Tokyo Booze Bulletin

July 12, 2010

The latest act of one-upmanship between the Asahi and Kirin super-breweries comes from Asahi, who have decided to compete in the convenience stores with Kirin’s evil 8% chu-hai canned cocktails, by bringing out- you guessed it- 9% chu-hai. The 8% chu-hai already makes me retch as at is, so I dread to think what the new lethal concoction, names “Sparx”, tastes like. Industrial-strength paint stripper perhaps? University students are probably rejoicing, though.

Meanwhile, someone has made an fun educational video about the red lanterns that hang outside Japanese izakayas (traditional pubs). These “aka-chochin” lanterns always brighten up the streets and look groovy, even if their practical purpose- advertising what food/drink is inside- is lost on those unable to read them (either because they don’t understand kanji, or because they’ve been blinded by drinking 9% chu-hai.)

(Thanks to Japan Travel Examiner for that.)

Finally, The Fashionate Traveller has discovered a new bar, run by the hedonistic gothic-cosplay enthusiasts who run the demented Tokyo Decadence parties. Shinjuku’s new “Decadence Bar” is sure to be full of bizarrely dressed oddballs any day of the week, and is surprisingly cheap (free entry, no table charge, 500 yen per drink.)
I’m going to have to check this place out and report back on it, (although I might have to get some face paint, a wig and some piercings first.)

Here are some snaps and some info from the bar’s blog.

The bar is located in Tokyo, Shinjuku-ku, Kabukichou, more exactly at the Shinjuku “Christon Cafe” (Entrance on the 8th floor. The Bar is actually on the 9th floor)!!!
The atmosphere of the Bar is mysterious…and magical. You can enjoy delicious drinks & food, play some cool videogames, watch movies, dress up in costumes…Just a place to ENJOY and have FUN, for EVERYONE!


Post-Golden Week Discount Boozing Update

May 6, 2010

Golden Week has come to an end, and bleary-eyed, sunburned Japanese workers are trudging back to work (mercifully only for two days until the weekend.) If, like me, the Golden Week festivities have left you broke, you’re going to need somewhere cheap to drink until the next payday.

Mari of Watashi No Tokyo has helpfully posted a list of cut-price izakayas worth checking out. A new wave of bargain-basement boozers have been emerging since the recession. (One of the benefits of economic downturn! I was broke before the banks collapsed so I’ve been loving it!)
Billy at Tokyo Filter has also discovered a place in Shimokitazawa selling beers for 180 yen!
With alcohol this cheap you can get smashed for months on end and still have money left for the back-street liver transplant!

If you can only afford beer from the convenience store, Billy has also discovered a brand of beer called Zero Life, with which life’s losers can drown their sorrows in total honesty.

Or you could choose to obliterate your brain cells with the lethal low-fat 7% happoshu, “Strong Off” (See below).

Finally, if you fancy an exotic cocktail, as of May the 25th you could mix your drinks with Pepsi’s demented new Baobab-tree-flavoured pop.
I always look forward to Japanese Pepsi’s annual weird summer drink (cucumber-flavour having been a particular favourite in the past) and Baobab looks set to continue the eccentric tradition. God knows what it’s going to taste like, though!

St Patrick’s Day in Matsue

March 24, 2010

What is supposedly Japan’s second largest annual St Patrick’s Day celebration (after the one in Omotesando, Tokyo) took place last week in Matsue.
Matsue, in Shimane prefecture, is rather remote, and quite an unusual location for an Irish festival. Many of the festivities are centered around an Irish pub that has the distinction of only being open one day every year!
It sounds like a potentially weird and entertaining event, and Andrew Hill was there to see it first hand:

I’ve constantly heard it billed as the second largest St. Paddy’s festival in Japan, next to Tokyo. In reality I think it’s probably the biggest outside of the greater Tokyo Metropolitan area. Fun times though, I was on TV screaming about the holiday. Matsue is obsessed with the Irish because (only in Japan) famed writer Lafcadio Hearn lived in the city for several months back in the late 19th century.

