Umami Mart Registry

*We asked our friend, Mr. Tomokazu Kai of Heuga Bar in Gifu City, "What types of towels and products do you use to clean your bar?" Mr. Kai, ever the thorough and serious bar professional, responded with this eloquent statement. Thanks Kai-san!

Translated by YOKO KUMANO

For cleaning the bar, I don't use a particular brand of product. I just use an ordinary towel. But of course, it depends on the material of the counter. Typically, after cleaning with a towel thoroughly, a wood bar is waxed. This is very important. The floors are also waxed. Most bartenders in Japan use wax that is used for pianos and Buddhist alters. You can buy these waxes at the hardware store.

For metallic portions of the bar, I use abrasive soap. For polishing glassware, I use Toraysee for Glassware. It is a polyester blend and is super absorbent so won't leave any lint on the glass.

If I may digress, I want to emphasize that cleaning is a core value of any Japanese bartender. It is the first thing you learn behind the bar, and spend two hours before opening and another two hours after closing just to clean the bar. This is essential for someone who wants to become a bartender. It is your job to polish hundreds of glasses everyday. You must learn how to handle and clean every type of bottle and glass in the bar.

Here is something that I was taught when I was starting out: "You do not leave yesterday's dust and dirt in today's air. You want the customer to experience something fresh, something new, every time they visit the bar. A bar should feel timeless; you do not want it to feel like yesterday."

Kai-san, photo by Erin Gleeson

*Tomokazu Kai tends bar at Heuga Bar in Gifu City, Japan. He received the prestigious Suntory Cocktail Award in 2011.
**Photos of the Heuga Bar by Tomokazu Kai
***Got a question to ask a bartender from Japan? Email your question to