Cotton Fields コットンフィールズ

If you live in Fukuoka, you either know or don’t know Cotton Fields. And if you don’t know Cotton Fields, do you really live in Fukuoka?

So the Zen koan might go for this unassuming little basement bar with a long history and interesting owner.

Moro’oka opened shop in December of 1980, when the red-light district of Nakasu was really booming. “It was like walking into a stadium when I went outside. The district was full of noise and energy.” The bubble years were just beginning. The streets were paved with money. But rather than open some lavish bar pandering to the deep pockets there, he stuck with a theme closer to his heart: Americana.

Country western and folk-roots music might seem like a natural enough fit for a man who started out doing engine care for trucks. After five years getting his hands dirty, he began studying as a chef and with one year under his belt, opened up a yatai, one of Fukuoka’s many famous food stalls on the street.

“I wanted to play music while I worked,” says Moro’oka in his distinct Hakata dialect, “and I liked the tempo of country. When I was young, there was a big country revival, too. So I served ramen and country.”

While he was running his yatai, he discovered dark beer, which changed everything for him. At the time, lagers were all that was widely available so the novelty of dark beer then shouldn’t come as a surprise.

After Moro’oka quit his yatai and opened Cotton Fields, he traveled to Tokyo to scour the department stores for unusual import beers. He bought what he could find there and in magazines, and then contacted many of the importers or producers directly to acquire more. Before long, his little “country style” bar in Nakasu was becoming a bona fide beer bar.

Moro’oka recalls an interesting period in his bar’s growth, “I remember the first time I tasted Budweiser. It tasted like apples to me, but I liked it. The bigger novelty was the twist-off cap. Those didn’t exist at the time and I always liked to set it on the table without a bottle opener to see if guests could figure it out. Later, they would then bring in their friends to show them the cool, new bottle caps.”

In the late 90s, long after the bubble had burst, Cotton Fields was still humming and the original dozen or so varieties of beer they started with had grown to a whopping 600 varieties. But Moro’oka began to cull the selection, claiming it was too hard to sell before the freshness expiration. At present they carry less than 400 but the selection is still impressive.

Moro’oka personally likes German beers, especially Oktoberfest varieties, and also reveals being partial to Samuel Adams and Brooklyn Lager, the latter being a big seller there. Tecate is popular, too. Beer geeks may scoff but Moro’oka relates, “When I first tasted it, I thought this would go well with lemon and salt. We started that in Japan. Then when I went to Mexico, I discovered that’s how they did it there, too—that was reaffirming for me.”

Another hot menu item is their locally famous rolled and fried tacos. “The sauce has 20 ingredients and I’m the only one that knows the recipe,” he smiles.

Wearing shorts and looking rather fit, Moro’oka seems much younger than his 62 years, but reveals his age when talking about some of the stars that have walked through his doors, including pop legend Fujii Fumiya while he was still with The Checkers. Other guests have been less illustrious.

“Once an Australian rugby team came in and got absolutely hammered. They were pissing in the glasses, which I decided to throw away,” he laughs.

One custom beer aficionados will appreciate is that Cotton Fields’ well-trained staff always leaves the bottles on the table until the customer’s evening is finished. Moro’oka believes that pouring the beer yourself and appreciating the label is an important part of the experience of drinking the beer.

After more than three decades of serving much of the world’s beer, he would know better than most. And though many guests may not like the country classics that still play in Cotton Fields, the style has stuck and will always be a part of this Fukuoka gem.













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