The Irish pub they open twice a year is neat, but nothing great. There’s a museum in Matsue inside what was once a large bank. Downstairs in the vaults, they hold special exhibits, and during the St. Paddy’s weekend, they convert the largest vault into a bar, and bring in kegs of guiness and round up an Irish music band, consisting of a few local expats and several Japanese. They sounded pretty good.

All in all, fun, but nothing special really. Next year the lead foreign musicians are leaving Japan, so the fate of the band is up in the air. Probably better staying in Tokyo to celebrate the holiday.

It looks like a cute little local festival families- not ideal for a mammoth all-night drinking bender, but good fun nonetheless! here are some of Andrew’s snaps:

Jackson Five Bar

March 15, 2010

The other day I stumbled upon a Jackson Five-themed bar in Nakano, Tokyo. Groovy!

Perhaps the bar was named to commemorate the famous quintet’s epic 1979 concert in nearby Nakano Sun Plaza.
Unfortunately, the proprietors don’t stick too rigidly to the concept, as you can see from the sign: “we play trance, reggae, and hip-hop”. I don’t remember hearing any trance anthems by the Jackson Five!
However, the drinks are all four hundred yen during happy hour (from 6-9pm) which is fantastically cheap, and they’ve got a dartboard, so who’s complaining.

Jackson Five Bar:

東京都中野区中野5-67-12 SKビル B1F
More info (in Japanese) with a map: Jackson Five Bar

By coincidence, this week I also discovered Japan’s very own domestic answer to the Jackson Five, called “Finger 5”, who were great. Fronted by a pint-sized, bespectacled boy (who looks like a girl), and accompanied by his younger sister (who looks like a boy), and backed up by their three gangling teenage brothers, Okinawa’s Finger 5 made catchy bubblegum pop in the early seventies and had several smash hit singles (and even made four movies!) until an unsuccessful bid to crack America, combined with the inevitable onset of puberty and broken voices, put an end to their short-lived stardom.
Disappointingly, they all went on to lead normal lives, and didn’t become eccentric recluses, with pet monkeys and merry-go-rounds in their back gardens.
Check ’em out in action:

Valentine’s Nonsense

February 13, 2010

Valentine’s Day, like everything else, has been warped by Japan’s cultural filters like a reflection in a funhouse mirror. Here’s what I had to say about it a couple of years ago.

It is traditional for Japanese women to give chocolates to the men they love on Valentine’s Day. Ladies, if you want to make more of an impression this year, why not present your loved one with some of the seasonal chocolate beer I wrote about a couple of weeks ago? Or, even better, with this heart-shaped Domino’s pizza?

Pizza and beer are surefire shortcuts to a man’s heart.

Anyway, I’m about to lapse into a diabetic coma from all the chocolate I’ve been eating, so here, for your listening pleasure, is a tacky 80s song called “Valentine’s Kiss”, sung by women in swimsuits.

And here are some amusingly dated chocolate commercials starring Japanese pop stars.

The New Craze – Chocolate Booze!

January 25, 2010

A trip to my local convenience store today revealed not one but two new chocolate-based alcoholic drinks, so I felt duty-bound to try them both and write about them here.

First is Sapporo’s new chocolate-flavoured beer, “Chocolat Brewery Bitter”. Each mouthful tasted nice for a second, then repulsive. Chocolate and beer, while yummy on their own, inherently don’t go together, and the taste was much like guzzling lager while munching on a Mars bar at the same time, which nobody ever does for a reason- it tastes grim. Now, if someone made curry beer or peanut beer…

After that I tried Asahi’s “Chocolat Cocktail” which isn’t really my kind of drink, but will probably be a success with chocolate-lovers and booze-curious teenagers, because it tastes exactly like chocolate milkshake, without a hint of alcohol to be detected (although the can claims it’s 4% proof.) The sweet-toothed will love Chocolat Cocktail, whereas Chocolat Brewery Bitter will taste horrific to beer-drinkers and chocolate-eaters alike.
But, once again, top marks for trying, Japan!

Japanese tuna commercial from 78 (Star Wars rip-off!)

January 19, 2010

I wonder if George Lucas knew about this 1978 Japanese ad for “sea chicken” (tuna fish). I somehow doubt it!