Inconsistently crappy since 2003

Browsing Posts tagged booze


Over the weekend I got the hook-up from Brian and Bryan to go with them on a free bus tour to Niigata.  Niigata’s up like northwest of Tokyo near the Japan Sea and is famous for rice, sake, and ski resorts.  I’d never been there before and didn’t have anything planned so I figured why not.  It was overall pretty fun since it was like a short road trip with friends, but I don’t know if the actual planned activities on the tour were as awesome as I had imagined.  It was a pretty rough schedule too, so that might have something to do with it.

バスWoke up around 5AM on Saturday morning in order to get to Ikebukuro by 7:40.  The only people I knew of course were Brian, Bryan, and Saori, but whatever.  There were some actual tourists on the bus and some of B and B’s coworkers who seemed all right.  We took a Greyhound-ish bus from there up to Niigata, stopping along the way at 2 or 3 “service area” rest stops.  These are significantly better than highway rest stops in the US being that they actually have decent restaurants and shops, lights at night, and restrooms that have been cleaned this decade.  Also there is much less of a sense of “you will be gruesomely murdered here.”  The bus ride took about 5 or 6 hours, which was pretty grueling to be honest.  I was able to get some sleep but not as much as I would have liked.


After getting to Niigata we immediately went to the “main event” of this tour, the にいがた酒の陣 (Niigata Sake no Jin), a convention for Japanese rice wine.  They had over 500 different varieties you can sample, which meant by the time we got there around 2 in the afternoon, there was a huge crowd of old Japanese guys stumbling around totally red faced.  There were seriously people sitting on the ground completely wasted.  We also saw a women who had passed out in a pool of her own vomit get carried away in a wheelchair.  I heard her friends say something like “she’s resting.  She should be fine in about 30 minutes.”  What a country.  I’m no big sake connoisseur, but they had some good ones and some bad ones there.  In addition to just regular sake, they had plum wine (umeshu) and the unfortunately named and milky white in color jizake, a kind of unfiltered rice wine.

We stayed at the show for a few hours, even though it seems like most people on the tour, including us, would have been fine with leaving earlier.  We checked into the Toyo Inn and went to dinner, covered by the tour.  It was a pretty fancy sushi place, but unfortunately the tour only covered one drink and like 10 pieces of sushi.  I mean, the sushi was really awesome, but 10 little pieces of fish on rice isn’t what I would call a full dinner.  Afterwards a small group of us went out to get dinner and drinks at a standard izakaya.  This ended up being a pretty long night, topped off with some awesome spicy ramen.

せんべい王国Slept for a few hours again, at least actually in a bed this time.  Woke up for another 9AM meeting time.  We were taken to the せんべい王国 (Rice Cracker Kingdom), which sounds about 50 times more sweet than it actually was.  It was pretty much just a small senbei store that also had a small factory in it.  They at least had some funky little mascot characters I guess, but to be called a Kingdom I was expecting something more Namja-like.  We also hit up some kind of museum village or something that didn’t have much worth mentioning except we found a hidden PaRappa the Rapper in the wall displays.  Lunch was at some “wealthy mansion owner’s home” that has been converted into a tourist trap, but at least they had pretty good traditional Japanese food.

So yeah I’ve been to Niigata!

Earlier this afternoon I went with my Dad to my Grandma’s place to clean some old junk out of the basement. Most of it was just old boxes and cleaning supplies from the 1970’s; one of which, a bottle of ammonia-based dishwashing liquid, had an old Walgreens pricetag on it that said it was 39 cents, showing how old this stuff was. Among the rubble, however, was a box of old booze. Inside was two bottles of gross and likely rotten champagne from 1973 and 1974, which I first thought about trying to sell on eBay or Craigslist but decided it would be more fun to shoot at with a pellet gun in the backyard. They hadn’t been properly taken care of, and I think the box of booze was sitting next to the laundry machine and dryer or something. That was the boring half of the box’s contents. The other half at first looked like 2 different bottles of whiskey. Then I noticed that they were partially gone, and had grains and weird particles inside. Then there were the Chinese characters ?酒 written on it, which means like wine or medicinal booze/wine. But of course the most odd things about the bottles were the masking tape-made labels marking the two bottles as “Coon + Herb Wine.” What in the world?

Ancient Chinese secret of food poisoningI assumed that they were both whiskey, but upon closer inspection one is a bourbon bottle and the other is gin. I assumed the same liquid was in both, which may be true; who knows. Brown gin with particles in it is even scarier than old bourbon with particles in it. That doesn’t matter. I asked my Dad what in the world was up with these bottles and I got the full story. My Grandpa’s uncle, we call him Yi Gung (Great Uncle), is the one who made this stuff. Quick historical lesson: Yi Gung is the one who raised my then-8-year-old Grandpa when he came from China over to the States way back when. He apparently used to make his own medicinal booze, because according to Chinese culture (meaning, really old people), certain parts of animals have health benefits, and apparently one way to harness these mystical effects is to infuse it in alcohol. Oh, and don’t think Yi Gung brewed his own whiskey down in a lab or basement or brewery or something fancy like that. No, no. Apparently, his method was to just buy a bottle of whiskey and then throw some mystical ingredient into it. There was probably some kind of stirring or shaking involved as well, maybe a lemon wedge. Since these two bottles were labeled “Coon + Herb Wine,” my Dad says the special ingredient in these is probably raccoon gall bladder. This probably dissolved and is responsible for the grainy particles I see in the bottle now. Let’s hope it’s just that. Other ingredients Yi Gung had apparently used were snakes (habushu?), tiger parts, and bear gall bladder, which my Dad saw in person as a kid, and said it was just like a hunk of meat in a bottle.

Judging by the fact that both bottles were almost all the way full, and since my dad says that my Grandpa had them around when Dad was a kid, these bottles are likely at least 30 or 40 years old. I don’t know if they were ever really used much, or if the medicine inside ever did anything beneficial. When I was talking to my Dad about whether or not weird animal parts in booze actually helped, he said “well, Yi Gung died.” Uh…. I guess that’s a no. I don’t think he meant that he died from drinking this stuff, just that it didn’t have superhuman regeneration abilities.

This stuff just looks absolutely disgusting, especially with all the parts and stuff floating around in it. I can understand tequila worms and habushu snakes I suppose, but just making your own doesn’t seem to make sense to me. This stuff almost surely tastes like death, and NO I will not be trying it. If any of you would like to come over and give it a shot, please be my guest. They’re in the blue trashcan in front of my house. Don’t blame me if you drink it and go into a coma. In the words of my Dad,

“Drink it, if you’ve got balls.”

I now know why my Grandma was so adamant about telling us to throw it away, and telling me over and over again not to drink it. I thought it was just an anti-alcohol rant. Likely, it was an anti-death water rant. Thank goodness for grandparents.

Click on the image up and to the right to see a larger pic of both bottles.

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