Paul Gibson

Proprietor, The Fiddler Pub
Time in Japan:
7 years

We used to be called the Mean Fiddler, but people were always calling it ' Fiddler', so we thought we would change the name.

Plus people kept thinking we had some kind of connection with the Mean Fiddler organisation in London, which we haven't. And we found that Japanese people especially misunderstood the use of the word 'mean', thinking it meant 'stingy'. So we decided to shorten it to The Fiddler.

Another misapprehension is that we are an Irish pub. We're not! I'm British, and so is my partner, so why would we want to open an Irish pub? We sell Guinness, but we sell a whole range of British and foreign beers as well. And we do proper British pub food, all under ?1000: fish'n'chips, shepherd's pie, ploughman's lunch. I don't know how the Irish thing got started, although we do have an Irish folk evening on the last Wednesday of every month. The funny thing about that is the band are Japanese. They're amazing, really good. The vocalist is brilliant, she sounds almost like an opera singer and she even sings in Gaelic!

We've been open about eighteen months now. The first three or four months were really tough. Some nights we were virtually empty.
It was especially nerve-wracking because we'd spent all our money getting the place open, so we had nothing to fall back on. But we started advertising, and things started to pick up. But what really made the difference was the music. That really got the crowds in.
Thursdays, it's usually a solo singer/guitarist or a duo. I suppose you'd call it soft rock, rather than folk. Then Friday and Saturday nights it's usually hard rock'n'roll. One of the bands that play here most are Blast, they're pretty popular. They do mostly covers, it's mostly dancing music, and we get quite a young, very genki crowd, and there's a lot of dancing going on. The other band that play here a lot are The Hitmen, which is a similar kind of thing. We also have some blues bands playing here, like the Bottleneck Blues Band. They're a great, really fast, electric blues band, so people are up and dancing to them, too. There's no cover charge, either. All the music here is free.

The bands don't start until 9pm or 9:30pm, so usually people come in and eat first, then the tables are cleared away so there's room to dance. We do sell a lot of food, but we're definitely more of a pub than a restaurant. We also do a drink speciality called Dracula's Blood; it's a German drink, it's red and tastes a bit like spicey Ribena - with alcohol - and we serve it in tests tubes. It's a bit of a gimmick, but if one person orders it, it seems to start a chain reaction! On draught we've got Guinness and Bass. Plus we've got Bodington's, that gives a nice creamy head, and a lot of European lagers too. And we usually have a special; this week it's an American beer called Wild West.

We don't import the beer ourselves. You have to buy through the big brewers. Guinness is brought in by Sapporo, Bass by Asahi. You can import beers yourself: for instance, there's a British real ale called Old Speckled Hen that will be in Japan soon, and I believe that's being brought in privately. But it's much easier and cheaper to buy through the breweries.

I run this place with a partner, Nick Ward. His wife's Japanese and so is mine, so they were able to help with a lot of the paperwork when we were starting up. To be honest, we didn't find any barriers against us setting up here because we were foreigners. In fact, generally speaking things are a lot more relaxed here than it would be back home. Why a pub? I've always liked hanging around pubs. It's been a dream for a long time, to open a pub. It didn't have to be Japan, but I was here, so it seemed to be the best place to do it.

Paul spoke to Rob Prince.

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