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Hack your way into a computerized cocktail

by Angela Erika Kubo

While some bars have live music to bring in customers, newly opened Hackers Bar in Tokyo’s Roppongi district holds live computer coding events to bring in the programmers.

The bar’s owner and founder, Akihiro Nakao, is an entrepreneur who had dabbled in programming since he was a child but graduated from Miyazaki University’s department of medicine and obtained a medical license. Rather than becoming a doctor, Nakao decided to enter the IT world and become a web engineer. At one point he was involved in the development of mixi, Japan’s largest social-networking website. Now 32, Nakao runs a medical-related IT company called Hymena (www.hymena.jp) during the day, and at night he moonlights as a bartender and “hacker.”

“In a nutshell it’s a bar where you can consult a hacker. We aim to be a bar where you can not only talk about system development, but also how to proceed with your business and manage it,” says Nakao. “As a result, I hope it will become a place where managers, engineers and creators can gather, and become a base for software development in Tokyo.”

Once or twice a week, the bar holds an event called Hackers Live, where Nakao shows customers how to build their own applications on three monitors placed around the bar. In addition, he plans to invite well-known programmers from Japan or abroad to hold networking events, study groups and hackathons in which customers can show off their programming expertise.

For the average person, the long lines of programming script are impossible to follow, but the bar attracts employees from big IT companies in the area. Despite officially opening only this June, the Hackers Live nights already bring in a full house. Good luck trying to find a place on the horseshoe counter to sit your laptop.

While there’s not much in common between programming and drinking, the employees at the bar use the same precision required for programming to mix cocktails with names that appeal to computer geeks. Two of the most popular concoctions are Blue Screen (¥1,000), an electric blue, lemon flavored cocktail inspired by the blue error screen on Windows computers. If you’re an Apple fan, you can order Kernel Panic (¥1,000), an apple liquor-based cocktail that starts off bitter from the Campari floating on top but turns sweet as you reach the grenadine syrup coating the bottom of the champagne glass.

The cocktails are served on cute cork coasters designed with a QR barcode and two lines of programming that look as if they were typed by an engineer who had a bit too much to drink.

Despite little in the way of marketing, news of the place has spread over social media, with an official Twitter account (@HackersBarTokyo) announcing new and upcoming events. The bar is only open on weekdays from 8 p.m., to fit the schedules of busy software engineers working in the area. If you visit on a day when there’s no event, you can grab a seat, take advantage of the free Wi-Fi and learn a little bit of coding.

4F 7-12-3 Roppongi, Minato-ku, Tokyo; 03-6409-6393; www.hackersbar.net. Angela Erika Kubo is a freelance writer and bar lover based in Tokyo. Follow her on Twitter @aekubo.