Liq Nuts

March 30, 2008

The owners of this Tokyo bar really weren’t thinking too hard when they decided to call it Liq Nuts, were they?


Japanese Hangover Cures

March 27, 2008

Not long after I’d first arrived in Japan, I inadvisedly got wasted on a school night and the next morning I had to get up for work, feeling like a rabid dog in its death throes. Fortunately I lived directly opposite a 7/11 which was full of potential remedies. I asked my room-mate’s Japanese girlfriend what was good for hangovers. She wasn’t sure, but wrote a request for a hangover cure on a piece of paper, in Japanese, for me to present to the convenience store staff.
I lurched across the road and handed my request to the bemused teenager behind the counter and he ran and found me a small glass bottle of elixir, which I glugged down, there and then. I quickly got over the urge to puke and was soon feeling just about ready to face the world.

I kept that handwritten request and made good use of it over the next few months. The same crumpled piece of paper was presented to a succession of spotty teenagers in convenience stores that year. In fact, it is still stuck to my pin-board, withered, faded and brown.

The Japanese are renowned for drinking heavily, and they have their own unique expression for “hangover”: “futsukayoi”, which means “drunk for two days.” You might like to exaggerate the level of your hangover by saying “mikkayoi” (drunk for three days) or “yokkayoi” (drunk for four days) etc.
Since businessmen are expected to get utterly trashed with their boss on a regular basis, there are plenty of hangover cures readily available in the shops of Japan.
What I was usually given by the convenience store staff were “genki drinks”. These are small, 100ml glass bottles of various potions which relieve all kinds of different medical complaints, from colds to loss of libido and, of course, hangovers.
Look out for the two bottles pictured below. They’re very effective at stopping booze-induced gut-rot, nausea and puking. A few minutes after necking one of these magic mixtures you’ll be bouncing around like Super Mario:

The sickly concoction pictured below is called Lipovitan D, and it was the inspiration for Redbull. It relieves physical fatigue and gives you boundless energy, but corrodes your esophagus like battery acid. (Having said that, I’m partial to the occasional Vodka and Lipovitan D cocktail at parties- guaranteed to give you the endurance and stamina of a Terminator, and make you equally as destructive.)

A popular pre-emptive hangover cure is to make a ramen shop your last port of call after a pub crawl. Gulping down a steaming bowl of ramen noodles before you hit the sack will nip your hangover in the bud.
Another age-old Japanese remedy is the humble miso soup. The nation’s favourite soup can be bought at most cheap cafes and restaurants for a couple of hundred yen, and seems to soothe the stomach and head in times of need.

Mari at Watashi to Tokyo endorses the miso method, and also recommends drinking green tea, eating grated daikon, or pushing pressure points.

I find that the amusingly-named sports drink “Pocari Sweat” makes you feel slightly less god-awful in the mornings by re-hydrating you and replacing lost sweat (hence the grotesque name). This is particularly effective if you’ve spent the whole night thrashing around on a dance-floor in a Tokyo nightclub.

The fruit, “Kaki” (persimmon) is considered a hangover cure in Japan. According to Metropolis magazine, their “combo of fructose, vitamins A and C and minerals is the secret”. The vitamins help metabolize the booze and break down the nasty toxins. Chomp on a kaki in the morning, and it will have the same effect as spinach has on Popeye.

Another natural remedy is kudzu, which is a kind of vine in the pea family. Powdered kudzu root has been an ingredient in traditional Japanese hangover cures for centuries. Desperate alkies take note- kudzu also suppresses cravings for booze.

Umeboshi pickled plums are also thought to relieve the morning-after problems. The pyric acid in umeboshi breaks down the booze in your body, settles your mangled stomach, and breathes life into your liver.
Asylum.com has some useful advice on post-piss-up umeboshi-munching: “For a normal hangover, bite off about a quarter of a plum and keep it in your mouth until it dissolves. For a whopper hangover, herbalists recommend popping a whole plum into your mouth. Continue to suck on it for about an hour after the plum has dissolved.”

The website What Japan Thinks conducted a survey of Japanese people to find their preferred hangover cures. The internationally accepted technique of drinking water topped the list, and sleeping came second. So, the familiar methods still seem to be the most reliable.

For the last couple of years I haven’t needed any of these remedies, though, because I take “ukon” before I go out drinking. Ukon is a miraculous turmeric supplement pill that you take before boozing, and it stops you getting a hangover. You could guzzle down a litre of whiskey and still wake up feeling as fresh as a daisy. Invaluable!

Anyway, as everyone knows, the best thing for a hangover is drinking heavily the night before, so I’m now going out to do just that.


