Sep 27, 2011

Izakaya restaurant where there are many women customers

Before, customers of general izakayas were mostly men. Any special attention for ladies was not paid in the interior or service of a typical izakaya, which was not decorated very elaborately. Men seemed to be happy as long as they could drink nice alcohol beverages and eat good foods at reasonable prices. Lately, however, izakaya restaurants that have factors of beautifulness in interiors, spiffiness, cuteness, etc., which attract attention from women, are increasing in number. Such restaurants are easier for women customers to enter.

Asedaku Shinsuke in Tachikawa City may fall under the category of such izakaya restaurants.

This restaurant is operating at a small plot ten-odd meters off from a lively street. When opening a sliding door at the front, you are ushered into a space, which is furnished with a light-tone-veined woody counter and tables, creating a unified and cozy relaxing mood. When my friend and I were there, two men were working behind the counter and two or three women were working as waitresses.

After getting seated at the counter, an Italian-style bagna càuda was brought as an otohshi appetizer (an izakaya usually takes cover charges and gives you a small dish).

We could not find many names of sakes on the menu sheet, but when we asked whether they carried any sakes other than those on the menu, we knew they carried interesting sakes. At this time, we ordered Yamada (brewery unknown), Konaki Junmai (Chiyomusubi Shuzo), and Aki-tombo (Izumibashi Shuzo) and two dishes. Their foods used good-looking plates and dishes and were beautifully arranged on them, which seemed to be liked by women.

During my drinking, I suddenly notice that, to my little surprise, most customers were women and there were just two men, I and the other one, who was with a woman.

During my drinking, I suddenly notice that, to my little surprise, most customers were women and there were just two men, I and the other one, who was with a woman.

To change the subject, recently my YouTube channel, to which I have been uploading my video works since May of 2007, has reached the playback count of 200,000. Since I have uploaded a total of 611 works until as of today, this number may be no wonder. However, I am happy to see increase in the number of my channel viewers. Thank you, viewers. The video below was not shot at the izakaya Asedaku Shinsuke I described above but at Oumi, which I haunt. This time, my camera was out of order and could not record my and friend's voices, so I added a sound track that was provided by the YouTube site.

Sep 20, 2011

Sanbiki-shishimai--three-lion dance (2)

This is the sequel to the prior post of "Sanbiki-shishimai--three-lion dance."

Usually, a three-lion dance is performed by three men (they dance wearing headgears looking like monster heads while beating drums tied onto their waists) and four sasara players (hanagasa dancers) (they may be men, women, or children wearing headgears with imitation flowers and they dance while playing sasara instruments). In addition to these members, there are those who dance and shout for the lion dancers to be encouraged and some harlequins or clowns wearing funny masks. Some clowns dance with somewhat obscene objects in their hands such as one resembling a big penis. Also, there are bamboo fife players and singers. However, such an organization described above is a basic organization and there may be variations. The three-lion dances in every district vary in dance, music (fifes, drums, etc.), costumes, and other elements. I believe that knowing such differences adds to the pleasure of watching these lion dances.

This time, I will write about the lion dances inherited at the following shrines and a temple in three districts:
Aoki Shrine in the Ohtaba district in Okutama Town, Tokyo
Jofukuin Temple in the Kami-nariki district in Ome City, Tokyo
Suwa Shrine in the Shimo-naguri district in Han-noh City, Saitama Prefecture

At Aoki Shrine, their three lion dances are performed in late August and the Ohtaba district, where Aoki Shrine is located, is in the eastern part of Okutama Town, sharing a border with the east, adjacent city of Ome. Actually, there is a mountain path that runs from this place to the Kami-nariki district via Nasaka Pass (this route is also called Tokyo Metropolitan Route 202, Kami-nariki Kawai Line).

In the Kami-nariki district, there is a temple named Jofukuin. To the south west of this temple is Mt. Takamizu. Near the summit of this mountain stands the Fudo-do, a temple building dedicated to Fudo Myopo (Acala Vidyârâja). Every year, on the Sunday of April that is closest to April 8, which is believed to be the birthday of Buddha, three-lion dances are performed in front of the building. So, these dances are probably more widely known as three-lion dances of Mt. Takamizu than as those with the modifier of Jofukuin Temple or Kami-nariki. The ridge lying in the north of the Kami-nariki district borders Tokyo and Saitama Prefecture, and people in the Kami-nariki and Shimo-naguri districts in olden days intercommunicated with each other via Kosawa Pass on the ridge (modern people can drive cars to come and go through the Kosawa Tunnel that runs under the pass).

At Suwa Shrine in the Shimo-naguri district, three-lion dances are performed on Saturday and Sunday close to August 25. They perform their dances as rehearsal on Saturday and then real thing on Sunday.

These 3 three-lion dances are said to be in the same bloodline. The dances of Aoki Shrine were first started about 350 years ago. Then, the dances were brought over Nasaka Pass into the Kami-nariki district and handed to Jofukuin Temple in the place. Later, they were in turn brought over Kosawa Pass into Shimo-naguri district. So, they are like brothers and have many similarities. However, the dances of each district have acquired their own individuality in the course of time. I think it is interesting to compare the dances of these three districts.

Last year, I went to Aoki Shrine in the Ohtaba district to see their dances, the eldest among those of the three districts. At that time, a dance of Mt. Takamizu and dance of Suwa Shrine from Shimo-naguri were also performed as special performances. Since the dances of the same program "San-byoshi" from the three different districts were performed, the audience could watch these dances and compare them. Unfortunately, I was late for these programs and could not watch them.

Nonetheless, I visited these thee places at separate opportunities to watch dances, and shot video of these dances. So, I can now watch and compare these dances.

