The Giger Bar: Discover the 1980s Tokyo Bar Designed by H. R. Giger, the Same Artist Who Created the Nightmarish Monster in Ridley Scott’s Alien

In 1980s Tokyo, every­thing was pos­si­ble — or at least every­thing was tried out. Hav­ing devel­oped fever­ish­ly since the end of the Sec­ond World War, Japan had by that point inflat­ed an asset bub­ble so enor­mous that, so the sto­ry goes, the land on which the Impe­r­i­al Palace stands was worth more than all of Cal­i­for­nia. Many Japan­ese felt rich, and upward­ly mobile young Toky­oites felt much more so; in the cap­i­tal sprung up count­less estab­lish­ments aim­ing to cash in on their will­ing­ness and abil­i­ty to spend their new mon­ey on expe­ri­ences, espe­cial­ly expe­ri­ences slick, expen­sive, and exot­ic.

And for the high­est-rolling young Toky­oites of the 1980s, con­sumers for whom pieces of Amer­i­ca and Europe would­n’t be exot­ic enough, there was the Giger Bar. Writer on Japan­ese cul­ture W. David Marx recent­ly tweet­ed out a few mag­a­zine clip­pings to do with one of what he calls the “hot yup­pie date spots in Tokyo, 1989: GIGER BAR Bring your date to the Tokyo bar designed by Swiss artist H. R. Giger of Alien fame, where ‘the atmos­phere dif­fers from the usu­al.’ ‘alien eggs’ on the menu at ¥1200, and some­thing called ‘sex­u­al com­mu­nion’ for ¥1500.”

“The Giger Bar in Tokyo was actu­al­ly cre­at­ed against my will,” Giger him­self wrote in 1997. “While I was in Tokyo, I was asked to make a wish, on stage, dur­ing a press con­fer­ence. Spon­ta­neous­ly, I wished for a bar, which was then brought into being even more spon­ta­neous­ly!”

For that bar, Giger designed “tables-for-two in open ele­va­tor cars in the man­ner of glid­ing ele­va­tors that would trav­el up and down the four-sto­ry estab­lish­ment, per­pet­u­al­ly in motion.” But he had­n’t tak­en into con­sid­er­a­tion the rigid­i­ty of Japan­ese fire mar­shals, and already “dri­ven to the brink of mad­ness” by the coun­try’s com­plex earth­quake-relat­ed build­ing codes, Giger ulti­mate­ly stepped back from his design role.

Giger also had­n’t fore­seen the fact that his name­sake Japan­ese bar “was tai­lor-made for the under­world.” Five years after the bar opened, a friend vis­it­ed and told Giger that “it had fall­en into the hands of the Yakuza. He went on to report that he was alone in the bar until 11 o’clock, when it began to fill with the type of unsa­vory char­ac­ters who might have installed a roulette table in the atri­um.” By the time Giger wrote this reflec­tion, the Tokyo Giger Bar had closed its doors entire­ly: “Insid­ers know that a bar in Tokyo rarely sur­vives more than five years!”

But two oth­er Giger Bars live on, not in Japan but in Giger’s native Switzer­land, one in his home­town of Chur (orig­i­nal­ly planned for New York City, a loca­tion that proved too expen­sive for the elab­o­rate design) and the oth­er in Gruyères (adja­cent to the H.R. Giger Muse­um). Those Swiss branch­es, a cou­ple pic­tures of which appear above, car­ry on the Giger Bar’s aes­thet­ic in a man­ner seem­ing­ly more faith­ful to the artist’s grotesque bio­me­chan­i­cal visions than did the Tokyo branch. Whether this could ever prove a sus­tain­able nightlife con­cept else­where in the world remains to be seen, but as Giger’s hard­core fans — the kind who would­n’t hes­i­tate to make the Giger Bar pil­grim­age to Switzer­land — might well ask, who would­n’t want to have a drink in the womb of the alien queen?

via W. David Marx

Relat­ed Con­tent:

H.R. Giger’s Tarot Cards: The Swiss Artist, Famous for His Design Work on Alien, Takes a Jour­ney into the Occult

A Pho­to­graph­ic Tour of Haru­ki Murakami’s Tokyo, Where Dream, Mem­o­ry, and Real­i­ty Meet

High School Kids Stage Alien: The Play and You Can Now Watch It Online

Based in Seoul, Col­in Mar­shall writes and broad­casts on cities, lan­guage, and cul­ture. His projects include the book The State­less City: a Walk through 21st-Cen­tu­ry Los Ange­les and the video series The City in Cin­e­ma. Fol­low him on Twit­ter at @colinmarshall, on Face­book, or on Insta­gram.

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