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Posts Tagged ‘beer’

What does Yebisu mean?

In Japanese History on March 24, 2013 at 11:19 pm

In yesterday’s post, you may have noticed some strange spellings.

I don’t want to get too deep into changes in Japanese orthography, but in Old Japanese 恵比寿 was pronounced ヱビス Webisu. In the 11th Century, the we phoneme disappeared and was the same sound as e.

For some reason, in the old days, when transliterating Japanese words, foreigners and Japanese alike continued to mimic the obsolete orthography by using ye to represent even though it was the same sounds as (and even though it was a W sound not a Y).

Some other words you might see transliterated in older texts with a Y are:
江戸 Edo ⇒ Yedo
家康 Ieyasu ⇒ Iyeyasu

Anyhoo… ヱビス Yebisu and and エビス Ebisu are pronounced the same: /E BI SU/.

An old Yebisu Beer Poster.

An old Yebisu Beer Poster.

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What does Ebisu mean?

In Japanese History on March 24, 2013 at 11:17 pm

Ebisu (Ebisu)

Ebisu is a trendy area in Tokyo’s Shibuya Ward.

If you love beer like I do, then even if you’ve never been to Japan, you’ve probably heard of this excellent brew.

Japan's most famous deity, Ebisu!

Japan’s most famous deity, Ebisu!

Ebisu is the name of an indigenous Japanese deity. He’s easy to recognize because he’s usually depicted as a fat dude sitting down with a fish on his fishing pole and a big dopey smile across his face. He’s a symbol of prosperity and good luck. He’s also one of the 七福神 shichi fukujin (7 gods of good luck), so if you feel like taking a walk around the new year’s holiday, you can visit one of many local pilgrimages dedicated to these 7 popular gods.

The old Yebisu Train Station with the Brewery in the background.

The old Yebisu Train Station with the Brewery in the background.

Anyhoo… why is this area called Ebisu?

Well, the Japan Beer Company introduced its Yebisu beer brand in 1887. In 1889, they built an Yebisu factory in the area. In 1901, a train line and bus line developed to help with distribution and in bringing workers to and from the factory. The name of the station was 恵比寿停車場 Ebisu Teishajō (Yebisu Depot). Because of the public transportation (and one would assume the availability of massive amounts of beer), the area quickly urbanized. The station and area around the beer factory was called Ebisu by the local people and in 1928 the area was officially named Ebisu.

If you’re interested in visiting the beer factory, I’m sad to say you can’t!!!

Ebisu Garden Place today

Ebisu Garden Place today

The reason you can’t visit is that the Yebisu Brewery was moved to Chiba in 1988 and the property was reclaimed by developers who built the current shopping area, Ebisu Garden Place. Japan Beer Company is now Sapporo Brewery, which still has their headquarters in Ebisu Garden Place. There is also a Museum of Yebisu Beer, which I’ve never been too. But one of these days, I need to get my ass in there.

Let's drink Yebisu in Ebisu!

A buttload of Yebisu!

You might be asking yourself, “what’s up with the spelling?” Is it Ebisu or Yebisu?

If you’re interested, you should read part 2!

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Japan Gives the Worst Head

In Japanese Food, Japanese Manners, Rants, Travel in Japan on June 10, 2010 at 11:37 am

Living in a foreign country means you’ll always come across things that are done differently.  But generally speaking, any place you go on Earth an ice cold beer is always an ice cold beer.

I haven’t written in depth about Japanese beer before — because, while I am definitely a beer lover, I’m by no means an expert.  But Japan has some great beers!  All the Japanese brands of real beer are very delicious, smooth and drinkable.  And Japanese bartenders pride themselves on pouring a proper pint of Guinness too!  Most restaurants that serve Guinness actually have notices posted somewhere near the bar to show that the bartenders are certified to pour Guinness properly.  They even put a shamrock design into the head.

japanese guinness beer

a “perfect pint” complete with shamrock design poured into the head

On a Guinness, a nice head is always appreciated.  That head doesn’t dissipate quickly and tingles your lips and gives a creamy goodness to each sip.

But the Japanese bar owners obsess on pouring a beautiful looking head on each and every beer no matter what the brand or style.  Granted, it looks lovely if you receive your beer in a timely fashion.  But soon it dissipates and you’re left with a very sad empty space — often two or three fingers deep — of air.  And by “air” I mean “NOT BEER.”  And by “not beer” I mean “seriously, it’s not beer, even though you paid for it.”

