As Japan screamed into the second round of the World Cup with a win over Tunisia on Friday, sports bars in Tokyo lapped up a surge in customers.

Equipped with giant TV monitors, the bars provide people with a sense of unity and excitement outside the stadium, and another excuse to tackle the looming heat with a chilled pint or two.

Taking advantage of a World Cup craze sweeping the archipelago, owners of sports bars are hoping to tap into a broader range of customers, not just hard-core sports fans.

A jam-packed crowd of 200 — mostly Japanese youngsters — went wild Friday afternoon at the World Sports Cafe Tokyo, in the Shibuya district, as Japan downed Tunisia 2-0 in Osaka to earn its second-round debut.

While 100 people reserved seats well in advance and enjoyed drinks and meals at a set price of 4,500 yen for men and 4,000 yen for women, about 100 lined up in front of the cafe for hours to watch the broadcast standing.

Around 200 were unable to get in.

Seats were also booked up for the following South Korea-Portugal match, held in Inchon in the evening.

During the Japan-Tunisia match, the crowd at the cafe let out thunderous cheers while repeatedly chanting “Troussier Nippon” and the names of Japan’s players.

When Hiroaki Morishima and Hidetoshi Nakata scored in the second half, the cafe was raised by a storm of applause, followed by hugging and the pulling of cracker bonbons.

“I came here to see Japan win through the first round in first place (of Group H)!” said Yoshihito Kiriyama, 22, a local university student sitting with around 15 friends. “This is my second time here, and I love living it up with a bunch of friends and people in this atmosphere.”

“It was good that Japan made it today,” said Naohiro Tsukamoto, manager of the cafe, which opened in November 1998 following the World Cup in France. “The World Cup has helped us attract huge numbers of customers and massive sales so far.”

In Japan, the image of sports bars as places where a limited group of sports enthusiasts gather has barred many potential customers, owners said. Even the growing popularity of Major League Baseball in recent years, due to the successes of homegrown players like Ichiro Suzuki, has not drawn as many customers as the World Cup.

“With this opportunity, we expect to change that image and serve as many customers as possible, not just soccer fans,” Tsukamoto said.

Other sports bars also seem to be reaping their share of the profits.

On the previous night, the FootNiK in Ebisu was packed to capacity for the Italy-Mexico match, shown on a 120-inch screen and a number of smaller monitors.

In Shinjuku, the Clubhouse offered a friendly atmosphere, beers from Britain, the U.S., Australia and Japan, and snacks including fish and chips, curries and pasta dishes.

In Roppongi, the Tokyo Sports Cafe is open 24 hours every day during the Cup. It boasts seating for more than 200 and serves fish and chips and other dishes, beers from around the world, and various cocktails.

Nationwide, there are more than a dozen other major sports bars and a smattering of smaller sports cafes, according to World Sports Cafe’s Tsukamoto.

Leaders go AWOL

Prime Minister Junichiro Koizumi said Friday that watching Japan advance to the second round of the World Cup soccer finals with its win over Tunisia that afternoon was an emotional experience.

“Isn’t it strange that at the moment of a goal, tears come out,” Koizumi said after watching the televised game. “I kept wondering why tears come out, but anyway, I was watching it with joy.”

Koizumi said he had told his aides not to allow visitors to disturb him during the match.

Tokyo Gov. Shintaro Ishihara apparently had the same thing in mind, telling reporters before the match, “I will turn down all visitors.” Ishihara wrapped up his news conference just before the match kicked off at Osaka’s Nagai Stadium at 3:30 p.m.

He also permitted his staff to watch the live telecast of the game.

“We cannot turn away from visitors when they come,” Ishihara said, “but metropolitan government workers are welcome” to watch the game on TV.

Watching the game is a good opportunity to feel national pride, Ishihara said, adding, “It’ll be a more valuable experience than simply reading boring documents.”

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