Samurai Dave: The Roving Ronin Report

Rambling Narrative of Travels, Thoughts, and Embellishments

Youtube Tokyo Hanami Party 2009

The 2nd Annual Tokyo Youtube Hanami Party was held Sunday March 29th in Yoyogi Park. 

A number of Youtubers located in Tokyo and elsewhere gathered in Yoyogi Park – the park next to the Goth Maids and the dancing Rockabilly Elvises.

Hanami is the Japanese tradition of gathering under cherry blossoms to eat, drink, and be merry.

We had KFC chicken, Krispy Kreme donuts, ramen, beer, and Chu-Hi. 

Here people talk about what they like about the Hanami tradition.

Also check these videos from last year’s event:

Pre-Youtube Hanami in Ueno Park at night:

Post-Youtube hanami at a Hub Pub in Shibuya:

Advertisements

April 7, 2009 Posted by | 2008, 2009, beer, Blogroll, cherry blossoms, culture, drinking, hanami, japan, japanese culture, party, sakura, tokyo, TokyoCooney, travel, video, vlog, youtube, Youtube Gathering | , , , , , , , , , , | 2 Comments

A Japanese Beer Trilogy

Here’s a trilogy of videos on Japanese beer – one on beer vending machines in Kyoto, another one on a draft beer vending machine in Tokyo, and a final one on historical beers – beers with labels of famous people in Japanese history with short bios.

This first video is from BusanKevin in Kyoto talking about the wonders of outdoor beer vending machines in Kyoto on a hot day:

In response, I did a video on a draft beer vending machine I discovered in a pool hall in Tokyo a few nights ago.

Taste was not to bad but it gave me a huge head of foam which is quite common anyway even with live servers:

background music by Super Girl Juice

Later that same night I came across some “Historalicious” Japanese beer which were beer bottles with labels depicting famous people from Japanese history. Get your drink on while learning some Japanese history with Historalicious Japanese Beer – if you can read the bloody small cursive writing on the label:

Crack open a cold one and enjoy the Japanese Beer Trilogy!

August 17, 2008 Posted by | beer, Blogroll, culture, drinking, entertainment, japan, japanese beer, japanese beer vending machine, japanese culture, japanese history, life, shinsengumi, tokyo, travel, video, vlog, youtube | , , , , , , | 2 Comments

Samurai Dave’s 2007 In Review Video

Here’s a video-photo montage of Samurai Dave’s 2007 In Review with music by Seven Cycle Theory:

http://www.myspace.com/sevencycletheory

The song is called “Only Once” which I think appropiate for life and traveling. You’ve only got one life – go somewhere and do something!

January 3, 2008 Posted by | 2007, 47 Ronin, Bavaria, Bayern, beer, belly dancing, biwa, Blogroll, buddhism, culture, entertainment, europe, event, festival, floats, geisha, Germany, japan, Kyoto, matsuri, montage, music, New Year's Eve, ninja, photographs, rock, sakura, seven cycle theory, sumo, taiko, tennessee, tohoku, tokyo, travel, video, vlog, youtube | Leave a comment

Danke for the Memories and Beer Belly – Oktoberfest

Danke for the Memories and the Beer Belly!
Munich’s Beer-Swilling Oktoberfest


Typical Oktoberfest fare

Oktoberfest: Germany’s grand contribution to world beer appreciation and beer bellies. Every year Oktoberfest attracts beer drinkers from all over the world to eat, drink, sing and make merry, while hopefully not making more of a fool of themselves than necessary and throwing up all over the place in the process.

Foamy liter steins of beer, called ‘mass‘, are hoisted high, sometimes with 2 hands because they’re so freakin’ heavy, saluting the strains of Bavarian Oompah Band music. Flocks of roasted chicken, herds of oxen steaks, and tons of sausages of all manner and perverted shapes are consumed in a carnivorous orgy. It’s a homophobic vegetarian’s worse nightmare.


