alcohol

Toma Toma Sparkling: Taste-testing the tomato juice that will give you a hangover

Toma Toma Sparkling: Taste-testing the tomato juice that will give you a hangover

Last week, we brought you news that Japanese brewing company Suntory was releasing an alcoholic, summer-only tomato-juice drink called Hajikeru Tomato no Sake Toma Toma Sparkling, or just Toma Toma Sparkling for short. Some of us here at RocketNews24 apparently aren’t big fans of tomato juice, a fact which leaves the rest of us (i.e. the righteous and upstanding) baffled. Since it’s one of my top three non-alcoholic drinks, after orange juice and acerola juice, I was more than happy to take up the task of taste-testing this strange new concoction from Suntory.

So, how does Toma Toma Sparkling fare? Is it delicious, fizzy tomato juice that will give you a hangover or is it an abomination better poured down the toilet?

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We visit Kyoto’s monk bar for some spiritual spirits

We visit Kyoto’s monk bar for some spiritual spirits

Many visitors to Kyoto find themselves overcome with a sense of tranquility. Even for people who aren’t Buddhists themselves, there’s just something soothing about being around so many temples and their stoic monks.

You know what else a lot of people find relaxing? A nice cold beer! So when we recently found ourselves in Japan’s former capital and looking for a calming presence, we decided to make it a double by going to a bar run by a genuine monk.

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Pork skewers, spicy fish cakes, and beer backpacks – We look for baseball grub at Nagoya Dome

Pork skewers, spicy fish cakes, and beer backpacks – We look for baseball grub at Nagoya Dome

Even though she grew up in Nagasaki, when it comes to baseball our Japanese-language correspondent Aya cheers for Nagoya’s Chunichi Dragons. Sure, the Softbank Hawks, who play out of Fukuoka, would be closer to her home town, but ever since Aya’s Dragon-loving friend took her to her first baseball game at Nagoya Dome, she’s been pulling for the serpentine team.

The Dragons have given their fans plenty of memories over the years, with the sweetest being the club’s Japan Series championship in 2007. But do they also provide a tasty meal at their home stadium?

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New in time for summer: Sparkling tomato booze!

New in time for summer: Sparkling tomato booze!

Personally, I can’t stand the taste of tomato juice. Even if I try to be healthy and buy a mixed fruit-and-vegetable drink, if there’s even a hint of tomato going on, the carton gets immediately shoved back in the fridge for my wife to try (read: finish off for me).

But if you’re one of those folks who just can’t get enough of that curious red stuff, there’s a new drink you may want to try this summer: Toma Toma Sparkling. Oh, and it has alcohol in it.

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We wait almost two hours for a rum parfait in Hokkaido, and it’s totally worth it

We wait almost two hours for a rum parfait in Hokkaido, and it’s totally worth it

Running a restaurant is tough work, as anyone who’s ever worked as a server, cook, or manager can tell you. Especially in Japan, a country where a good meal is considered one of the best things that can happen during your day, we try to give the staff the benefit of the doubt that they’re preparing our food as quickly as they can, while still maintaining the levels of flavor and presentation customers expect.

Still, we have to admit our patience was tested when we walked into a restaurant in Sapporo and ordered a single parfait. We were pretty surprised when well over an hour later, it still hadn’t come.

Then we were even more shocked when we finally got to eat our dessert and found out it was well worth the wait.

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The sake from Evangelion goes great with Japan’s poisonous blowfish…from a can 【Taste test】

The sake from Evangelion goes great with Japan’s poisonous blowfish…from a can 【Taste test】

We’re not shattering any illusions when we point out that the hit anime Evangelion is a work of fiction, right? Japan hasn’t built a new capital in the mountains of Kanagawa Prefecture, aliens aren’t attacking the country, and as far as we know, no one’s turned into a puddle of Tang because they couldn’t find a way to deal with their loneliness.

But there is one thing you’ll see in Evangelion that’s 100 percent true to life. The brand of sake hard-drinking character Misato regularly enjoys, Dassai, actually exists, and we recently tried a bottle. Not only that, since one of the many themes Eva deals with is confronting your fears, we decided to pair it with a snack that just might kill us.

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Japan tops the list of countries that are the most accepting of alcohol

Japan tops the list of countries that are the most accepting of alcohol

Japan is in a league of its own when it comes to drinking. Sure, the pubs of England may be filled with raucous drunken shenanigans and those in Argentina have surely experienced their fair share of malbec-filled late nights, but nowhere else is publicly knocking back a cold one (or two or five) as socially sanctioned as it is in Japan. What some might consider chronic alcoholism in the United States is perfectly okay, and in many cases considered good for your career, in this land of sake and sochu. So it came as no surprise to us to learn that Japan landed on the very top of the list of the countries that think drinking alcohol is morally acceptable.

