About    Stories    Music


by GB Absher

It’s a learning experience for sure that awakened something that had been dormant for so long. Being alone at night in a city where nothing makes sense, figuring out the trains and the subway with madre; a hotel with a bidet and pajamas and the old familiar feeling of a ramen bar, except everything is in Japanese and you pay at a vending machine.

I had to take an umbrella out from the hotel lobby because it’s pouring outside. Not as hard as it was on the train in from Kansai airport, but water sure is still falling from the sky. The subway is something that always feels familiar now as well, except the characters make it tricky. I manage to get off at the right stop though and out onto the street and into an older looking part of the city with single lanes and one-way traffic and old orb street lights and no sidewalks. Everyone is walking in amongst the slow traffic and everyone has clear umbrellas, everyone. Mine finds a comfortable place in my palm and on my shoulder, and sometimes it bumps into passersby going the other way because the space between the buildings is just that skinny. It’s a maze of alleys, wet slippery alleys. Only the brave few don’t wear masks under their umbrellas. All the men are in suits too, and I’m lost.

It’s a few u-turns before I find the bar I’m looking for: The Bible Club. It’s a discreet wooden door next to a set of two much more grandiose ones, and behind the door is a set of stairs going down to a landing and a turn and another wood door which leads to an old-timey speakeasy of a whiskey and gin joint. It’s old wood and Americana and two Japanese bartenders with worn leather aprons and excellent posture.  

There’s no one else in the joint save for me and a seductive southeast asian with short hair died green in the front sitting at the bar. A couple gets up to leave from a table in the back corner as I come in. I don’t sit right next to the woman stirring her cocktail, I sit two stools down and look at the extensive whiskey list on thick parchment paper. The lighting just allows me to read it without squinting.

I ask the bartender if the Old Santory is peaty. He says it’s not, so Old Santory it is. He pours it over a big ball rock and asks me where I’m from.

Los Angeles, I tell him. I ask him where he's from. Just kidding, I don’t. But I do ask the girl two stools down eventually and she tells us she works in a hotel pastry kitchen in Hong Kong. She works twelve hour days making chocolate sculptures, but she’s in Osaka for four days to see a member of BTS perform at a music awards show at the Doma.

Then in walks another bearded gringo. But his Japanese is far and away much better than mine, which isn’t saying much. But he’s obviously fluent. Turns out he’s French, from Brittany, and he’s been living in Osaka since just before the pandemic. He’s a bartender too. He sits two stools down from me. It isn’t until after midnight that he informs us that the subways don’t run after midnight. There’s an oh fuck moment from me and Miss BTS pastry chef, and while I’m talking to Clement, the french bartender, I catch a lovely whiff of cigarette.

It’s at this time that I’m informed you can still smoke inside bars in Japan. “But you can’t smoke outside,” Clement tells me.

The pastry chef tells us that you can’t even take your mask off outside in Hong Kong. They’ll fine you. Then she lets us each bum one. Too bad their menthols. Kelly, my old manager at Gjusta once upon a time, would’ve loved it.

What a rag-tag crew we make, here at the very end of a lonesome weekday night; nobody in the joint but bartenders, a pastry chef, and a server -- a common thread among us; a certain affinity for good cocktails and timeless service. The boys behind the bar -- Kazuta Nishikawa and Ryusuke Fujimoto -- do not disappoint. There is an undeniable pride in what they do and it shows. I already miss them.

Venice, CA
est. 2018

(for take away); We focus on the passions and aspirations of people working in the service industry. Each printed issue tells the stories and exhibits work from the good folks at one particular restaurant.