Tuesday, January 30, 2007


This weekend I went drinking with the Priest who married us, on his invitation. This was a suicide mission for one simple reason - I don't understand a word the man says. Even my Japanese teacher, who is Japanese, doesn't understand him. He is a middle-aged man, thus only comprehensible to other middle-aged men. Fortunately we had a cure - booze. We met at a restaurant in the nightlife district, where we drank beer and ate a remarkable plate of deep-fried flounder skeletons, which actually do have some flesh on them but so little that eating one is essentially the same as eating a thin sheet of crispy fish-flavoured bones. I may have mentioned before that bones are something of a popular food in this country, but I was surprised to find myself tucking in with gusto. After the crunchy bones and the beer, we left the bar and wandered to a nearby "Snack" called skeleton (well, strictly speaking it was called "skeriton"). A snack is a type of traditional Japanese bar which consists of, well, a bar, with stools at which one sits. The person behind the bar serves one booze, and various snacks, and a mysterious charging scheme of unknown provenance is applied to the guests. For my snacks I had:

  • a soup made of daikon radish with shredded mushrooms, which was bland and gravy-like;
  • a small bowl of minced raw potato with a raw egg cracked on top
  • a piece of stingray, dried, rubberized, grilled over an open gas flame and then cut into shreds with scissors
So you can't say I didn't do my part to avenge Steve Irwin. I didn't touch the minced raw potato, nor will I until potato terrorists kill Olivia Newton John. Interestingly, the stingray was more palatable than it sounds, though very chewy. But I was quite drunk at this point, since the bar only serves two types of alcohol - Shochu (25% alcohol) and beer; and my babbling host was plying me with the former.

You see, this bar has a mysterious system called the bottle keep system which I am sure is contrary to all the rules of economics. Let us suppose, for a moment, that an alcoholic patron (imagine if you will that he is a priest) wishes to regularly booze it on at this local snack; in this case, he will ask the delightful old biddy behind the counter to set aside a bottle of his favourite shochu, and will pay her a single paltry sum, perhaps say $30. She will then ensure that his bottle is always full of shochu, and then whenever he visits the bar he can drink it for nothing. She will, however, ply him with snacks and he will have to pay for the snacks (I think) and anything else he consumes here (except the secondhand smoke, which is also gratis). Should he have two friends - say, a young student and his wife - he can give the charming old thespian behind the bar our - um, I mean, their names, and from then on they can also visit the Skeleton bar and suck from his bottle for nothing. This deal would be tempting, were the shochu anything other than appalling, and...

... were the bar not quite so... seedy. The woman who runs it is an old kabuki actress who has put pictures of herself all around the bar and in the toilet; the patrons were (besides yours truly and his one-time celebrant) toothless old people who yell slurred nothings (one told me "all men are fools", proving that cliches can transcend national boundaries); the decor was faded velvet from the 60s; there was no music; and the whole place was, in addition to being tiny, cluttered with various of the owner's personal effects so it felt as if one was drinking in a stranger's unrefurbished loungeroom. Now I know, dear reader, that after reading these missives for a year you are probably at the point where you would willingly do just that if the booze were free; but I can assure you that the shine wears off rapidly. So after two rather alarming glasses of shochu (the first of which was poured when I still thought the shochu bottle was actually water, due to a slight misreading of a kanji) I staggered outside, and homeward to safety. Now all I bear from the evening are some vague memories of rubbery fish, and a residual hangover. Until the next time the priest comes knocking, that is...


Blogger Miss Ember said...

As the Shinto priest said to the old Kabuki actress, "Smoke me a rubbery stingray, I'll be back by tea-time". Or some such.

12:18 AM  
Blogger Cracklypork said...


I found that funnier than I should have.

7:40 AM  
Anonymous Miss Violet said...

You realise that you have the makings of Japan's answer to 'Coronation Street': the blowsy ex-actress barmaid, a drunken priest and a fish supper!

9:00 AM  
Blogger Sir S said...

It`ll never cut it ... no potatoes, and no teenage pregnancies. By the look of most of the people in the bar, their ray had long since gone rubbery.

3:10 PM  

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