3 styles of ebisu beer

they look delicious! they taste delicious! but are you getting your money’s worth?

In America, if you served a beer with a head 3 fingers deep you’d probably get it sent right back asking to tip it off properly with, um, you know, beer.  In NYC and parts of the UK or Australia, you’re likely to get the beer thrown back in your face — pint glass and all.

japanese bar fight

yeah, that’s right. hide under the bar, you little shit! your bad pouring technique is what got us into this mess in the first place!

When I first visited Japan in winter 2003, I took the head with a grain of salt.  I’m in another country.  I couldn’t speak a word of Japanese.  I felt some social pressure to just go along and not cause any problems.  But towards the end of my almost 2 month stay, I was DJing at a party as a personal favor to a friend.  It wasn’t a club gig.  There was no money involved.  Not even free beer.  It was for her university circle (like a social club) and I didn’t know anybody except my friend.

I kept ordering beer to loosen up, and kept getting tiny plastic cups full of Asahi Super Dry or something.  But each tiny cup had a massive head on it.  After my second beer, I was fed up.  I asked how to say “without head” and decided to make my first attempt at complaining in Japanese.

When I got next beer, I pointed at the white froth on top and said 「泡なしで」 and waited for the guy to go “sorry about that, let me fix this for you.”  But instead I got a blank stare that said “without head?  what’s that???”

My friend explained to him my request and the bartender, seeming to understand, took the cup of beer and proceeded to dump it out.  All of it.

I was shocked.  Just pour out the head and pour in beer, you don’t have to waste it! Isn’t that one of the seven mortal sins? Oh yeah, he’s probably a Buddhist…  Anyways…  He didn’t have to pour the whole thing out and start over again.  Sheeeesh!

Then he poured a new one and handed me what looked like a carbon copy of the first.

泡なしで、お願いします」 (no bubbles… please!)

Again, with the same confused stare back at me, he took the cup of beer, dumped it out and re-poured it — capping it off again with a lovely head.  A lovely head that I had just asked him twice to not pour.

My friend again tried to explain the situation to this bozo and he listened attentively, seemingly understanding everything.  He then poured out the beer, re-poured it and capped it off with the same perfect head.

don't waste beer

every time you waste a beer, god kills a kitten

He explained to my friend that it’s a policy to pour beer like that and he could get in trouble for pouring headless beers.  (I was thinking, you’d be in much more trouble with some of my British mates if they saw you dumping out beer after beer like a bloody wanker).

I didn’t know the word しょうがない at that time, but looking back, this was just one of those しょうがない moments.  I just had to let it go and move on with my life.  Getting worked up about this issue wasn’t going to help the situation.

A few years later I told the story to a colleague of mine who told me that he’d heard about a lawsuit a few years ago in which a man tried to sue a bar for refusing to pour him beers without a head.  In court, the defense showed that the alcohol content of the bubbles was the same as or higher than (I forget which) that of the actual beer.  The court then ruled that he was not being ripped off, but actually getting his money’s worth.

need i say more? (why yes, i need say more… please continue reading…)

At the time, I accepted the story as plausible.  But now that I think about it, it’s gotta be an urban legend told by ex-pats trying to rationalize the ubiquitous refusal by bar staff to pour “a proper pint.”  And by “proper” I mean “one with actual beer instead of 3 fingers of quickly dissipating bubbles.”  It’s gotta be bullshit.  I mean, the Japanese are not particularly litigious, like Americans.  The costs involved to start a lawsuits are extremely high and the cash payouts are extremely low.  All the guy would probably win would be the right to get a headless beer anywhere in Japan.  This would be a great hit to take for the benefit of all beer lovers across the country, but who the fuck is that selfless? Furthermore, I’m no chemist, but I’m very skeptical that the alcohol content in the bubbles would be higher than regular beer, or that such a bizarre demonstration of scientific-legal acrobatics would be convincing.

Anyways, I couldn’t find anything on the web to corroborate this story.

So I’ve totally made peace with the fact that I can’t get a “proper pint” in Tokyo — no matter how much it irks me . And it really does irk me if I’m drinking 大ジョッキ, the extra-large sized beers in some izakaya.  As you can imagine, those beers come with proportionally extra-large sized heads.

