Just arrived in Japan and decided I’d give the dreaded happoshu beer a try. I’ve had over 1,500 different types of beers (rough estimate) over the last 10 years, so when I heard of happoshu beer I decided I’d be best to stay away. BUT…. being in Japan and being an advocate of beer I guess the curiosity in me took over.
Happoshu beer is beer that is under a certain percentage of malt. If it goes over say 67% then it goes into a new tier. The difference in price for certain happoshu to “draft” or “Nama” beer is about $3 for a 16 ounce can or $2.50 for a 12 ounce can, but a happoshu that is under a certain malt percentage is about $0.65 cents to $0.90 for a 12 ounce or $1.20 for 16 ounce can.
There is still some cheaper beers out there I’ll try next but this time, I was mildly dis-proven about how bad happoshu is and how other people hype it up…. maybe I’m just getting the decent stuff?
Habu Sake: It’s a Snake in a Bottle of Liquor! What’s There Not to Like?
This craze called Habushu ハブ酒 is flooding across Japan, China, Philippines and South Korea like wild fire. This oddity of a drink originates from Okinawa and the fellow inside the bottle here on the left is a Trimeresurus flavoviridus, or simply a pit viper snake, which is also pretty similar to the western rattlesnake.
These snakes are not to be trifled with, a bite from one of these guys has the potential to kill!
This oddity is first mixed with honey and herbs, which is the reason it has it’s yellow tint. Then one these excellent reptilian beasts are lowered into the liquid so they can look their most dashingly self for the rest of time, that is if it remains in the bottle. But of course there are many ways to get them there.
Some brewers of habushu at times take the snake out before selling it, but some, daring brewers leave the little buddy inside the bottle for all to see. But we’ll have to go the extra mile and admit, some of these creature are not dead when they arrive in their capsule. Some brewers will submerge the snake in the liquor and seal the bottle, thusly inebriating the snake while at the same time drowning him.
Some brewers know the special alchemy to creating the vicious striking viper in a bottle. What’s required? Sticking our little guy in an ice locker until it blacks out and kind of goes into a hibernation, then the snake is gutted like a fish and bled out, then it will be sewn back up. Once our friend the pit viper wakes up to realize his kidneys have been ganked he’ll immediately get super pissed, strike out but die immediately afterwards, leaving him in a state of constant rage as you can see here on the right.
The brewers will then put the body of the snake in an ethanol tub for a month or more to make sure it’s nicely preserved.
From this point forward the brewers will then take the pit viper and stick it in a 60% alcohol mix for a little over a month, then it will be added to an awamori mix (herbs and honey). It’s said that by removing the intestines of the snake help to avoid a very unpleasant smell that happens when it’s left inside the snake.
Some of the major brewers of this liquid oddity end up using around 5,000 pit viper snakes per year. And for those concerned about the poison, well the alcohol helps the venom to become inert by dissolving it making it safe.
This radical drink is nothing new to Asian countries, although it is catching fire once again through major populaces. It’s a very ancient drink and is believe to have medicinal traits.
Many say it has the most effect on male libido. The pit viper snake can get it on for over 24 hours, which has made it a drink of those with sexual dysfunction. Does it work? Of course it does, why wouldn’t it?
Do I have proof? Absolutely not. But until then, let’s just pretend for those courageous souls out there that do drink this stuff, that all the superstitions about habusake is true!
If I happen to ever get a chance to try some of this snake wine, then I’ll be sure to update you and let you know if I become a sexual god!
Cheap Restaurants in Japan – B-Class Gourmet (B-きゅ）
Japan is certainly a culture who adores and appreciates all types of foods. In fact it’s said that Japan could certainly have the finest food in all the world. Many famous chefs have come to Japan from all over the world to learn the food culture in Japan, but to also bring their own cuisine. Over the years you get a melting pot of all types of foods that have in many ways been improved on and at times given that Asian flare!
But when it comes to eating out, a lot of people of Japan are not always looking for that 5 star restaurant to eat at, in fact there are some stable favorites (meals) in Japan that the majority of the people of Japan enjoy and don’t mind if it’s from a cheap izakaya or restaurant.
The term B-Class Gourment (B-kyu – said like B-Q) is used for restaurants who make good affordable meals (it could also mean a term for someone who likes good affordable meals). People from around Japan will travel long distances to eat at an affordable BUT delicious restaurant. Perhaps you’ve heard that at times a certain ramen or izakaya shop will end up with lines going around block corners off and off into the sunset?
Well, it’s because these shops are offering amazing quality food for an unbelievable price. This happens even here in America too, and I know the sign of a good restaurant. My wife and I live in Colorado and we shop at many of the Asian markets in Denver at times, and we would always go to this smaller Asian market to pick up tea, hot sauces and some Asian sweets that you can’t get from regular American grocery stores.
Every time we’d pull up to this place it the parking lot was packed because of an authentic Chinese restaurant called ‘Star Kitchen‘ next to it, and although for the most part it was purely individuals of Asian descent coming in and out of the restaurant I knew it was epic because it was just crawling with the older generation. There is one thing I’ve found for the most part, when a restaurant is PACKED and has a good amount of older folks going to it, it’s a winner.
So we tried it, and it was certainly different then I’ve ever experienced in a restaurant scene before, but it was certainly an eye opener on how other cultures enjoy a meal at a restaurant. But with that said, a line 95% of the time usually means there’s something on the menu that you’ll enjoy (even if it’s frog legs!). It’s said that if a B-Class Gourmet restaurant keeps up it’s reviews and can continue to handle their customer base in a somewhat timely manner, it will become a ‘trendy’ B-Class restaurant and will stay that way for a decade or longer. It’s basically like winning the restaurant lottery if you want to put it in other terms.
Many big hits in the B-Class Gourmet niche are usually ramen shops. Many of these shops will make their own noodles and soup bases, giving it their own distinct flavor which is what pulls in people from all around Japan and what creates those extra long lines. It’s said that a certain B-Class food restaurant will even increase local travel to the area. For example, Fukuoka which is the city I’ll be going to school in became extremely popular because of their local specialty Motsunabe, which is a beef and pork organ stew. Many different areas will gain attention because of their local specialties.
Here is a list of some of the most popular B-Class Gourmet foods in Japan:
Yakisoba – Grilled Buckwheat Noodles Sushi – High Quality and Cheap = Long Lines! Gyoza – Chinese rice wrapped dumpling (Star Kitchen has famous Shrimp Gyoza! – and they’re really really good!!) Okonomiyaki – It’s basically a whatever you want pancake Yakitori – Grill Chicken, in fact a lot of the chouchin lanterns are famous for saying yakitori (やきとり） and ramen (ラーメン) on them. –> Curry Rice – Vegetables, Meat and Curry around rice Tongatsu – Fried Pork Meat Strips.