A ‘Mass’ of Bavarian Beer – a beer to some, a pitcher to others

Munich’s Oktoberfest started as a wedding celebration for Bavaria’s Crown Prince, Ludwig I to Princess Therese of Saxony-Hildburghausen in 1810. Though called “Oktoberfest“, the festival today actually begins in the last week of September. Originally the festival was held in mid-October and lasted only 5 days. The festival was later extended to 16 days and was moved back to the end of September so beer-drinkers could enjoy the lingering warm autumn evenings and perhaps avoid freezing to death in their stupors overnight.

Munich has a long and robust history with beer. Before Munich was even a full-fledged city, clever monks were brewing especially stout beers to help them through periods of long fasting. In 1516, Duke Wilhelm IV of Bavaria passed the Purity Law that decreed beer could only be brewed from grain, hops, yeast, and water. The good Duke thus preserved the special flavor of German beer that brings in the beer-thirsty pilgrims every year.


A cosy room for just you and a few hundred of your closest drinking buddies

It felt good to be back in Munich after so many years. This is where it all began (no, not the Nazi Party – even though it did). This is where both my interest in traveling and beer drinking began.

I first went to Germany while at University on a Work Exchange Program. It was my first trip ever overseas. The premise of the program was to give students a taste of living and working in a foreign country over the summer holidays in order to broaden their cultural (and economical) outlook. For poor students like myself, who couldn’t afford Study Abroad programs, Work Exchange was a great way to travel and make a little money in the process.


I need two hands!!!

Some basic knowledge of German was required to participate in the program. I had studied German for three years in High School and one year in University so naturally I couldn’t speak a word of it when I got over there. Prior to my departure, the coordinator of the program would periodically call me up to test my German ability. At one point, he told me if my German didn’t improve I would not be able to participate in the program. I starting screening my calls from then on to avoid speaking with him.


A cellphone shot of moi enjoying a mass of Dunkel Bier

After a summer working as carpentry assistant just north of Munich, I could carry on simple conversations in German. Granted, I couldn’t exactly debate philosophy, politics, or anything like that but I could talk about more important things such as beer.

Deutsches Bier ist sehr stark!” (“German Beer is very strong“) I would say with authority.

Americanish Bier is sehr schwach. Es ist Wasser.” (“American Beer is very weak. Its water.”) I would add to strengthen my point.


Good Times A-comin’: a Beer Wagon laden with beer and girls

I drank my very first beer in Munich. I had never cared much for the taste of American beer before going to Germany. German beer I found quite delicious since it lacks all the preservatives and other unpleasantries (like formaldehyde) that are found in many other beers.

My very first beer was served at the famous (and sometimes infamous) Hofbrau Haus. A burly arm attached to an even burlier serving maid plunked down in front of me what I thought was a small pitcher because it came in a liter glass. It took me half-an-hour, one bratwurst, and two large pretzels to wash it down. After I stumbled away from the Hofbrau Haus evening in my first alcoholic-induced haze, it took me two months to find the place again.

I missed Oktoberfest that year because I had to return to school. I always harbored a hope that one day I would make it back for that Hallowed Happy Hour and drain beer after beer (which my limit is two) with other beer pilgrims from around the world.

Accommodations are scarce in and around Munich during Oktoberfest. It would be wise to book well in advance, preferably at the end of the previous festival. However, as I made my plans to visit Oktoberfest in my usual fashion, i.e. on the spur of the moment, I was left with very few options.

My accommodations were a bit spartan. I had a mind to complain to the staff about the living conditions but the staff consisted of train engineers, ticket officials, and the guys who clean up the vomit from the platforms.

One night, my traveling companion, Deirdre, had some fellow, whom I suspect was not part of the staff, play with her ear while she was asleep. I said she should feel lucky to get a complimentary ear massage. I recall she didn’t speak to me for some time after that remark.


Dunkel Dee

Oktoberfest begins with a parade of the Brewery Landlords. Each beer brand has its own cart made out in festival colors with servers decked out in leiderhosen. They head straight to the beer tents set up in Theresienwiese field, which was named in honor of the Princess Therese. In one of the tents, the Lord Mayor of Munich starts the beer-swilling festivities by tapping the first keg and shouting: “O’zapft is!” (“It is tapped!“).

