This article originally appeared on VICE Asia
After a long day of work, head to a bar, sit back with a few drinks and start speaking to.… a virtual anime star?
A new snack bar in Tokyo, Japan, is managed by a virtual anime character along with a slew of other virtual YouTube stars. Virtual Snack, which opened on August 24, is run primarily by virtual YouTuber Matsuri Kazamiya.
A trademark of every snack bar is its “mama”–a young hostess who is in charge. She essentially takes care of the business, runs the staff, and interacts with customers throughout late-night drinking sessions. But this new snack bar is giving mama, or mama-san, a whole new meaning.
How does it all work? On the counter of the bar, there is a camera and a microphone, through which Kazamiya speaks to her customers. The personality is known to her followers as “the goddess of autumn.” Tokyo technology developer Balus helped the bar with the new system.
Over the course of the evening, guests can also talk to ninja girl Ruri Asano, school nurse Choco Yuzuki, video game website mascot Inside-chan Mark2 and Fukuya Master–the only male virtual star present. These are just a few of the eight YouTube personalities present at the bar.
The stars take different shifts depending on the day, and there’s a detailed schedule on Virtual Snack’s website for those looking to speak to a specific one.
Because it’s a fresh concept, the bar is offering an alternate pricing system–for $44, customers can sit for two hours and get two drinks. Additional drinks come at separate prices.
The pop-up bar will be open until November 23, in Tokyo’s Ginza neighborhood.
Japan’s snack bars are typically small rooms–known for their cozy interior, ironic lack of snacks, and heavy supply of booze. In 2017, there were 107,000 snack bars across the country. Typically, the bars are where middle-aged men and office workers drink after office hours and speak to the hostesses for their own entertainment. The “mama” figure is often seen as clever and personable.
There is little doubt that Kazamiya and her fellow virtual stars will be able to keep the bar’s guests entertained especially as Japan’s digital influencers have won fame in recent years. Known as VTubers and created by digital companies, these stars have loyal fan bases and are known to act in place of humans for a variety of roles. On their actual YouTube channels, they chat with followers, review apps and play video games.
Adding a few drinks to that experience in a cozy bar could expectedly make the interactions even better.