Saturday, February 27, 2010

Everything About Everything; The Japanese Magazine Section


Just go to a big book store. Skip the foreign magazine section, you've seen all that crap already. Go to the Japanese magazines. That shit is like one whole floor at some places.


Here's one devoted to... seaweed.


Is there a stronger word than devoted? Yeah, this page is giving you the lowdown on nori seaweed processing machinery.


Everything one could ever want to know about the deep culture of eggplants in this fine country.


Or cabbage. It should be noted that each of these is it's own volume.

This is like 0.001% of the magazine section, by the way. There are mags with the history of train schedules, mags that chronicle the school girl uniforms of the country, and mags about mags.


And a pocket size "meat encyclopedia". So when you go and eat meat, you can know every detail about said piece of meat. Yes, there were separate entries for pig asshole and cow asshole. Just trust me.

Thursday, February 25, 2010

Beer Life in Japan


"Wait a minute," my friend said. "There's good micro brew beer in Japan?"


Yeah, there's TONS. Actually, I think beer culture is a three tiered system in Japan.
  1. On the first level, you have the mass produced lager beers that most people around the world know. Sapporo, Asahi, and Kirin. There are different varieties, but they all taste the same. Much better than their American lager counterparts, but that's not saying much. By the way, I usually drink Asahi, because the can is silver. Silver like the Coors I used to drink in America. I drank Coors because I like the way the name sounds when a Southerner says it. Kers. That's me reasoning.
  2. "Pub" style beer. I have a lot of friends who see a Guinness sign and they go crazy. Duuuuude, Irish beer is the best! Then every friend from the UK talks about how Guinness is better back home. Then people fight about corporate world brands that they think represent their identity. By the way, a pint of Guinness will cost about $10. My favorite pub style place could be Kirin City, they are everywhere and not too expensive.
  3. Craft beer. This is the secret that most people are clueless about. Get with it yo!


Popeye's in Ryogoku is a good place to start in Tokyo. They have something like 70 beers on tap, most of which are from local breweries in Japan. Japanese micro brew, or ji-biru, is excellent. If you go at happy hour you get free food with each beer.


These pictures are from the recent Real Ale festival. You order a set, and it comes with all the different raw hops and malts that went into the beers. Eat the malts, don't eat the hops.


Trust me, them hops taste hella rank.


Another good place to get some craft beer is the newly opened Craftheads. Koji, the owner, is famous for his whiskey and beer collection. They've got a lot of American and Japanese beers on tap. Very rad, and in a cool spot hidden in Shibuya.


Akira on the tube, and Stone on tap.


This dude was tracking all his beer adventures in a notebook. What kind of nerd keeps meticulous track of all the stuff they've ever consumed? That's some otaku bullshit!


Nice place; expensive place. You'll pay the same for a cocktail at the Hub though. I'd much rather have something good. Sorry Hub, you're gin and tonic is lame. Nearby is Cataratas, a cozy place with cool owners. Good luck finding it though. Sorry Yuko, your place is hella hard to find.

There's also a few Belgium places, like Belgaube in Roppongi and Delirium Cafe in Akasaka, but they are really spendy and full of banker types in suits with attitudes.


If you want to drink at home, just go to Tanakaya like I said a couple weeks ago.


And get a real bottle opener so this doesn't happen for christ's sake.

Bonus, the 24 "Kuso!" drinking game!

Step 1: Download some episodes of 24. It's not illegal if you don't get caught.

Step 2: Get the Japanese subtitles here. The voice actor who does Jack Bauer in Japan is totally famous for screaming くそっ!


くそっ = Shit, Damn, Nooooooo!, etc. It's basically the safe translation of any curse. Jack says it a lot. As do others. Little kids age 6 will say it if they think you don't understand Japanese.


So line up your shots, and take one whenever someone says くそっ, or the longer, more exagerated くそううううう! One episode won't get you too drunk, but watching 8 episodes in a row, on a snowy Saturday afternoon will.

Some useful beer in Japan links:
  • The boozelist is a massive list of whats on tap at good places in Tokyo and Yokohama. If I ever get some money I'll use this as a guide and maybe make a proper review. Someday.
  • Good Beer and Country Boys is an ongoing "life in Japan" style blog that features beer on every post.
  • Baird is my favorite ji-biru. They have 2 taprooms in Tokyo.

Friday, February 19, 2010

Friday Morning Shopping

I work at 1:00 in the afternoon, so when I woke up and realized that the only Olympic sport on TV was that one that's the ice version of boccie ball, I decided to do a little shopping.