Among many programs of three-lion dances, "Mejishi-gakushi," or hiding of the female lion, is one of my favorites. This usually lasts for about two hours and is one of the longest programs. In the story of this program, the two male lions scramble for the female lion. First the younger male successfully takes the female to his place and gets her alone. Wondering where the female is, the older male looks for her to find what is happening. Then, he tempts her to join him, and he successfully takes her to his place and gets her alone. Then, in turn, the younger lion finds what is happening and tempts her. In this way, they scramble for the female.

Especially, I like scenes where a male tempts the female and I consider these scenes to be important high points. The female, who first hesitates to go with a new male, is gradually moved by the new male, and finally leave the old male to go with the new one. I think these scenes well express a woman's mind that is not easily settled between two males.

I have picked up such scenes from those different three programs and have got together them in one movie. So, please watch and enjoy the three-lion dances of Aoki Shrine in Otaba, those of Mt. Takamizu, and those of Suwa Shrine in Shimo-naguri.

Sep 17, 2011

Ge-ge-ge no Nemurizake

Recently, when I went to Yamanashi Prefecture for picking grape in a grape farm, I dropped in Sasaichi, a sake brewery in Ohtsuki City. There, I bought a bottle of sake named "Ge-ge-ge no
Nemurizake" (the bottle has a label on which a picture of the Japan's cartoon or anime hero Ge-ge-ge no Kitaro is drawn). Sasaichi is selling several types of sake that have characters from anime, movies, TV programs, etc. on their labels. For example, there are Ken-oh (an alias name of Raoh from the action anime "Fist of North Star"), Alien Baltan (an alien who has a head resembling a cicada and big claws like a lobster from Ultraman, an SF TV drama), and others. It is interesting to me that I can see such characters on sake labels.

Well, "Nemurizake" literally means sleeping sake, so will I get sleepy if I drink this? Or, was this named so because it had been sleeping? Actually, this junmai ginjo sake had been sleeping in a wine barrel for aging (Sasaichi is also producing wine and they used their wine barrels for aging sake).

By the way, one of my problems is that I often get sleepy when I drink sake, even when I was with a good-looking lady. It doesn't mean I drink too much and get sick. I am just having a doze for a short break. Usually, I will get awake in 30 minutes to an hour, and become able to continue drinking normally. I remember my grandfather, who was a heavy drinker, also had a similar drinking style, often having a doze when drinking, and starting drinking after a while. So, maybe, I inherit my grandfather's drinking style.

Now, I will write about my experiences that somewhat troubled me due to my being prone to have a doze while drinking.

The first story I am telling you occurred when my friends and I were drinking in an izakaya. At that time, I got sleepy as usual, while the others were enjoying chat over sake. I was sleeping comfortably with my head in my arms at the table, faintly hearing the friends enjoying sake.

According to my friend, the izakaya mistress came to our table while I was sleeping and said,
"Oh, this man is sleeping."
One of my friends answered,
"He is all right, just having a short break, and we will continue drinking here and order other foods and sake." (She was suggesting that we did not intend to use this restaurant just as a sleeping place and were willing to order additional foods and sake.)
Then, this mistress insisted,
"A person who falls into a doze while drinking tends to get sick badly, so you should leave this place with him now."
In this way, we were driven out of this izakaya, although we had not drunk enough. I feel sorry for those who were with me at that time. Anyway, the izakaya had to be more generous to allow me to have just a short doze, hadn't they?

At another time, I went to another izakaya for some sake with a lady. We sat at the counter and started drinking. Then, I got sleepy as usual. Although I felt sorry for her, I had just a short doze.

It seemed that she, being bored having no one to speak with, ordered various foods and sake, and drank and ate and drank and drank.

When I woke up, I knew she had completely got drunk and couldn't make even a step. It took maybe more than 20 minutes to reach the station dragging her while it would take just a minute or so under normal conditions. So, I had such a hard time then. And, I learned I should never make a lady drink alone in some ways.

Anyway, as to this Ge-ge-ge no Nemurizake, in my personal opinion, I felt it was somewhat gaudy in taste and not easy to drink. Maybe, there is a good food pairing or good way of drinking for this sake.

Sep 8, 2011

Sanbiki-shishimai--three-lion dance

Sanbiki-shishimai, or three lion dance is a form of local performing art that is usually performed to pray for bountiful harvests, security and prosperity of the nation, protection from disasters and epidemics, etc. in precincts of shrines and temples as offering to Shinto gods or Buddha. This performing art has been handed down from generation to generation for several hundred years.

In Japan, especially in the Kanto area, there are many districts, where three lion dances are performed. Tokyo also has such districts and many of them are in the western part in mountainous places such as Okutama Town, Ome City, Akiruno City, Hinohara Village, and so on.

A typical three-lion dance band consists of three persons wearing headgears resembling lion heads (actually they do not look like lions, but people in olden days, who had never seen the lion, used their imagination to make these headgears), four sasara players (a sasara is a musical instrument made of bamboo and is used to make rubbing sound), several to over ten bamboo fife players, and clowns, and other members. However this constitution is a typical example and a slight or significant variation may be seen according to the band (e.g., six sasara players instead of four).

Now, let's see how these dances are performed:

You can see there are various costumes, various types of music, and various movements.

August is probably the high season of three-lion dances in Tokyo. Actually, I visited three places to see theses dances last month (August). And, August is the hottest month of the year, and they perform these dances with heavy headgears. This must be very, very hard work! Anyway, August is over now, the summer heat has been softened, and a new sake season is just around the corner. Now, the cooler it becomes, the more delicious sake becomes, and I suddenly want to have warmed sake.