Monday, November 06, 2006

Drinkin' Kulcha 1

It seems passing strange to me that I have done 6 or 7 posts on kombat kulcha but none on drinkin', which is indeed an interesting phenomenon in this interesting place. It seems only fair in consideration of the amount of time most Australians spend in this activity that I mention some of the details that attend this particular cultural attraction.

Firstly the Japanese are very fond of, but universally quite bad at, drinking. They like to arrange drinking expeditions, and their pubs (called Izakaya) provide a most excellent service. When one enters one is greeted, sometimes with a big roar and drumming on a gong; one is seated and offered a massive menu of drinks, and the drink order is taken the moment one hits the bench. There is to be no ordering at the bar in Japan - the pub or bar one is frequenting often has a buzzer at the table with which to call for expeditious and polite service. Japanese people get very rowdy when they drink, and Izakayas are an excellent venue to watch Japanese get shitfaced. There is one near me called "Drunken Tiger's Wisdom". Says it all.

Secondly, in this country cocktails are often cheaper than beer. At my local bar, the Blue Crow, the cocktails are 550 to 650 yen, and the beer 600. That is, $6-7 for a cocktail, about the same for a beer. The cocktails are proper cocktails too, and they don't skimp on the measures when they hand them out. I see this as nothing other than a war on culture. We all know beer is the mark of a civilised man (along with belching and puking); to make us all drink like ladies is an attack on our manhood, and thus in turn an attack on western civilisation. Good thing I'm in the East, eh? Anyway, my favourite cocktail is a white lady (gin, cointreau, lemon juice: done with a passionfruit variation at my local, 600 yen).

Also with drinking comes Ostumame, little snacks served in bowls to be eaten with booze. These can be interesting things like okra with sesame seeds, or they can be disturbing things like boiled fish bones, lotus roots, raw squid and tiny fish eggs. Also raw octopus chunks with wasabi (horseradish) are popular. Hmmm, crunchy and squidgy! In supermarkets otsumame are more likely to come in a plastic bag, and to be dried. A favourite is dried shredded squid, which tastes fishy before the beer, and overwhelmingly fishy after. Nothing makes squid fishier than beer, I can assure you. The super handsome Mr. Hiroki enjoys a combination of beer and dried squid, and his pretty and charming girlfriend Miss K makes a disturbing Otsumame of fried cheese slices (kraft style) sprinkled with tiny salted whole shrimps. I had this while I watched Australia crush Japan in the soccer - surely there has to be a relationship between these things.

Mr. Hiroki also enjoys a mysterious drinking pattern called Tsunami (as in the wave). With Tsunami, one drinks a beer and follows it up with a Chu-hi. Chu-hi is the most evil invention ever to come out of the orient, an invention so evil it puts the death-by-a-thousand cuts, bukkake and even Karaoke to shame. Chu-hi is wickedly tasty alcohol available in cans in supermarkets in a hideously wide range of interesting flavours for only 100 yen ($1.20). that's right kids, you get a beer-sized can of alcohol, a little stronger than beer, for $1.20. These are your classic 'girly drink', with flavours including: grapefruit, orange, lime, mixed berry, pina colada, rose hip and aranciola (??) (the Delightful Miss E's favourite), sour plum, and a variety of wines. For the price of a single vodka mudshake in Australia the average 4' Japanese woman can get completely blasted, and still have change for Otsumame. And rest assured the average 4' Japanese woman is quite happy to admit to the odd drinking session - just yesterday, going to Tottori by train, a woman and her husband were sharing a beer on the train at 11am.

So yes, Japan has a small drinking problem, I suspect. Last year I saw a man drinking Sho-Chu (about 20-30% alcohol) from pint glasses, just a little too small to fit him into. He had the bottle at his feet just to be sure he didn't have to wait between "shots". It is not uncommon on long journies to see businessmen crack a beer as soon as the train is in motion - at 8am (I think I have seen this on every long distance journey I have made). Nothing quite turns me off the experience of a rocking bus at 8am quicker than the sound of someone opening a beer can. And with a wide range of cocktail-styled canned drinks for a mere 100 yen (and beer available from vending machines), what is to stop the worst excesses of concentrated liver-caning? Nothing, I humbly surmise.

The japanese also have an interesting range of non-beer beverages which are not wine. They like to mix cassis with chinese tea, for example. In most bars one can obtain a tea-alcohol called, appropriately, Tiffin. There is also Yuzu (mandarin flavoured); some atrocious stuff from Korea (God only knows how that civilisation has survived drinking Jinroh and eating Pickled cabbage, it's more uncivilised than Germany!); Ume (plum) wine (another favourite of the Delightful Miss E); and hip flasks of "whisky" available in bottle shops for 200 yen ($2.50); and yogurito, a sparkling alcoholic yoghurt drink. Now that's what I call drinkin' kulcha...

2 Comments:

Blogger St John Nottlesby said...

A "sparkling alcoholic yoghurt drink"? My breakfast is feeling a little unstable already.

Time, no doubt, for the "Imperial Teutonic Remedy" - cabbage tea with a shot of jaegermeister!

8:34 AM  
Blogger Sir S said...

Do the germans have a fermented cabbage drink? Surely somewhere in Russia right now people are going blind from just such an evil concoction, sold to them unscrupulously by ex-communists turned oligarchs...?

11:03 AM  

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