Life in the Land of the Rising Sun

Tuesday, October 17, 2006

Between a Hard and a Rock Place

"How about the Hard Rock Cafe?"

It was last Sunday evening, and my family was at the AEON Shopping Mall in Narita. We had gone there mainly to look for new clothes for the kids, coffee, Halloween candy, and import food items. Now it was getting late, and we were debating what to do for dinner. Naturally, the kids wanted hamburgers, but my wife and I wanted a bit more substantial fare. This argument tends to pop up every time we go to Narita, and we usually wind up going to either McDonalds, Denny's, or Saizeriya (an Italian family restaurant chain). This time I wanted something different, especially after seeing that big, new, neon guitar out in front of the mall.

(I'm surprised I restrained myself from buying a new guitar, but I digress...)

There are apparently just over 120 Hard Rock Cafes worldwide, but until then I had only been to the one in San Francisco. The Hard Rock Cafe Narita actually opened in the AEON Shopping Mall last September 15th along with a whole new wing of shops, not to mention an impressive remodeling of the interior of the entire mall. Since my family visits AEON an average of once or twice a month we had already seen the new addition. There was also no missing the new cafe. However, as with any newly-opened attraction here in Japan, there was basically no hope of getting anywhere near it. We just looked at the signs and stuff from a distance, said, "Hey, NEAT," and went about our business.

Well, now a whole month had passed. In Japanese pop culture, that translates as "an eon" (in AEON)(hyuk hyuk). It was still likely that the Hard Rock Cafe would be busy, but it would be nothing like the novelty crunch back in September. That at least made it qualify as "possible", and that's why I suggested it. My wife, who had clearly been eyeballing the thing all along, made a show of giving in at the last minute, but I could tell she was excited about it.

Yes, the place was fairly crowded, but there was no wait to get in. It didn't look like the people inside were in any hurry to leave, and it was easy to see why. The rock memorabilia that covers the walls is like a museum of the genre. Right above our table was genuine cover art used in one of U2's albums, signed by all the members. There was a guitar used by Rick Nielsen of Cheap Trick, a saxophone used by Clarence Clemens of the E Street Band, and many other instruments, gold records, bits of costume, and signed concert posters that I never got a chance to check out up close. Even so, the biggest attraction by far was the large movie screen on which a steady stream of music videos played.

The selection was an unbelievable assortment of old and new. For example, Modern English came on followed by Stevie Nicks followed by Coldplay followed by Ozzie Osbourne ("Crazy Train"!) followed by some modern post-punk band I didn't know (and whose name I don't remember) followed by The Kinks followed by Collective Soul followed by New Order followed by... It was fun just waiting to see who would come up next. The sound, naturally, was of club loudness and sub-woofered to death, making it muddy and hard to follow, but it was still a blast. My wife and I were so glued to the screen (often singing along) that we hardly paid any attention to anything else.

The kids were both happy with their burger baskets. My grilled salmon and mashed potatoes was probably the most authentically American-style meal I'd ever had in Japan (not counting fast food), and it was plenty good, but my attention was still mainly riveted on the music videos. The cafe had some excellent beers available, including Samuel Adams and Anchor Steam, but since I had a long drive ahead I was a good boy and just had a Black Virgin (i.e. Coke)...with some remorse. My wife never said anything about her food. I think she was even more wrapped up in the videos than I was.

I should mention that the staff, all of whom were either decked out in Hard Rock Cafe memorabilia or tricked out in rock n' roll fashion, were a kick, too.

I think we were a bit reluctant to leave, but it was getting late, so we finally pried ourselves away. We even somehow avoided the gift shop. After that we went straight to the car, stuffed in all the bags, and headed for home, arriving an hour later than we should have (and trying very hard to keep the kids awake so they could get their school stuff together).

Okay, I've done the Hard Rock Cafe Narita thing. I can put that notch on my belt and get on with life. Hey, I might even go there again. The only trouble is that if I make it a habit, I'm definitely in danger of buying a new guitar...


  • There is a Hard Rock Cafe in Lahaina, Maui. I went once to appease the kids. I was in no danger of buying anything except food. Main reason I didn't got again was that it was located a long drive away from home.

    By the way, you may have read this from me in the past, but it is worth repeating:

    Never place a rock near a hard spot. It's bad "Wrong Feng Shui".

    By Blogger Pandabonium, at 4:08 PM  

  • there's a Hard Rock Cafe here in Bahrain. i love the place. they have some of the best things there, including some Elvis Presley and Beatles stuff, which i love. they have the big screen as well and play the hits one after another. i really enjoy going there because it feels like i'm in the U.S. i love singing along w/ the songs and we both spend all our time watching the screen for the next video.

    thanks for the memories! we haven't been there in a while... so maybe it's time to go there again.

    By Blogger tooners, at 7:00 PM  

  • I have been to enough Hard Rock Cafe's that I probably don't remember them all. Funny thing I have lived in DC for a couple years now and I know there is one here and up the road in Baltimore but I have not been to either one.

    For Kicks here is my attempt to remember them: London (the original), Tokyo, Osaka, Bangkok, Singapore, Paris, Dallas, San Antonio, Niagra Falls on both sides (one located in Canada and another located on the US side), Montreal, Toronto (I think), Myrtle Beach, Atlantic City...that is all I can remember for now anyway.

    By Anonymous The Intrepid Adventurer, at 6:09 AM  

  • Where is there not a Hard Rock Cafe?

    I've never been to one. In London, it is practically next door to Planet HOllywood, which I have done but never need to again. I assume one is as good as the other.

    By Blogger Olivia, at 7:16 AM  

  • In KL, the Hard Rock Cafe is in the Concorde Hotel along "hotel row", Jalan Sultan Ismail. It's mostly packed during the weekends. Love the place for the music (yes, loud), the memorabilia, the food, big portions of it. The only thing not so nice about it is the secondary smoke - something like enclosed haze in there.

    Which reminds me, I am still contemplating whether I should go to this Beatles Merseyside stint on Nov 4. These people are Beatles impersonators from London and will be performing at the HRC for a coupla hours and a real concert on Nov 2 at a convention center.

    Is Harley-Davidson synonymous with HRC because at the entrance of the one in KL, there's a HD motorbike up above the entrance.

    There is a Planet Hollywood in KL too.

    (Is there something not right about Blogger today? I've had to do this twice and I've not been able to post images on my blog.)

    By Blogger Happysurfer, at 2:49 PM  

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