JIS Kuala Lumpur prides itself on being an award-winning Social Lounge from Japan. Being sceptical at first due to the very nature of its marketing, we take a look at what really goes on behind its doors.
Before it became such a huge hit in Japan, JIS had to overcome a few social norms – the first one being casual interactions with a stranger. Japan follows a strict Asian culture where they are encouraged to not talk to strangers. With this being the social norm, it became a problem for people to meet one another. The founder of JIS sought to address that and with it, the very fabric of Japanese culture when it came to social interactions.
The birthplace of JIS started as small social dinner parties. This became a huge hit and soon turned into a public social lounge for all at its first location in Sapporo, Japan back in 2011. In just three years, it then branched out to Fukuoka and the year after that, two outlets in both Kumamoto and Matsuyama.
From thereon, every consecutive year for three years straight, there were JIS social lounges popping up in Omiya, Namba, and Umeda respectively. This growth rate just goes to show that Japan’s traditional social norms are capable of change. JIS is all about socialising with ease and comfort while paying a fair price. The brand’s tagline is ‘Jinseini Irodoriwo Soeru’, which stands for ‘Adding colour to life.’ This also translates to the acronym for its name, JIS.
Location & how to get there
With that brings JIS into Malaysia, its first-ever international social lounge. Known as JIS Kuala Lumpur, it’s located at Star Boulevard KLCC, in the heart of the city. It is quite literally a stone’s throw away from the Petronas KLCC Twin Towers as well as Avenue K shopping centre. A simple Grab ride will do if you’re coming from the Twin Towers or a brisk five-minute walk from Avenue K.
At the door
Upon getting to the third floor of Star Boulevard KLCC, you’ll be greeted by glitzy lights and welcoming hosts. They will then explain to you how it works, the rules, and its pricing structure. It might be slightly intimidating and confusing to first-timers, but don’t let it daunt you.
JIS Kuala Lumpur wants to emulate how the experience is truly like in Japan. To participate, you will have to whole-heartedly accept the concept behind it to have a great overall experience. When you enter, you can decide if you want to head to either the more intimate yet loud Gatsby Room or the more open but relaxed Sakura Modern Room. Both these rooms offer a different concept in terms of design, décor, and ambience.
The Sakura Modern Room
While you will be given a choice, we were not. Before we knew it, we were whisked away to the Sakura Modern Room. This spacious and bright room gives off a very expensive look and feel. JIS Kuala Lumpur is all about communal seating without looking tacky or drab.
Once you make your way to the table, you’ll find that its furnishings are of plush velvet leather with pillows on each couch. At the table, you’ll find that it has everything you need. Aside from the cutleries, it also has cables and plug points if you’re looking to charge your device. They expect you to stay for hours on end, as we soon found out why.
While you’re allowed to smoke on the premises, the place thankfully does not reek of foul cigarette smoke and odour. The Sakura Modern Room also offers larger seating areas towards the side of the room, which can fit at least 20 people and above. This is usually reserved for bigger parties and celebrations.
The Gatsby Room
When we were done, we headed over to the Gatsby Room. Its atmosphere, lighting, and ambience is completely different from The Sakura Modern Room. This one only fits 150 people, making it a smaller and more intimate space.
Despite the change in atmosphere, the concept remains similar with shared seating. Its couches are of a different design and colour scheme but with the same plush velvet leather texture. You will also find the same amenities at every table, including an iPad for all your needs, necessary cables, and charging ports.
Given how both the Sakura Modern and Gatsby rooms were tastefully done, it’s not surprising to see JIS Kuala Lumpur take home the Golden Novum Design Award for interior design. To sweeten the deal, JIS Kuala Lumpur is also the first and only bar in Malaysia to win this award.
The food & drink
Upon spending a good five hours, it’s safe to say that JIS Kuala Lumpur is here to stay. First off, most of the items on the drinks list are completely free. This includes soft drinks as well as beer, whisky, gin, wine, and nearly everything else you can think of. However, buying liquor bottles will come at a charge.
