“Show me a man who is good at pool, and I’ll show you a man who had a misspent youth,” my father once said. It was one of those times that made me realize that my father was not the fountain of all knowledge that I had thought him in my childhood because both neither he nor I am any good at pool and, from what my mother says, my father’s youth was even more misspent than mine. And that’s saying something.
Though I may be pretty poor on the pool table, that doesn’t mean that I don’t enjoy a game. For me, like many others, many an hour can be whiled away, beer in one hand, cue in the other, trying to figure out the mathematical equations that will get those little balls down the holes, those same equations that I once smugly informed my maths teacher that I would never need in the real world. Sorry, Miss Perkis.
Unfortunately, unlike most bars and pubs back home, where the installation of a pool table is pretty much standard, Japan’s bars are pretty much pool-free zones. However, if you do want to get out there and try your luck on the tables, it is possible.
Perhaps the choice that will make you feel most at home is Shooters in Fushimi. This American-style bar has a full-sized table that is free of charge on weekdays from 17:00 to 19:00 and on weekends from 11:30 to 19:00, and on Tuesday nights it is free all night long. Furthermore, they also have darts, a foosball table and show sports on the TV.
Styled after a British billiards hall, Fat Cat in Showa-Ku is where to go when if you want to play UK 8 ball rules. Open from 15:00 to 1:00, it costs 600 JPY per hour for men and 480 JPY for women, though it is cheaper if you become a member. Should you wish to play for longer, there is a ‘free time’ choice between 15:00 and 20:00 that’ll set you back 1500 JPY or 1200 JPY, gender-dependent. It is closed most Thursdays, but check the website for changes.
Okay, yes I know that this is a karaoke joint. However, on the ground floor, there is a pool hall with six tables. The payment system is similar to the karaoke, and you can include the nomihoudai (all you can drink) option if you wish, there is a vending machine with beer (and it’s pretty easy to just smuggle your own stuff in, but you didn’t hear that from me). The equipment is pretty shoddy – some of the queues don’t even have tips – so don’t stage any tournaments, but on the plus side, it is open 24 hours a day. Costs vary on your options, but it generally works out pretty cheaply. Head up to the 2nd floor to book your table.
Formerly Billiards & Cafe SPACE G, Billiards JIN claims to be the largest billiards hall in the Chubu region, with six pool tables, five carom tables, and two snooker tables. It was refurbished in 2017, and as such most of the equipment is still pretty spanking new. It’s 600 JPY for men and 420 JPY for women, and for a three-hour set it’s 1,200 and 800 JPY respectively. If you don’t want to embarrass yourself (and if you thought I was bad at pool, you should see me on a snooker table) or just want to want to brush up your skills, lessons are given by a 2010 Asian Olympics Japan National Team member.
This billiards hall in Showa Ward – just down the road from Fat Cat – is for when you want to rack them up early. Opening from 7 in the morning until 2 the following morning and even serving breakfast until 10:30, you really can spend your entire day on the baize. The standard games played there are regular pocket pool and carom, but if you are unsure of the rules they are pretty helpful in clearing things up for you. It’s 640 JPY for men and 560 JPY for women, though its 550 JPY and 440 JPY for members.