Japanese Drinking Games. No#1: Ping Pong Pang

June 25, 2007

Like any decent country, Japan has an array of weird drinking games. Most of them have absurdly complicated rules and rely on the drunkest/stupidest person making a mistake, and then having to down their drink as a forfeit. When someone in Japan has to neck a glass of booze, their tormentors chant “iki iki iki!” (Be careful not to say “iku iku iku!” which is what people gasp during sex, fact fans.)

One such game is “Ping Pong Pang,” (or “Ping Pang Pong,” depending on who you ask. Which of the two names is the “real” one has led to many a heated debate in bars across Japan.) It’s a fast-paced and confusing game, and the rules are thus: When someone begins the game by saying “Ping,” the person to their left must quickly say “Pong,” and the next person in line must then say “Pang” whilst simultaneously pointing at someone else at the table who has to immediately say “Ping,” which starts the whole process again.
As you can imagine, there are plenty of opportunities to screw up. If you hesitate, it’s “iki iki iki” time. If you say the wrong word: “iki iki iki”. If you point at the wrong time, or you forget to point: “iki iki iki”. Hey Presto: lots of drunk people!

There are occasional references to the game in popular culture. In fact, I’ve just discovered a cool electronic-rock group called “Ping Pong Pang”, who you can hear at this site, or read about on their official website. A fine soundtrack to any drinking game. Enjoy!


June 25, 2007

Here’s an amusing picture of a pachinko parlour in Shimbashi, Tokyo. (For those who don’t know, Pachinko is a popular game, essentially vertical pinball for people who can’t be bothered to stand up. It appeals to shuffling, zombie-like gambling-addicts, who leave their pet sausage-dogs in stuffy compact cars to bake to death, while they stare vacantly at silver balls for hours on end. Fun fun fun!) The neon sign outside this particular pachinko place is funny, because the “P” and “A” lights aren’t working, so the sign says “Chinko,” which is Japanese slang for “penis”! No doubt, after the light-bulbs fizzled out, the place was heaving with sex-starved housewives.

A Salute to Yokohama’s Eccentric Bicycle Man

June 23, 2007

Below are some pictures of an eccentric oddball who can often be spotted roaming the streets of Yokohama. Whenever there’s a big event in Kanagawa prefecture, such as a summer festival or a fireworks display, this colourful character appears, riding a bicycle and wearing long white robes, comedy spectacles and an enormous hat that looks like Salvador Dali’s wedding cake. More often than not, he’s also wearing a pair of fake boobies. I wonder if he wears this outfit every day?

Despite this man’s larger-than-life appearance, nobody seems to have any idea who he is. Is he a genuinely insane fruitcake, a daring outsider artist, or just a guy who likes dressing-up for fun? Most Yokohama residents know him only as “that crazy Oji-san.” I once had a brief opportunity to speak to him when he stopped his bicycle next to me at a traffic light, but I was left feeling none the wiser. he simply said “Yokohama! Yokohama!” gleefully, then sped off on his bike.

Whoever this mysterious nutter is, I wholeheartedly approve of his bonkers dress-sense. He certainly serves as a good antidote to the stereotypical Japanese traits of reserve and uniformity.

Naughty Japanese Baseball Caps

June 14, 2007

Spittle Saves Lives

June 12, 2007

Japanese Drinking Legends No.2: Ryuu Sasakura

June 11, 2007

This is the second in my occasional series of tributes to Japanese booze heroes. Rather worryingly, I’m only at number two and already I’m reduced to writing about a fictional character. Ryuu Sasakura is the altruistic hero of the Japanese comic book and animation series “Bartender.”

Ryuu is a genius cocktail maker, who runs a bar named “Eden Hall”. He is so skilled at mixing drinks that his cocktails are known as the “Glass of the Gods.”
Ryuu is a selfless character, a bit like the guy in “Highway to Heaven,” the guy in “Quantum Leap” or the dog in “The Littlest Hobo.” In each episode of the TV show, various troubled misfits come into his bar and tell him their problems. Ryuu then helps them out, always in a way that is tenuously connected to whatever cocktail is featured that week. For example, one week he cheers up a guy who’s having trouble with his boss… by mixing him a daiquiri. In another episode, he cheers up a grieving widower… by mixing him a margarita.

Unsurprisingly, to date the show has only run to eleven episodes. How many alcohol-related story-lines can the producers come up with? What next? Ryuu shows a customer the importance of patience by making them wait three minutes for a pint of Guinness to settle? Ryuu holds back a shit-faced customer’s hair while she pukes into the sink, to demonstrate the power of trust? Nevertheless, Ryuu is yet another shining example of the admirable Japanese trait of taking enormous pride in your job, and for that, he deserves a toast.

Here’s the official Bartender website.

Hair Slug

June 8, 2007

I have no idea what the owners of this hair salon were thinking when they came up with the name “Hair Slug.” It conjures up an image of a slimy mollusc slithering along your scalp. I guess that would be one way of saving money on hair gel.