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Kick back with a glass of Godzilla shochu alcohol

Kick back with a glass of Godzilla shochu alcohol

Godzilla wants to pour you his own variety of shochu alcohol to celebrate his latest film’s worldwide success. To date, Godzilla has brought in US$477.6 million at the box office worldwide. Japan’s Konishi Brewing Company is marking the occasion by re-releasing its Choujugura shochu in a special collector’s edition Godzilla porcelain bottle.

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Some words about the evils of alcohol and the superhuman powers of drunk Japanese businessmen

Some words about the evils of alcohol and the superhuman powers of drunk Japanese businessmen

After living here for the best part of eight years (five in the country, the rest in the capital) I’ve come to realise that for all the talk of Japan being kind of an oddball nation, it’s no weirder than anywhere else, and perhaps the only reason people here sometimes come across as so quirky is because the rest of the time they mind their own business and just get on with things quietly.

One thing that never fails to astound me when I go out at night in Tokyo, though, is the almost superhuman way in which some businessmen – despite looking like they’ve consumed more alcohol than I ever could without ending up in hospital or featured in the local news – still manage to remain upright and even have the wherewithal to navigate the city’s labyrinthine stations, board a train and get themselves home.

Here are some words about this. Read them if you want to.

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Is this tequila ramen with pitch-black broth and action movie tie-in macho enough for you?

Is this tequila ramen with pitch-black broth and action movie tie-in macho enough for you?

In recent years, ramen has been making a name for itself as a respectable, in some cases almost gourmet meal. Japan’s favorite noodle dish has even reached the point where some women feel it’s an acceptable choice for a dinner date (provided you follow certain rules).

That doesn’t mean ramen has been entirely gentrified, though. There’s one noodle joint in Tokyo that’s currently offering a throwback to the machismo that used to define the dish, with a bowl of ramen that has an action movie tie-in and is seasoned with tequila.

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Nomisugi! Japan’s sleeping drunks get turned into living drink-awareness ads

Nomisugi! Japan’s sleeping drunks get turned into living drink-awareness ads

It’s finally Friday here in Tokyo, and hundreds of thousands of people are gearing up for a night on the town. The weather is fine, the pubs plentiful, and with work done for another week it’s time to cut back and relax with a few beers.

Unfortunately, a lot of people in Japan tend to overdo it when it comes to drink. Combined with an alcohol intolerance that is surprisingly common amongst Asian people, this results in a shockingly high number of alcohol-related mishaps, with businessmen, beautifully dressed girls and college kids alike passing out on the street, in stairwells, on trains and station platforms pretty much every weekend.

The Yaocho Bar Group has been out looking for these sleeping drunks, however, and when they find one they swoop in like a band of rogue graffiti artists, using duct tape and pre-printed messages and slogans to construct a billboard around them, clearly labelling the drinker with the word nomisugi, or “drank too much’.

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1,500 yen will get you all the plum wine you can drink, may or may not make you cuter

1,500 yen will get you all the plum wine you can drink, may or may not make you cuter

Japan is a great place to be a drinker, and not just because of the excellent public transportation and lack of social stigma about enjoying a beer in the park. The selection is also fantastic, as the country produces dozens of brands of tasty beer, sake, and shochu.

If you’re still looking for more variety, Japan also makes a plum wine called umeshu, which has a uniquely rich sweetness. Umeshu isn’t as quite as prevalent as other kinds of alcohol, though, so if you’re in need of a primer, we found a restaurant in Tokyo that’ll let you sample as many varieties of the drink as you like during a two-hour stay for just 1,500 yen (US$14.70).

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BuzzFeed’s image of post-beer ramen in Japan is soberingly off base【Video】

BuzzFeed’s image of post-beer ramen in Japan is soberingly off base【Video】

A few months ago, BuzzFeed posted a video titled What Does the World Eat for Breakfast? The video’s representative morning meal for the United States – pancakes, eggs, and bacon – was an old-fashioned if not inaccurate choice, but we couldn’t say the same thing about the funky menu selected for Japan, which was unlike anything anyone on our team, Japanese natives included, had ever started their day with.

So when we heard the same crew was back with a new video about post-drinking foods from around the world, and that once again Japan was featured, we were both a little honored to be included, and a little worried about what would end up on the plate this time.

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Books meet beer – Man achieves dream of opening “night library” with help from crowdfunding site

Books meet beer – Man achieves dream of opening “night library” with help from crowdfunding site

There are few things better than curling up with a good book, but one of them is doing so with a nice glass of wine or beer. There’s something about spending an entire afternoon reading that is so much more forgivable than losing the best part of a day to video games or sitting in a darkened room watching movies, and so even the addition of a cheeky alcoholic accompaniment – so long as you put a stopper in it before the words start to swim about on the page – barely registers as a sin.