I can see the rationale behind wanting to save money by charging full price for a beer then skimming a bit of beer off the top.  I can see management justifying in their own minds the aesthetic beauty of a cold mug of beer with a creamy head at the top.  It does look good!!


it really does look good… on a poster.

But when a customer calls you out on it, I can’t see any manager actually justifying a policy that states that you can’t get a beer without a head because…  well, you just can’t justify that kind of heinous sin.

And this in the country where the saying “the customer is king” is rendered as “the customer is god.”

After 5 years of living in Japan, the only reason I bring this up now is because the other day I was at T.G.I.Friday’s in Shibuya enjoying a full rack of baby-back ribs with a frosty glass of Premium Malts or whatever beer they serve there.  As I was pointing out the extra-large sized head on the extra-large sized beer to my girlfriend, something caught my attention on the menu.  You know how fine print jumps out at you while you’re eating ribs, right?

I know the picture isn’t very good, so if you can’t make out what it says, I’ll include the transcription at the bottom.

japanese beer no head

now that i think about it, is the “no head” option only for pitchers?

(I would include a transcription of the Japanese, but I can’t actually make it out due to the crappy resolution of the camera on the iPhone 3G)

We are serving No Head Draft Beer as these prices: (sic)

(M)  +¥150        (L) +¥200
(M)  +¥100        (L) +¥150

Oh, and just for comparison…
Here’s an (L) sized beer.  I didn’t touch it.  I just let the head settle on it’s own and then took this picture.    That’s how much beer THEY DON’T SERVE YOU.  And if you want it, you have to pay for them to fill that “extra space.”


you call that beer? (say with crocodile dundee accent)

Makes me wanna beat somebody over the head with that heavy-ass glass!!!

If you think I’ve been to heavy handed in this rant, or have your own “bad head” story, leave a comment and let’s discuss.

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awwwwwwww yeah!
mαrκy( -_-)凸


Some Seasonal Foods 1

In Japanese Food on February 4, 2010 at 3:16 pm

So the other day I did a conbini run to the 7-11 around the corner from my house and came across a few interesting seasonal items. If you’ve spent any time in Japan at all, you’re probably well acquainted with the fact that Japanese marketing departments LOVE seasonal items. Whether it’s beer or chocolate, any excuse to hype a product is made easier by the changing seasons and their accompanying holidays.

japanese kit kat & japanese chocolate beer by sapporo

some seasonal items i found the other day... what wonders lie within? lol

This time I came across a seasonal Kit Kat with 2 packages, and chocolate beer [oh, the horror!!]. Nestle Japan is famous for making seasonal variations of Kit Kat. You’ll find everything from green tea flavor, to brandy orange with dark chocolate, to sakura (cherry blossoms). During the university admissions testing season this year, they included a small lined space for notes, so parents & friends could write words of encouragement. This is based on the fact that Kit Kat in Japanese sounds a bit like きっと勝つ (kitto katsu) – “definitely win/succeed.”

japanese kit kat raspberry passion fruit

here's the space to write a personal message on the back of the kit kat packages

The Kit Kats I found this time were Raspberry & Passion Fruit flavor. They came in 2 different packages; one brown, one pink. Since Valentine’s Day is coming up, and in Japan this holiday is separated into 2 gender specific holidays, I figure the brown package is for boys and the pink package is for girls. (If you want to know more about Japanese Valentine’s Day, have no fear… that topic is coming soon). The actual inspiration for this article was not the Kit Kats, though.  Seasonal Kit Kats are so commonplace that it doesn’t seem to interesting for me (although this blog isn’t meant for me to read, it’s to share the experience of daily life in Japan with people who don’t live here, so I guess I should cover the Kit Kat thing in more detail… oh well…).

The real inspiration was a chocolate beer brewed by Sapporo.
I like chocolate.
I love beer.

But oddly, the combination sounded so terrible to me.

I had to buy it just for the photo opp for this blog. I had no intention of drinking it, but after a few days my curiosity got the best of me and… well, I broke down and tried it.

It was freaking awful. Whoever thought up this beer needs to move towards another career direction, I think.

awwwwwwww yeah!
mαrky( -_-)



short for for
コンビニエンスストア, convenience store

short for
セブンイレブン, this is slang for 7-11 used by gyaru and JK.

kitto katto
Kit Katif you’re interested in seasonal kit kat flavors, check their official website.
you can order different flavors of kit kat’s at their online shop:

kitto katsu

to definitely win/succeed

your mom

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