Ladies visiting on their birthdays can also get a complimentary slice of Philadelphia Blueberry Cheese Cake. You also don’t have to pay for food while men do, but the food itself isn’t absurdly-priced. The menu offers a wide variety of cuisines, ranging from Western to Asian. There are both bar food as well as full meals like pasta and burgers. Some notable dishes include pizza and takoyaki.
One thing that stands out at JIS Kuala Lumpur is the cocktail offerings. Every two weeks, the bartenders will focus on a cocktail and create different iterations of it.
The attention to detail that was placed on every inch of the place was done right. One of its most outstanding qualities would be the service and astute attention from its staff. JIS Kuala Lumpur ensures that all of its staff have had prior experience in the hospitality and tourism industry.
They were well-trained and well-versed in their jobs, able to explain the rules and regulations of the place easily. They can also assist you in anything you need, most of which can be found in the iPad on each table. This includes getting you a blanket, hot/cold towels, bar games, and many more.
The washrooms were another inclusive feature entirely, especially if you’re a woman. If comes with a large changing room, hairdryers, combs, curlers, hairpins, and even hair spray. Aside from that, all washrooms come equipped with fully-functioning Japanese toilets. If you’ve been to Japan, you will know what we are talking about.
How it works
The best thing for JIS Kuala Lumpur is that every day is ladies night. Ladies enter, eat, and drink for free without having to pay for anything at all. Men, on the other hand, will have a few payments, one of it being an entrance fee of RM15.
From there, you will have to decide if you’re coming in to just enjoy or to partake in the experience. If it’s the former, you’ll be charged RM6 every 10 minutes. This comes out to RM36 an hour if you’re just there to kick back and relax.
However, if it’s the latter, you will be paying RM15 for every 10 minutes. That puts it out to RM90 an hour with free drinks.
JIS Kuala Lumpur also has plenty of rules to follow. For starters, you are not allowed to leave your seats to talk to another customer. You will have to call on the wait staff to assist you – they will notify your intended guest that you would like to join them and if they consent, only then will you be allowed to move.
Touching your matched partners are also off-limits as JIS Kuala Lumpur highly forbids it. Forcing your matched partner to drink is also something that will get you kicked out. Fighting, as well as even loitering around the premises will have you escorted out. JIS Kuala Lumpur also enforces a strict dress code for both men and women, which includes no uniforms, headscarves, sweaters, and tracksuits. The age limit at JIS Kuala Lumpur is at 21 years with men and women but the latter has an age limit of 40. Don’t worry as women over 40 can still enter so long as they’re accompanied by men.
Every Sunday is ‘Influencer Night’ at JIS Kuala Lumpur. Aspiring content creators and the like with 10,000 or more followers can sign up with JIS Kuala Lumpur’s Influencer Privilege card. This gives you the chance to win a trip to the flagship JIS store in Sapporo, Japan. That’s not all though; part of being an official JIS Influencer also comes with its own set of perks.
One of the biggest perks would definitely be the complimentary food and drink all year-round. You will also get a complimentary birthday party as well as complimentary parking within the building after six o’clock. That’s not all too; stay for more than four hours you’ll get RM15 worth of Grab credits and 10% off at Cheers2Cheers.
JIS Kuala Lumpur has our approval. From the moment you set foot into the lounge, you’ll be amazed at what it offers. Even the pricing structure isn’t a real pinch, which is great for young adults with enough to spend. While you may think that this bridges on many grey areas when it comes to a wider acceptance of the social structure of Malaysians, that doesn’t mean it’s not worth experimenting.
During our visit, we saw plenty of patrons coming in from all walks of life. We saw groups of friends matching with total strangers and building connections along the way. The whole point of JIS Kuala Lumpur is to give you a safe space where you can socialise and interact with others without having to feel like you’re being watched or judged.
All images courtesy of JIS Kuala Lumpur.