A man who knows the pleasure of getting lost in literature is Shunsuke Mori. Since his junior high school days, he has dreamed of having his own private library and being surrounded by books. Now an adult, his vision has grown with him, and he has decided to open up a special “night library” in trendy Shibuya for grown-ups only to enjoy with, of course, a tipple or two to help them unwind. And thanks to like-minded netizens, his dream will soon be a reality.

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Can’t finish all your sake? Try bathing in it for healthy, younger-looking skin!

Can’t finish all your sake? Try bathing in it for healthy, younger-looking skin!

A few of Japan’s most popular pastimes aren’t exactly what some other societies would consider socially acceptable, or even comprehensible, as hobbies. It’s perfectly acceptable to say your hobby is “drinking” or “taking baths,” and while those are both common activities the world over, in other countries most people stop putting their enthusiasm for the first front and center after graduating from college, and the second is seen as more of a necessity than an entertainment option.

Japan’s love for alcohol and bathing, though, is immense, as evidenced by the thousands of bars, pubs, and hot spring resorts that cover the country. Now, some are claiming there are health benefits to combining the two by mixing a little booze into your bath.

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Drink like a world leader with the $10 sake President Obama and Prime Minister Abe shared

Drink like a world leader with the $10 sake President Obama and Prime Minister Abe shared

During his visit to Tokyo, American President Barack Obama stepped out for a bite to eat with Japanese Prime Minister Shinzo Abe at Sukibayashi Jiro, widely held to be one of the finest sushi restaurants in the world. As you’d expect from their lofty positions, Sukibayashi Jiro isn’t an eatery for ordinary folks, what with its months-long reservation waiting list and set courses that cost 30,000 yen (US$294) yet only an amount of food that can be polished off in just 15 minutes.

And what about the sake the two leaders drank together? Surely, that must be an equally rarified brew, far out of the price range of anyone who isn’t the most powerful individual in his or her country. You probably even need a direct connection with someone in the industry to buy some, right?

Nope. Not only can you score a bottle for less than 10 bucks, but you can order it online right now.

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Kimchi cocktail offers a taste of Korea that no Korean would actually endorse

Kimchi cocktail offers a taste of Korea that no Korean would actually endorse

You’ve probably heard of a Bloody Mary, a popular cocktail with a base of vodka and tomato juice, plus a host of other weird and wonderful flavourings such as Worcestershire or Tabasco sauce, horseradish, celery, pepper, salt, lemon juice, and so on. It may not sound appetizing but it has plenty of devotees, although that may be more to do with its reputation as a ‘hair of the dog’ hangover cure rather than its taste. But if you’re feeling adventurous, why not try the even more exotic flavours of a spicy Korean kimchi version?

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Suntory’s awesome miniature ice versions of the Golden Pavilion, Statue of Liberty and more

Suntory’s awesome miniature ice versions of the Golden Pavilion, Statue of Liberty and more

Although I’m a man who can definitely appreciate the simple joys of knocking back a can of tasty beer in my living room, every now and again it’s nice to treat yourself to a drink at a classy bar. You know, the kind with soft lighting, a gleaming wooden bar top, and a vested bartender with an ice pick working a block into a classy orb to place in your glass of whiskey.

But as impressive as a nicely rounded sphere of ice may be, it can’t hope to match the visual impact of an ice version of Japan’s famous Golden Pavilion or the Statue of Liberty that you can drop in your glass.

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We try Wazen, Suntory’s new beer specially designed to drink with Japanese food

We try Wazen, Suntory’s new beer specially designed to drink with Japanese food

Eating and drinking are two of our favorite necessary life functions, since they’re both so much more fun than sleeping and breathing. So when we heard, back in January, about a new beer from Suntory that’s specially designed to go well with Japanese food, our three months of anxious waiting until it was scheduled to go on sale started right away.

Well, spring is finally here, and we’ve just recently experienced the joys of stepping outside without an overcoat and admiring the cherry blossoms, so now it’s time for the last item on our checklist of vernal pleasures, as we sample a can of Suntory’s new Japan-centric brew, the all-malt Wazen.

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Dirt cheap all-you-can-drink sake sampler in Tokyo saves us money plus a trip to Akita

Dirt cheap all-you-can-drink sake sampler in Tokyo saves us money plus a trip to Akita

Sake is often referred to as “rice wine.” Some would argue the term is misleading, since unlike wine, sake is brewed, but Japan’s traditional spirit does have something in common with the world’s favorite grape-based alcoholic beverage. As with wine, depending on the ingredients and exact production process, two different types of sake can have very different flavors.

This can make searching for one that suits your palate a complex, if not unpleasant, task. There’s also the fact that most of Japan’s best-tasting sake is produced far outside of its major urban centers, which is why we were surprised and thrilled to find a restaurant in downtown Tokyo offering a sampler of sake from distant Akita Prefecture for just 500 yen (US$4.90). Our excitement only grew when we found out that the deal is also all you can drink.

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