This is the first in an occasional series of tributes to noteworthy Japanese booze-hounds. There are less of these hedonistic characters in Japan than in most countries- I’ll be hard-pressed to find the Japanese equivalent of, say, Oliver Reed, (over here it’s considered deeply shameful to get shit-faced on television talk shows and take your trousers off,) but I’ll give it a shot.
One of Japan’s most notorious hell-raisers was the writer Osamu Dazai. The acclaimed author of such classic works as “The Setting Sun,” Dazai was infamous for his excessive and decadent lifestyle in the post-war years. Getting stinking drunk was his favourite pastime.
It couldn’t be said that he was a happy drunk- he was a suicidal alcoholic and made several attempts to off himself before finally succeeding in 1948, in a suicide-pact with his married mistress. Needless to say, there were no pina coladas, karaoke-jams or limbo-dancing at his parties.
Dazai was a self-destructive rebel from an early age, neglecting his studies at high-school, and blowing his allowance on booze and hookers. His wild misadventures included running away from his university with a geisha, and fathering a child out of wedlock with a fan. He sounds like a latter-day Pete Docherty.
Ironically, for a guy who drank so much, he once wrote in his book “Seascape with Figures in Gold”, that his favourite tipple was milk. “The cold half pint of milk I drank each morning was the only thing that gave me a certain peculiar sense of the joy in life”. Too bad he died before the invention of Kellogg’s Frosties- he could have poured the milk on them and doubled the fun.