Sunday, July 30, 2023

VAoJ S2023RT Arc: Returning Home on the "Izakaya Shinkansen" (6/30/23)

This research trip has been in part driven by Japanese television media productions such as shows about izakaya/tachinomiya and meshi tero dramas. The influence that guided my last adventure in the field is a popular drama called Izakaya Shinkansen (MBS). The protagonist is a salariman who often takes business trips on the bullet train. When his official duty is over, he goes shopping at local shops for local products and alcohol. This is not a new theme; there are many cable TV shows, YouTube videos and social media posts about ekiben (short for eki bento or train station boxed lunches). Many people enjoy eating and drinking on the train, especially the local products or special lunches sold only at a certain station. Train stations have stores for people to buy snacks or food that are popular in that geographic area that serve as the obligatory omiyage, or souvenirs for family, friends and co-workers. This newer drama is a bit different in that the main character packs a special kit for his return trip with chop sticks, bottle openers, glasses, plates… whatever he needs to consume his hand-picked izakaya meal. As a part of the story he posts photos on social media of what he is eating and drinking. He always gets several replies filled with envy and/or information about the local products. Yes, the smartphone once again becomes an important prop/tool providing anonymous characters adding to the dialogue. So many levels of meshi tero!

Now it was my turn to take the Izakaya Shinkansen; I went shopping in Monzen Nakacho…
The first shop I noticed soon after I got to Monzen Nakacho. Across my from my hotel was, not the HANSHIN TIGERS but the TIGER GYOZA HALL, “A gyoza bar with a retro atmosphere from the Taisho and Showa eras.” Although there was no connection to baseball, I still thought the fancy sign was a good omen. I asked around and was told this shop was good, especially the jumbo gyoza and other Chinese-style foods. They have a special take-out menu and I ordered the jumbo gyoza, karage chicken and sesame balls.
The next shop I went to was a sake shop, Orihara Shoten. They had many refrigerators filled with cold bottles of sake - lots to choose from! They sell bottles and single drinks as well. This kind of shop is probably what many people think of when they hear the term, tachinomiya. This kind of shop doesn't have a license to be a restaurant but can still sell drinks and simple snacks. There is no seating available.
So, the process here is that the customer chooses the sake they want, takes the bottle out of the refrigerator and brings it to the counter. For a single drink, there are small or large sizes available. After the sake is poured for them, the customer pays, puts the bottle back into the refrigerator and enjoy their drink at a narrow, tall counter or table, some inside, some outside. Customers include salariman-types, neighbors and young people (women and men). The shop seems traditional in terms of appearance, process and behavior. But it is modern, too, with young people working there – including the manager, and their musical choices (John Lennon, The Red Hot Chilli Peppers).
I must admit I went to this shop twice, the second time for my shinkansen sake. The manager was happy to see me again and was very generous with his advice and free samples. With the manager's recommendation, I purchased 基峰鶴 VELVET 純米吟醸生 (Kihotsuru VELVET Pure rice ginjo raw) from Saga Prefecture (13% alcohol, described as soft and elegant). Delicious!
I bought dessert on the bullet train...
Rainy day when we reached Kyoto Station. Not too much more time to finish eating and drinking...
Old man fashion...
The table in front of me was crowded with food and drink. And it was smelly (in a good way, I thought…). Being a little embarrassed, I apologized to the passenger sitting the closest to me and asked if he was hungry or thirsty. He smiled, laughed and then politely refused.



居酒屋新幹線 (Izakaya Shinkansen) website (MBS):

タイガー餃子会館 門前仲町店 (Tiger Gyoza Kaikan Monzennakacho) website:

折原商店 (Orihara Shoten) website:

さかや栗原 (Japanese Sake Kuihara) website: