alcohol

Truly horrific bar in Tokyo serves up cocktails and ghost tales【Video】

Truly horrific bar in Tokyo serves up cocktails and ghost tales【Video】

With summer winding down, people across Japan are scrambling to squeeze the last bits of entertainment from the season. We may be into the second half of August, but there’s still time for a last trip to the beach, one more barbecue, or a final icy cold beer.

As a matter of fact, you can combine the last of those pleasures with another Japanese summertime tradition – ghost stories - at a bar in Tokyo that provides stiff drinks, spooky tales, and truly terrifying interior decorations.

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We try Japan’s most exclusive beer at the U.S. Navy base in Yokosuka【Taste test】

We try Japan’s most exclusive beer at the U.S. Navy base in Yokosuka【Taste test】

In recent years, Japan’s gotten pretty into craft brewing. A few of the more prominent brands can be tracked down at specialty liquor stores in major cities like Tokyo, but many smaller outfits don’t have anything close to a national distribution network. For example, if you’re in the mood for a nice Doppo or Miyajima Beer, you’re looking at a trip out to Okayama or Hiroshima, respectively.

Still, most Japanese microbrews aren’t too hard to get your hands on, as long as you’re in the city, or at least the prefecture, where they’re made. Recently, though, we tried what might be the most exclusive beer in Japan, which is served in one place only, inside the U.S. naval base in the city of Yokosuka.

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We drown and freeze our troubles at the same time with alcoholic shochu shaved ice

We drown and freeze our troubles at the same time with alcoholic shochu shaved ice

We were feeling a little blue yesterday. You see, the RocketNews24 office is just a short walk away from the Isetan department store in Tokyo’s Shinjuku. Earlier in the week, we’d stopped by to see the ferociously cuddly stuffed Godzilla that had been on display, but sadly, August 5 was his last day at Isetan.

It was sad to be parted from the King of the Plush Monsters, but as the saying goes, God never closes a door without opening a window. Or in this case, a bottle, because Isetan also has something that can drown the sorrow in our hearts while cooling us off in the oppressive summer heat: alcoholic shaved ice with shochu.

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Fireworks, seaweed, and sake-The unique regional aspects of visiting a grave in Japan

Fireworks, seaweed, and sake-The unique regional aspects of visiting a grave in Japan

Every year, almost every company in Japan takes about a week off in August. And while some people use this time to travel, attend firework festivals, or just hang out at the beach, the real purpose is Obon, the Japanese holiday during which people go back to their hometown to visit their family grave and offer a prayer to their ancestors, whether distant or recently deceased.

In general, relatives pay their respects all together at the same time, and the associated family reunion keeps the atmosphere from being too somber. Still, in general, the tone is retrained and reserved, as the family prays silently, lights some incense, and leaves a bouquet of flowers.

Unless, that is, they’re in one of the parts of Japan where Obon means bringing a supply of fireworks or seaweed to the grave.

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We fly straight to Tokyo’s newest Buffalo wing and craft beer joint

We fly straight to Tokyo’s newest Buffalo wing and craft beer joint

Back in high school, one weekend I went to eat at Denny’s with a group of classmates. One of them ordered Buffalo wings, and even though that’s exactly what the waitress brought him, he immediately sent them back, protesting, “Hey, these are chicken wings!”

I’m still baffled by his reaction. Did he really think there was some rare breed of buffalo, which not only had sprouted wings, but was being sourced for side orders at one of the cheapest restaurants in America? For everyone else at the table, the fact that we’d been attending San Dimas High for years and still hadn’t had any Bill and Ted-style time-travelling adventures had already hammered home the fact that life isn’t always filled with magic and wonder, but apparently our finicky friend’s dreams wouldn’t die so easily.

For that matter, shouldn’t everyone be able to get excited about a plate of chicken wings? The RocketNews24 team sure can, which is why we recently checked out a new Tokyo eatery, Buffalo Wings & Smile Tokyo.

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Whiskey shaved ice: A frozen treat for adults in Kyoto

Whiskey shaved ice: A frozen treat for adults in Kyoto

One of the most popular ways to cool yourself off during a muggy Japanese summer is with a bowl of shaved ice, known as kakigoori. However, not everyone has the sweet tooth or enduring connection to their inner child that’s necessary to enjoy the brightly colored, syrupy sweet frozen treat that’s usually flavored like strawberry, melon, or lemon.

Thankfully, if you’re looking for a chilled dessert that’s a little more adult, a restaurant in Kyoto has just the thing: shaved ice with whiskey.

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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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