In my student days of carousing along Yanagi-kōji, the “Willow Lane” near Hakodate Station, I once conceived the notion of trying every single fizz on offer there. Starting with a gin fizz, I downed a mocha fizz, a banana fizz . . . by the end of the night I could barely walk, and my hangover the next day seemed to have a hangover of its own. But it was far from rare to see people staggering along Willow Lane late at night in those long-ago decades when the city was flush with money from salmon and trout fishing in the seas to the north.
The bar Suginoko was founded in an old banana warehouse under the willow leaves in 1958, at the height of the postwar boom. Redevelopment forced a move to a new location nearby several years ago, but the bar is still going strong after more than six decades.
The rum highball has always been one of Suginoko’s popular drinks. The price has risen from ¥60 to ¥250, but given inflation this is still a bargain. And it comes with a free smile from Suginoko’s current owner, Aoi Motoko.
One summer over a decade ago, the bar’s first owner, Sugime Yasurō, joined forces with some university students to open a “one-night Suginoko” by the old pier. I made sure to drop by, savor the old harbor atmosphere, and get drunk on the fresh sea breeze. Sugime always was the spirited type, and his successor Aoi carries on that tradition today.
About four minutes on foot from the Hakodate-eki-mae tram stop.