There are 14 tents that each cater to different tastes and styles. For those sick of beer (which would beg the question: why come in the first place?) there is a tent for wine connoisseurs. If sausages three times a day begins to wear thin, there is a tent that specializes in fish dishes. As of yet I do not know if they have set up a Tofu Tent for Vegetarian visitors. All the tents have their own reputation – some traditional, some modern, and some wonderfully decadent.

One tent sponsors crossbow shooting. Beer, pig knuckles, and crossbows, the Armbrustschutzen Tent offers something for everyone – provided you like beer, pig knuckles and crossbows, that is. I displayed my crossbow skill and won Deirdre a stuffed bear. Alright it wasn’t in the Armbrustschutzen where I did my William Tell impression. It was at one of the game stalls, and the bolts I was firing were made of foam rubber. They wouldn’t let me fire the crossbows at the Armbrustschutzen, which probably was a wise decision in retrospect.


Dee enjoys a pretzel

In addition to the beer-drinking tents, they have a funfair filled with puke-inducing rides. A twirling, upside-down ride high in the sky is just the thing after downing a few liters of your favorite brew. One has to be careful when walking below to avoid such dubious rain from the heavens.

After downing a liter of beer, Deirdre and I, wisely avoiding the puke-n-spin rides, went to our favorite ride: bumper-cars! There’s no law that says you can’t “Drink and Bump”, so we fell to it with reckless abandonment and became drunken terrors on the bumper-car rink. I still remember the look of shock on the faces of those poor children and teenage couples as we bore down on them with Wagnerian fury and bumped them into oblivion.

The beers at Oktoberfest range in several categories:

Helles – this is the standard beer served in a liter stein which brawny beer maids grasp five to six in each hand.

Dunkels – an old-fashioned dark beer served in liter steins as the Helles. Its brewed with toasted malt and has a rich robust taste. I prefer it over the Helles.

Pils/Pilsner – served in a 1/2 liter glass. Pils is a lightly-toasted malt beer originally hailing from the Czech Republic and is often poorly imitated in other countries, fortunately not so in Munich.

Weissbier – a tasty, strong beer made from wheat and sometimes served with flecks of lemon in the foam. It too is served in a 1/2 glass.


A Tall Glass of Bavarian Beer – for light drinkers

Some lessons I learned the hard way about German beer my first time in Munich which I now pass on to the readers are as follows:

1) Don’t drink an entire liter on an empty stomach, and especially don’t follow that first liter with a second one just because someone else is paying. I found myself outside of a bar violently throwing up in the arms of a sympathetic German woman who I had the cheek to ask for a kiss later.

2) Don’t chug German beer. German beer, unlike most of the cheap swill preferred by college students, actually has a good flavor that is worth taking the time to savor. That first night at the Hofbrau Haus, I watched a group of American college students encouraged a girl to chug a whole liter of Helles. Surprisingly, she accomplished it but barely kept the beer down through the applause and she quickly threw it all back up.

3) Don’t play “Quarters” with German beer – or any drinking game for that matter. Some of the Work Exchange participants and myself engaged a few of the carpenter apprentices in a friendly game of Quarters one night. The fellow beside me had an amazing stroke of Beginner’s Luck and I had to down glass after glass of Spaten Helles. I remember the brand well because it was not too long afterwards that I began “spatting” like Hell in the bathroom. Spaten’s logo is a shovel which must symbolize the tool needed to pick people off the bathroom floor after a few too many rounds of the old Spaten. Good beer, though.


Ye Olde Beer Drinkers from the Oktoberfest Parade

I survived Oktoberfest last year, barely. The last night there we spent in the Augustiner-Brau Tent eating roast chicken washed down with more liters of beer. Ours was a lively table, though I almost go into a fight with one of the guys at the table at the beginning of the evening. He told us he was taking a newly-opened table all for just his friends. Deirdre, ever the peace-maker, just smiled and sat down anyway so everything worked out alright. We jumped up on our benches a few times to croon merrily and drunkenly German drinking songs and a few American songs with our beer buddies.

By the end of the night we stumbled away from our new-found drinking buddies, then took an overpriced uncomfortable bus ride to Bratislava, Slovakia.

For those heading to Oktoberfest this year, I wish you the best in foamy delicious beers, savory sausages, succulent chickens, and juicy oxen steaks.

Hold your beer high and say for me:
Prost! Gemulichkeit!


