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f.k.a. Edo

DRINK




Whiskey, like a beautiful woman, demands appreciation. You gaze at it first, then it’s time to drink.
-Haruki Murakami

︎ Also, here’s a map


︎︎
No blossoms and no moon,
and he is drinking sake
all alone!
-Basho


Sake



Drink as much as you can! Most bars and izakaya will serve sake. It will come in a glass or a flask (180ml) called a ‘tokkuri‘, and you’ll be asked how many little cups (ochoko) you want with it. If it comes in an overflowing glass in a little wooden box (a ‘masu‘) or saucer, this is to show good hospitality. Drink from the glass first, and when you’ve made enough room, pour in the sake from the extra vessel. In spring, try shiboritate (freshly pressed, un-aged) sake and hanamizake (cherry blossom viewing sake, with cherry blossom petals in), in autumn try akiagari or hiyaoroshi (autumn sake, only pasteurized once rather than twice) and tsukimi (moon-viewing sake). In winter, yukimi (snow-viewing sake) and kanzake/ atsukan (heated sake). Contrary to popular belief, hot sake is not rubbish sake. It has been known to be heated overseas to mask shitty sake, but in Japan it’s different. Sake comes into its own at different temperatures (7, to be precise). In terms of variety, I prefer to drink ‘junmai‘ (without brewer’s alcohol added), and have a soft spot for ‘nama‘ (unpasteurized) varieties.

Isego Honten Nakameguro, The Hangar, Sake Stand, Kimijiyama Ebisu

Tea



Cold, hot, from a vending machine, whisked by a geisha, sencha, matcha, genmaicha. Here’s my article on some of the main varieties – Beyond Matcha: Japan’s Creative & Salubrious Cha Scene

Vending machines, Yakumo Saryo

Umeshu



Most commonly translated as plum wine, Japan’s purple drank. Although it’s not actually wine, it’s liqueur. Umeshu is made from May-June when ripe ume fruit (same genus as plums and apricots but actually a species of its own) drip from the trees. They’re added to a solution of liquor and sugar and left to brew for 3 months – 1 year. Longer, for a richer brew. The liquor is most often sake or shochu, but brandy can be used for more of a dessert tipple, as well as other clear liquor such as vodka or white rum. Drink it straight, on the rocks, mizuwari, with soda water (umehai), with sake or shochu or gin (umetini), with green tea (very refreshing).

Coffee



Combini (if you’re getting hot add the creamer, it’s salty. The iced version are mint in summer too), kissaten, siphons, vending machine, hipster Third Wave joints, coffee tonic (lit. coffee + tonic water), coffee and orange liqueur, coffee with a shot of espresso, cold brew that looks and tastes like Guinness – show it all some love.

Streamer, Bear Pond Espresso

Amazake




Japan’s original energy drink. Think of a slightly boozy, sweet, fermented-smelling-and-tasting hot rice porridge, but a really tasty version. Amazake literally means ‘sweet sake’, but is either very low or non-alcoholic, made either from koji added to cooked and cooled rice, (non-alcohol version) or from sake lees mixed with hot water (low alcohol version). You’ll find it mostly around festivals and shrines, and particularly in winter. Traditionally though, it was a summer beverage, due to its power-providing qualities (amazake drips are a thing in summer). If you’re somewhere where it’s being served sprinkled with powdered or freshly grated ginger, even better.

Look for it at supermarkets (甘酒), festivals and wagashi cafes.

Shochu




The most often/ most easily described as Japanese vodka, but about half the strength. Where sake is fermented like beer, shochu is distilled like liquor. The 4 main types you’ll encounter are imo (potato, probably the most common), mugi (barley), soba (buckwheat) and kome (rice). It can come infused with shiso(a personal favorite, reminded me a little of the grassiness of Zaborowska) and a personal favorite of mine you can often find on the counters of dingy nightclubs, cold-brew shochu, infused with coffee beans. Zero to hero. Regular shochu can be drunk in a myriad of ways: straight (my least favorite, shochu noob), on the rocks, mizuwari (on the rocks with a little water), with hot water, with oolong tea, with matcha tea, with soda and citrus juice (yuzu-hai, lemon-hai, sudachi-hai, daidai-hai), juice, or even with other booze. Often a non-alcoholic beer called Hoppy (a popular summer and salaryman number).

Human Nature, Waltz with Wine, JiP, place in Harajuku, Mirie’s Gakugeidaigaku, Nonbei Yokocho

Wine




I’ve had some bad Japanese wine in my day, but I’ve also definitely had plenty of bad Australian/ French/ Italian/ South African/ American wine (though none though as bad as The Great Wall of China Red). Yamanashi and Yamauchi and Hokkaido are the wine m-growing. Try JiP in Shinjuku. If you go to Potsura Potsura in Shibuya, they also serve only Japanese wine.

Waltz with Wine, Dive to Wine, Kimijiyama Ebisu, JiP, place in Harajuku, Mirie’s Gakugeidaigaku, Nonbei Yokocho wine stand, Human Nature.

Beer




Commit to memory: nama beeru (“raw beer”, ie. beer of the tap), toriaizu nama (“a beer first while I decide what to drink/eat” – what my dad calls a “tweensie”). Asahi, Sapporo, Kirin, Suntory, Yebisu are the big players. Look out for other craft brews making their way onto the market.

Good Beer Faucets, craft beer stands at the UNU Farmers Market, Commune 2nd, Yona Yona.

Whiskey




All of the Yamazaki varieties, Ichiro’s Malt. 

Bar Moonshiner

Highball




The wooden walls of the house — that is, its front and west gable-end — are still protected from the sun by the roof (common to the house proper and the terrace).

Any izakaya or yakitori joint.

Cocktails




The wooden walls of the house — that is, its front and west gable-end — are still protected from the sun by the roof (common to the house proper and the terrace).

Cerulean Tower, Gen Yamamoto

Vending Machine, Supermarket, Convenience Store Drinks





 A drink for all occasions. My personal faves are mugi-cha (barley tea, preferably col), Royal Milk Tea (cold, not hot. Hot tastes like something you’d be served in hospital), emerald coffee (just a hint of milk and sugar), rich green tea, yoghurt tea (pleasantly tangy), genmaicha.



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日々旅にして旅を栖とす – 芭蕉
Each day is a journey, and the journey itself home – Basho