Life is a gift to be enjoyed, every second every minute
It's temporary, not infinite.


Everything here has a reason, don't get things twisted.


The beer, of course, needs little explanation.


The teen quiz mag might require clarification.


As does the guidebook to local sex museums around Japan.


But, it's 12:50, and I need to leave for work.

Architecture in Izumi-cho


Izumi-cho in Suginami-ku. It's famous for... well... I guess this weird ass building.


Yeah, that's a Pegasus built into the roof. Seriously, unless you are looking for obscure ramen shops, there is no way you would ever go down this street.


It's right off of route 20, which is this major street that goes from Tokyo out west a few hundred kilometers. Who knows what mysteries lie just off the congested streets of the city.



I guess this is what happens with the real estate in Tokyo is worth more than a Ferrari per square meter. Of course, that bubble burst many many years ago.



How many girls would get cold feet if you brought them back to this door? Or maybe this was someone's dream pad. All kinds of bling going on here.


No idea. Looks like some sort of... button pedestal?


The stairs to the button pedestal room.





In a land where most people don't want to live in anything other than a brand new disposable house, it's good to know that wierd shit is still out there.

Sunday, February 07, 2010

Tanakaya Bottle Shop


The clouds part and a heavenly angel appears, riding a golden chariot pulled by a unicorn. There are rainbows. Not the lame kind, but the kind that Michael Jackson wore on his shirt. You are sober, but not for long. You avert your eyes from the miracle in the sky, and head down into the basement. The symbolism isn't important.


This is Tanakaya, a liquor store in Mejiro. If you want to drink, let's say, a beer, you might want to check this place out.


Looks to be around 300 different bottled beers, mostly from American microbrewery and Belgian providers. In cask-cooled condition. I may have broken my New Year resolution to only read Japanese manga, but finding a place like this lets me fulfill resolution #2. Progress!


With prices that are completely acceptable. Expect to pay around 1000 yen for a pint of good American, and more for Belgian, in an average Tokyo beer pub. Here at Tanakaya, bottles ranged from 400 yen for normal-ish stuff, to much more for rare, big bottles. "You can get a 6 pack of good stuff for about $8 back home? Shuduppayou!"


Belgian glassware and American pint glasses are available to match your brew. I'm no beer geek, so I don't need to match my beer with it's intended glass. But if I was a beer geek...


But it's not just the rare and unique beers on hand.








I wandered around, taking photos for far too long, almost missing my important appointment. This shop is set up like a museum. Each bottle, whether it be beer or wine, has a plethora of information on it's hand written price tag.


Yeah, you could spend a ton of cash here. And you should. It's just west of Mejiro station on the Yamanote line. And my important meeting?


Made it just in time!

Hat tip to Daniel from for this shop. He has a few beer related posts over at his site, with the most interesting being his Yamanote line beer crawl video.

Saturday, February 06, 2010

Furusato Food Festival


Welcome to the furusato festival at Tokyo Dome. Furusato means hometown, so this was a celebration of regional food, booze, and merriment from around Japan. Sounds awesome! Don't worry, I'll complain about it at the end.


My draw was the food. Hundreds of stands selling anything local you could buy out in the far stretches of Japan. Like different kinds of fish roe. Best part, free samples of everything. But it was dog eat dog, with little old Japanese grannies elbowing me in the liver to get to a teaspoon of beans or some shit.





Samurai pudding. It's slightly more bitter than regular pudding, said the staff.


Mmmm, whale. Whale is not delicious, but it's really nostalgic to a lot of people. I think in the next generation it will disappear naturally as something people want to eat. Off topic, did you see the video of the Sea Shepherd getting sunk? Hilarious!


Booze! Local liquid from across the land. This time I did the elbowing in the liver for the free samples.


There was also a stage show with local dances and what not. It's not really my thing, and I don't have a good lens for my camera that captures from a distance, so I didn't really check it.



Wow! What a great event, and just minutes from my apartment. Right?

Wrong! It was so hella crowded, and even though I tower above most people, that shit gets real old real fast. And I paid 1500 yen to get in, which is kind of a high price for the opportunity to just buy more crap. Remember, this is Tokyo, specialty food is not hard to find at all. I was expecting the free sample angle to be way radder, but it ended up being a pain in the ass. I was serious about the old ladies elbowing me in the liver.

If you want to buy regional foods, and even have lots of free samples, just go to the Isetan department store in Shinjuku. It's the same food experience, without the entrance fee or crowds.

Looking over this post, it's amazing how the photos can tell such a different story!