“Variety is the spice of life,” as the old saying goes, and this holds particularly true in Japan, where a trip to the local convenience store will reveal a mind-bending cornucopia of products, from green-tea Kit-Kats to Chardonnay-flavoured Fanta. The same adventurous spirit is applied to alcoholic drinks.
Anything is possible. In certain watering holes, even such a traditional drink as sake can be bought with a dead lizard floating in the bottle to spice things up. This exotic beverage would explain the phrase “pissed as a newt.”
If that’s not grotesque enough for you, you might like to know that it is not unheard of for the Japanese to drink sake mixed with turtles’ blood. This is considered to be an aphrodisiac, but it ain’t much of a turn on for me, I can tell you! Similarly, deer-penis sake is an expensive delicacy. This is also an aphrodisiac, but presumably not for the deer. It reminds me of a bad joke:
Q: What do you call a deer with no eyes?
A: No eye-deer.
Q: What do you can a deer with no eyes and no penis?
A: No f*cking eye-deer.
Of course, such drinks don’t appeal to the younger generation. They are more fond of chu-hai, which are sickly-sweet alcoholic fizzy drinks.
When I first arrived in Japan I was regularly guzzling this stuff at work, innocently believing it to be lemonade, and wondering why I was feeling woozy and getting headaches in the afternoon. There are a mind-boggling selection of canned chuhais in the fridges of convenience stores in Japan. There are even alcoholic variants of the amusingly-named soft drink, “Calpis”, including the gut-churning “Calpis Fuzzy Navel.”
Recently, enterprising booze-makers at Awa’s have concocted a chu-hai which has a foaming head, like beer. Quite why anybody would make such a potion is beyond me. Presumably they were pissed on their own products when they came up with the concept.
I myself am a beer man, and I am certainly spoiled for choice in that department. Aside from the nationally popular lagers manufactured by Asahi, Kirin and Sapporo, there are plenty of local micro-breweries across the land, producing products with charming names like “Nude Beer.”
In order to compete, some of the smaller companies are using increasingly inventive brewing techniques.
If it takes your fancy, you can buy a chocolate-flavoured beer known as Choco Bear Beer. Pass the sick-bucket please. It sounds like an idea fished out of Willy Wonka’s waste-paper basket.
Or perhaps you’d like to try the revolting-sounding “Bilk” which is a mixture of beer and milk. Apparently it’s a fruity beer aimed at women, and was conceived as a way to use up surplus milk. I balk at the idea of drinking Bilk. I suspect Bilk tastes like cow-piss, but you may be surprised to learn it is not made by the Calpis company.
Even the kiddies are catered for, with the non-alcoholic “Kodomo No Nomimono” (Kids’ Beer) ensnaring consumers while they’re young.
Once these youngsters develop a thirst, as they grow they can move on to Choco-Bear Beer and Calpis Fuzzy Navel, and then onwards and upwards until they themselves are adults and can design and market their own hideous and bizarre moonshine.
So there you have it- just a few of the wild drinks on the shelves of Japanese liquor stores and cocktail bars. If you were to buy all of the above-mentioned drinks and pour them into a large cauldron, it would make the most sickening and lethal party-punch known to mankind.