Sunday, August 19, 2007

Japan Trip 4: Drinks

I'd had tomato, and later apple juice on the flight from Vancouver. A glass of mildly chilled white wine helped make the brown meat painted white airplane chicken vaguely digestible and set me up for the rest of the trip: cocktails, anyone?
I had a beer with my first meal in country, a burger with grated daikon a vast number of hours since I'd last slept. Tasted beery. When I was here 4 years ago, the beer was suddenly Very Good. Not beery at all. Just refreshing. I would find that to be true as part of a meal, primarily ton katsu, while here this trip but beer divorced from food, and I find that with wine in general, is not something I care to drink. Prefer fruit juices or fruit teas. Brought a box of fruit teas with me, separate teas for separate fruit, and when I discovered my hosts were serving sliced peaches for breakfast, I naturally broke out the peach tea. Alas, the weather was so hot my body rebelled at having to process a hot beverage and that was the last hot tea I had in Japan.
After searching for it during my 2nd visit to Korakuen, Bubba Gumps' colourful cocktails more than made up for the overly bland food. And I like bland food!

After discovering the new location of my old school Elec, I kept walking towards Ochanomizu, a student area of Tokyo that had been my favourite since first coming here in 72. I went to 10 jazz kissaten in one day here then. Now there's only Naru. Set up like a live club, it was odd not to see living musicians at the instruments but they thankfully let me out of the heat even though it was 5 minutes to opening time. I savoured this grapefruit juice immensely. The waitress wondered what the cut off age was for student work visas to Canada. It's probably at least 30.
While wandering around in search of what I remembered of 1971 Hamamatsu, I came up this kissaten The Sun. It was much larger when I hung out here long ago and I didnt get to listen to Abbey Road or Elton John. They had an immense coffee list and I finally found something I could drink, an ice tea. Read a few paragraphs of Collapse and left. From machines I had some strangely undrinkable beers. At the skybar of the Hamamatsu Grand Hotel, I had a wonderful cocktail called Long Hot Summer Night. Something about cold fruit juice, with or without booze, that my body seemed to need to survive this climactic assault. Orange juice (thankfully an option rather than coffee at Morning Service, a Japanese menu restriction imposed on those forced to be in train stations before noon) lubricated my last minutes in my first Japanese city. Off to the Nagoya suburbs where my friend Manny lived on beer. His daughter, the delightful Kaori bought me a bottle of wine that she likes and I was amazed at its quality, even without a fine meal as accompaniment.

My friend Frank was aware of the fact that the Tokyo City Hall has a bar on its top view floor. Now you are too. The passion fruit drink below was immensely quenching. Frank had a proseco. Then I had one, The passion fruit was better. On my last day, I had several glasses of Rock n Roll punch at the Hot Rock Cafe in Ueno Station while hanging out with a musician. I'm still awaiting his CD. Will it be as good as the punch? A very high standard. The sangria I had at the Italian restaurant (opened the year Fumiyo was born) in Ojima was of Spanish quality. It was billed on the menu as Home Made. Like the bread crumb coated ton katsu at Katsugen, the "home made" really meant something special. But Spain Club, the Spanish restaurant my friends took me to which had excellent tapas, actually had rather poor sangria. Drinkable, but dont serve it to your Spanish friends. I regretted the evocative muscatel grape Can Wine of 4 years ago has dissappeared. The cans of wine now, and in general the canned beverages I tried were not so good. I did have a good grapefruit juice on occasion, but the apple tended to be headed a different direction than I would consider tasty. Great really cold apple juice used to be as common as rice here. No more. The idea seems to be if you want a cold fruit drink, you'll have to go inside. One thing that did not exist here before, or I just wasnt exposed to, was the excellent apple cidre Eiichi and Tomomi drank. I never saw it in liqour stores but it's made by Nikko. I introduced them to the idea of adding a slice of lime to this already excellent Japanese dry apple cidre, a drink once so common in Vancouver but no longer. Thats what liquids do. They come, they go.


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