual members of a group take turns to buy a “round of drinks” for the group.
Cider and the flavors and aromas of Britain, along with encounters and conversations are the true pleasures of a British pub. So, why not stretch your legs and step into the Full Monty, to delight in the true flavors or a real British pub?
Thinking of the connection between the UK and Yokohama, I want to broadcast British culture, anew!
Finally, I asked Kae and Clive about their thoughts on GO GB 2020.
When Japan opened up to commerce with the world, Yokohama was the first to adopt British culture, giving the city a strong British connection. And, as the city will be hosting Team GB during the 2020 Olympics and Paralympics, I want to broadcast British culture, anew!
I personally like football and rugby, so it would be great to create opportunities to introduce British culture to my customers while we enjoy some sport on screen at the Full Monty.”
I want to take this opportunity to remind people of the wonderful food culture Britain has. It is rarely acknowledged, but popular dishes, such as sandwiches and roast beef, originated in the UK. British culture exists everywhere in Yokohama. Yet, it is so woven into our daily lives that we cannot see it!
Thus, we are planning some events to bring British culture into focus again, so that we can pass on even more of the delights of British culture to the many people who come to watch the Olympics and Paralympics or visit Yokohama for sightseeing.”
This time round, I have introduced the British pub, an essential part of any conversation about the British.
Pub life is not well known in Japan, but step across the threshold, and you will find a warm British-style community, where even strangers delight in easy-going chitchat.
So, why not take this opportunity to experience the delights of a British pub?
Interviews: Mari Matsumura, GOGB column writer
Photos: Yoshikata Yamamoto , GOGB column photographers