Mad Kids’ Pictures

March 25, 2008

The seven-year-olds I teach keep presenting me with hilariously deranged pictures, which I always keep. The drawings are usually outrageously violent battle-scenes, or grotesque portraits of me. Oh well, I can’t complain- I did exactly the same thing at their age. Although, I was always sure to secretively doodle the unflattering caricatures of my teachers under my desk, rather than actually show them, for fear of getting into trouble. I guess times have changed.

This first picture features not one but two charming portraits of yours truly- one with a performing seal balanced on my head and a snotty nose, and the other looking like an evil and demented psychopath. The Japanese culture of respect is as alive as ever.

In the picture below of me as a disheveled, unshaven wreck, the speech bubbles are supposed to represent burping and farting. Lovely. Well, at least my students are using Roman characters.

The kid who drew the picture above, also drew the bizarre masterpiece below, a vision of Heaven, in which he is sat between God and (misspelled) Jesus, and surrounded by Pokemon.

The portait above, a personal favourite, shows me as a snot-nosed superman being pursued by Darth Vader and a giant ant. This kid should work in Hollywood!

Finally, a nihilistic vision of the apocalypse, complete with nuclear missiles, mushroom clouds and a skull and cross-bones flag. I’m not the one teaching them this stuff, honest!


More Yokohama Bars

March 21, 2008

And now, for the benefit of anyone who might be planning a visit, is another list of various western-style bars in Yokohama city.

PLAYERS BAR

This quirky bar is decorated from floor to ceiling with retro record sleeves, has glass cases full old toys and vintage Americana, and shows 80s music videos on a big screen. As a tasteless nostalgia-addict, it’s just my scene!
The food is terrible and the drinks are overpriced but, mysteriously, there are always many more women than men in this place, which is a very attractive selling point.
Players Bar
TEl:045-323-6866

THE FULL MONTY

A friendly British pub, which was recently relocated from an obscure suburb in the outskirts of Yokohama to the much more central Kannai district, The Full Monty has lots of imported ales and stouts on tap, as well as commendably large and authentic fish n’ chips and meat pies. The landlord is similarly authentic- a large, rosy-faced, bald, football-fanatic.
Despite the name of the place, there are (mercifully) no male strippers in attendance.
Full Monty British Pub, Tonnan Bldg 2Fl, 1-4-2Tokiwachou, Naka-ku,Yokohama-Shi
Tel: 045-212-2974

THE GREEN SHEEP

The Green Sheep is an Irish pub, conveniently close to West exit of Yokohama station (and directly next to the cheesy 80s soul club, Bar Luther, where you can go dancing afterwards.)
As the surreal and cute name of the place suggests, The Green Sheep is run by Japanese folks rather than actual Irish people so, while the menu and atmosphere aren’t very authentic, it has a pleasantly off-kilter, Japanized vibe. They serve the delicious “Yona Yona Ale,” and have live music events.
The Green Sheep
The Green Sheep, 1F, 2-10-13 Minami-saiwai, Nishi-ku, Yokohama 220-0005
Tel: 045-321-0950

THE LAST WALTZ

A poky little bar located down an obscure side street near Yokohama station, The Last Waltz is themed around Country Rock Bands like The Band and The Eagles. This kind of music is fine accompaniment to a few slightly pricey drinks (and some tasty fish and chips). It’s worth popping in here for a change of scenery once in a while, but you might get economy-class-syndrome from being cramped against the bar if you stay too long.
Last Waltz
TEL:045-441-5388

THRASH ZONE

For a thrash-metal-themed watering-hole, this joint is far more sophisticated than you might expect. I mean, check out the tasteful picture above! Even though they blast out heavy-metal tunes by the likes of Slayer, Pantera and Sepultura, the decor in Thrash Zone is subtle and the barman is very up-beat and welcoming. A weirdly incongruous blend of two worlds, (which is something I always enjoy). More importantly, Thrash Zone has several rare and scrumptious local micro-brewery beers on tap! It’s probably the best destination in Yokohama for beer-fans, even if you don’t like thrash-metal.
Thrash Zone
Paseri Bldg 2F, Tsuruyacho 2-19-8, Yokohama
Tel: 045-514-9947.