My hands are completely full at Oktoberfest

October 5, 2007 Posted by | alcohol, Bavaria, Bayern, beer, Deutschland, festival, Germany, Munchen, Munich, Oktoberfest | 5 Comments

Sapporo Beer and Genghis Khan

Museum Offers History and Beer
Sapporo Beer Museum visitors learn about brewing history in Japan while sampling the wares

The Sapporo Beer Museum: A Mecca For Japanese Beer Drinkers

Ever since man raised himself from his animal-like state of existence and achieved conscious rational awareness, he has used his thought process to devise various and illicit ways of removing this burden of consciousness and returning to his former state. One of the earliest relievers of this burden was the divine elixir known as beer. Beer brewing can be traced back over 6,000 years ago to the resourceful Sumerians. The Sumerians were so taken by this brew they dedicated hymns praising their gods for this divine drink. They even had a goddess of beer brewing.


Old Beer Bottles from the turn of the century

Beer came late to Japan — about 6,000 years later. The Japanese, however, were not slack in the “altering of consciousness through liquid means” department. They had been brewing their rice wine for countless generations before beer found its way over. Beer was first tentatively introduced to the Japanese during the nation’s seclusionary Edo Period (1615-1867) by Dutch traders. It did not catch hold at the time.


Geisha and Beer : the perfect combination

In the Meiji Period (1867-1912), Japan opened its borders to foreigners and allowed its own citizens to travel abroad. Seibei Nakagawa went to Germany where he earned a Beer Brewery Engineering License. With the discovery of hops in the northern island of Hokkaido, a beer brewery was planned with Nakagawa as its first brewmaster. In 1876, the first Sapporo Beer was sold in Japan.


A display showing that Sapporo Beer is apparently made by magical gnome-like creatures.

Over the following decades, beer drinking increased in popularity and became an established pastime. These days it’s hard to imagine a Japan without beer, as it has become so firmly entrenched into the Japanese lifestyle. What helped is the fact that a good percentage of Japanese food, from sushi to yaki-tori (chicken skewers), simply goes great with beer.


Commemorative Beer for the 1972 Winter Olympics which were held in Sapporo

The Sapporo Beer Museum in Sapporo is a good place for beer lovers to go to learn more about the history of beer brewing in Japan. The Museum has a collection of beer bottles and cans that date back to the late 19th Century. Visitors can also watch beer commercials that span several decades. There are two small bars where one can — for a small fee — sample the wares. Two of the beers — Kaitakushi and Sapporo Classic — are only available in Hokkaido.


Samples for the studious beer connoisseur

The taste of Sapporo beer, which its admirers harp on about, comes from unique hops that are only produced in certain areas around the world — areas known for their exceptional beers. Sapporo Brewery prides itself in its quality ingredients and the skill of its brewers. Sapporo beer can be seen as a delicious result of German brewing practices and Japanese attention to detail.

At first, visitors to the Sapporo Beer Museum may be a bit shocked to find a red star emblazoned on its building, and suddenly worry that Communist China has gained a foothold in the Hokkaido Island as a precursor to invasion of the mainland. The red star actually represents the North Star, which was the symbol of the early pioneers in the 19th Century. The red star logo was later changed to a gold star, no doubt to avoid any confusion that Sapporo Beer might be a communist brewski.


Genghis Khan: a sizzling plate-grill of lamb meat – ready for the conqueroring

Visitors shouldn’t try to get too involved in their study of Sapporo’s finest brew at the Museum’s bar, however. Attached to the museum is the Sapporo Beer Garten, where for just under 4,000 Yen a person can help themselves to all the beer they can drink for 100 minutes. Accompanying the beer are strips of lamb meat cooked on a grill at the customer’s table by the customer themselves. This dish is named after the famous Mongol conqueror: Genghis Khan. After 100 minutes of incessant beer guzzling and lamb chomping, the only kingdom you’ll be interested in sacking will be the one with the porcelain throne.


All’s Well in Magical Beerland

February 23, 2007 Posted by | alcohol, beer, Blogroll, drinking, Genghis Khan, hokkaido, japan, life, museum, sapporo, sapporo beer, travel | 6 Comments