About eighteen months ago there was a big stooshie when a British lady living in China discovered a chain of fake Apple stores in the city of Kunming. One can therefore imagine my excitement at ‘discovering’ an FC Bayern restaurant in the southern Japanese city of Fukuoka, replete with signed balls, Bayern-branded bags and even frosted glass bearing the club crest.
As it turns out, though, this restaurant is completely legit. And when I use the term ‘legit’, I mean both the traditional form – a short form of ‘legitimate’ – and the form more recently used by skater dudes to delineate something exciting, high quality or interesting.
If you look on the official FC Bayern website, a search for the word ‘Fukuoka’ yields no results. The list of official shops says the only branches are in Munich and Oberhausen. So what’s the deal here? A few years ago, a German-speaking chap living in Fukuoka with his Japanese wife established, with the blessing of the Bundesliga giants, Japan’s first officially licensed FC Bayern outlet. Branding, signage and memorabilia were acquired, and a tonne of official merchandise was shipped in to stock the in-house Bayern Fan Shop, and a tie-in was struck with the city’s Bäckerei.
Since then, not only has the joint become something of a focal point for the expat community living in Japan’s fifth-largest city, but has also attracted scores of football-mad locals. Live games – both Japanese and European – are shown at various times of the day, and highlights from the week’s global soccer scene play at other times.
Step inside and the first thing that greets you is a massive bank of baking. Bread, pretzels and cakes stretch for metres and metres over three shelves. In the middle is a bar, onto which two huge taps, one for Paulaner and one for Krombacher, are bolted. And on the right is a deceptively deep alcove containing all of the official merchandise (shirts, keyrings, parasols, beach towels) that is shipped in from Munich on a regular basis.
The back of the shop is where all the cool stuff (for footy fans at least) is. There are signed balls in Perspex cases, old jerseys in frames, and a big mural depicting Bavarian scenes. Paul Breitner and his afro look down over diners from a large photo mounted high on the wall, standing guard alongside other Bayern legends such as Oliver Kahn, Karl-Heinz Rummenigge and Franz Beckenbauer. A whiteboard in the middle of the shop shows the current Bundelsiga table, updated daily with the aid of magnetic strips bearing the teams’ names and a couple of board markers. The redundant strip of relegated Hertha Berlin lies face-up on the floor.
As appealing as the ice-cold beer looks, I am horribly hung over so stick to the German-speaking world’s other two beverages – fruit juice and Wiener coffee. A delicious tree of warm salty Pretzels arrives with long finger rolls filled with salami, cheese and lettuce. Next up is a goulash-type dish containing tomatoes, chicken and potatoes, accompanied by two large hunks of warm, soft bread.
Unfortunately, given my futsukayoi state I am unable to give much in-depth feedback on the finer details of the food. Subtleties such as flavour and texture were lost in the rush to restore my innards to something resembling normality after the previous night’s indiscretions. What I can say, though, was that the food really hit the spot, and the fact I was able to enjoy it while catching up on the week’s Champions’ League action made it even better. Had we come the following day, we would have been able to see the Japanese Second Division clash between Avispa Fukuoka and Gainare Tottori. Although that seemed interesting at the time, I saw some J2 action on the TV later in the day and was relieved to find it was of Scottish standard (i.e. pish).
The food revived me in time to properly savour the range of sweets on offer alongside a tiramisu latte. This I enjoyed whilst leafing through one of the many editions of Bayern Magazin the shop had for customers to peruse and reading the day’s national sports newspapers. Whilst doing so I also reclined on the FC Bayern bench – or technical area, whatever they call it these days – that has been meticulously reconstructed along one wall of the restaurant facing a big screen. Presumably this is to encourage the chewing of gum, looking at one’s watch, leaning forward with head in hands and other manager-esque behaviour whilst viewing matches on the telly – although now I come to think of it, I do that when watching fitba’ anyway.
I leave feeling much, much better – but to say this place is good for curing hangovers is to do it a massive dis-service. The other meat dishes are delicious, the beers are fantastic and the baked goods are out of this world – quite easily on a par with anything I’ve ever actually had in Germany or Austria. As much as I’d love to be able to open a similar kind of franchise for my own team and country if I ever move to Japan, I just can’t see the punters queuing up for a Kirkcaldy-themed restaurant. In any case, the pies would never be allowed through Japanese quarantine, and the Irn-Bru would be designated a corrosive substance.