THE TAVERN

The best-known British pub in the area, this underground boozer shows live sport, and has a happy hour every weekday- all-you-can-drink Australian beer and selected cocktails from 6 to 8PM for 1900 yen. They also do an excellent traditional carvery on Sunday lunchtimes- all-you-can-eat roast beef and lamb for 1500 yen. Yum yum! A fine destination for gluttons. The Tavern also has carpets, barstools and wallpaper straight out of Coronation Street, and a middle-aged purveyor of appalling puns behind the bar.
The Tavern B1 Nishiguchi Meiwa Bldg, 2-14 Minami Saiwai Cho, Nishi Ku, Yokohama.
Tel. 045-322-9727

STOVES

A perennial favourite for ex-pats and tourists, Stoves, not far from the West exit of Yokohama station, serves up burgers and tex-mex food, and has a lively, party-time atmosphere. I generally only go there if I’m in the mood for some daytime drinking, because they have half-price drinks from 12 until 5PM every day. Nice!
Stoves
Tel:045-312-2278

PARTY ANIMALS

Located directly above the unique Characters Bar (a delightfully weird flea-market/bar I frequent), Party Animals is worth popping into if you’re in the area. Contrary to the bar’s name, the atmosphere inside is relatively subdued- you wont be forced to wear a toga and pour beer over your head while screeching “party on, duderino!” shortly before perpetrating a panty-raid, smoking super-skunk, and super-glueing a naked nerd to a comatose donkey… Unfortunately.
They have got a dart board though. And alcoholic beverages.
Party Animals
Kikuya Bldg, 2F, 1-19 Ishikawachyo, Naka-Ku, Yokohama-Shi 〒231-0868
Tel: 045-664-3434

You can read about some fun and bizarre novelty bars in Yokohama here.


Penis Party 2008

March 19, 2008

The first Sunday in April is almost here, which means it’s almost time for Kawasaki’s notorious Kanamara fertility festival, at which an enormous pink penis is paraded around town by transvestites, vegetables are carved into phallic shapes, and crowds nibble on pink schlong-shaped lollipops. Before you sigh “those crazy Japanese people,” I should point out that these days the voyeuristic, giggling Western tourists outnumber the locals.
Festivities take place on Sunday April 6th, at Wakamiya Hachimangu Shrine in Kawasaki from around 10AM to 4PM. To get there, take the Daishi Line to Kawasaki Daishi station. Go out of the exit and you’ll see Wakamiya Hachimangu shrine across the street, to the right.
Tel: (044) 222-3206
You can read a story I wrote about it last year, with accompanying photos, here– which is by far the most popular blog entry I’ve ever written (it’s been seen by about 100,000 people). Below are some new pictures that I didn’t post last year.


St Patrick’s Day in Tokyo 2008

March 12, 2008

St Patrick’s day is always a big event on the drinking calendar, and in Tokyo, the city of convenience, it will be celebrated a day early, on March 16th, so people can get smashed on a Sunday instead of a Monday. There will be a parade at lunchtime on Harajuku’s Omotesando street, which invariably seems to feature some Irish wolfhounds, a few baton twirling cheerleaders, a brass band, a giant inflatable pint of Guinness, a man inexplicably dressed as Sherlock Holmes with a dyed-green handlebar moustache, and a drunk football team in green T-shirts.
This is a great day to visit the city’s Irish pubs, which are guaranteed to be packed with cheery, red-faced revellers swigging stout, whiskey or lager with green food-colouring in.
Here are some pubs you could try:
Dubliners, which has live Irish bands, and is offering shooters of Jamesons and Baileys for 500 yen (in Shinjuku: 2F Shinjuku Lion Hall, 3-28-9 Shinjuku, Shinjuku-Ku, Tel: (03)3352-6606; or in Shibuya: 2F Dogenzaka Center Bldg, 2-29-8 Dogenzaka, Shibuya-Ku, Tel: (03) 5459-1736)
Paddy Foleys, Tokyo’s oldest Irish pub, which has Irish dancers (B1 Roi Bldg, 5-5-1 Roppongi, Minto-Ku, Tel: (03) 3423-2250).


Wasabi Fire Alarm

March 12, 2008

Those Japanese scientists have been up to some more inventive antics. This time they’ve made a fire alarm that wakes up deaf people with the smell of wasabi.

The green horseradish that people use to spice up their sushi has an intense odour, so in a concentrated form it must be something like mustard gas. Usually deaf folk have flashing lights when there’s a fire, but if you’re asleep under the covers it isn’t very effective. Meanwhile, the wasabi silent alarm woke up thirteen out of fourteen test subjects, (who presumably ran to the bathroom with watering eyes and agonized noses.) This remarkable device, made by the professors at Shiga Medical University, will be on the market in a few years and you can read about it on Inventor Spot.
Buyers had better be careful when you’re making sushi, though- Grandpa might get confused and jump out of the window!