Tag Archives: alcohol

Evolving Tastes in Alcohol

For years, I preferred drinking beer. I still like beer. I probably drink it more than any other alcohol. However, I tend to drink maybe once a month, and that’s all.

Once I came to Japan, I started expanding my alcohol experience. Very early on (my fourth day in Japan), I was introduced to sake. Nihonshu, to be exact. And it was a kind of sake called Hakkaizan. That’s a pretty high quality, somewhat expensive sake that tastes great. Sake goes down smoothly, and is too easy to get drunk on. However, I never felt a hangover. It affects me quickly, but wears off quickly.

I’ve tried various kinds of wine, but I find them to be hit or miss. I’ve found I prefer white wine, and sparkling is good.

But in the past couple of years, I’ve found I’ve been attracted to Smirnoff Ice. And lately, it’s been available in more than just the basic lemon flavour, now there’s orange, grape, green apple, and my new favourite, brisk lemonade. I’m drinking it now, in fact.

Vodka, my new favourite alcohol. At least, I’m drinking the beer-level alcohol content vodka.

Do you have preferences for alcohol?

A New Year Live Blog

I’m going to try something a bit different this New Year. A kind of live blog where I tell you some of the highlights of our New Year adventure.

Like last year, we plan to see the sun rise at Enoshima early in the morning of January 1st. Then we’ll head up to my wife’s family’s for the big family gathering. Expect pictures of a sunrise (if it’s not cloudy), a train called Romance Car, and plenty of food and drink. I want to do this mostly for my family to see what our New Year is like, because they’ve never experienced a Japanese New Year. It’s the biggest holiday of the year here.  It’s also our last one in Japan. I want to show some great memories.

Who’s interested?

Banned Books Week – No Censorship for Me

This week is Banned Books Week.  It’s the week when you can support the freedom to read anything you like by reading books that have often been challenged for various reasons by parents, religious groups, and so on. They want to ban these books from bookstores, public libraries, and schools.  I’ve read quite a few banned books, considering that the entire fantasy genre is quite blasphemous according to many religious groups.  The book I’m reading now has most definitely been challenged for many reasons, including violence, adult themes (nudity, sex), religious reasons (polytheistic religions, magic, something that could be considered Satanic), and offensive language.  George R. R. Martin sure can piss off many people.

So, for this post, I’m not censoring myself at all.  Expect some language, but nothing sexual.  And I’ll be very blunt about what I think about the people who want to ban these books.

Let’s look at the reasons why people want to ban books.

Sexually explicit. This is pretty obvious.  I can understand it not being allowed in schools, considering it’s not age appropriate.  Little kids can be spared this kind of thing.  But libraries and bookstores?  No damn way.  To be honest, I’ve known quite a bit about sex since I was pretty young.  You can thank the Encyclopedia!  Ooh, let’s ban the Encyclopedia now.  Go into a school library and find an Encyclopedia.  I bet it has entries on sex, reproductive organs, and so on.  Oh, and for those prude people, sex isn’t offensive.  It’s natural.  It’s a fact of life.  I won’t shield my kids from what sex is.  I’ll be honest if they ask, and I won’t try to hide the truth.

Offensive language. Fuck that shit, you assholes.  There are classic books with swear words, you know.  They’re read in school. I’ve read books with swearing in school.  No one cared.  Really.  We didn’t giggle.  You know why?  Kids learn swear words from an early age.  They hear it from their parents, they hear it outside, they hear it from friends, TV, movies.  It’s everywhere.  They understand what it means, they understand they’re not good words to use in polite company.  Honestly, I don’t care.  What’s important is that parents try limit their swearing around their kids.  Parents are the most important role models, and kids will emulate their parents.

Violence. This is very common for action oriented books.  But I’d say violence in TV and movies is more influential because kids can see it.  In books, it can be described explicitly, but it’s often difficult to imagine it clearly.  Anyway, just as in TV, movies, and video games, this must be made clear to kids that the violence isn’t real and should not be reproduced.  Again, it’s parental responsibility.

Unsuited for age group. Yes, I can see this one easily.  An elementary school kid won’t read Fifty Shades of Grey.  It’s up to the school to put age appropriate books in the school library.  But in a public library and bookstore, it’s the parents’ responsibility to keep their kids away from more adult books.  It also depends on the maturity of the kid.  I was pretty mature for my age, so a lot of more adult books, TV shows, and movies didn’t affect me as much as many of my peers.

Nudity. I’m pretty liberal-minded, open, and a free-thinker.  Nudity shouldn’t be an issue.  It’s religious groups and the media that sexualise nudity.  Nudity isn’t sexual.  Nudity is the default for the human body.  Animals are naked.  They aren’t aroused because they see other naked animals.  A lot of tribes in the Amazon or in Africa have no problems with nudity.  Naturist groups don’t view nudity as sexual.  That’s because it isn’t sexual.  Nudity doesn’t corrupt youth.  I think if kids could see just how the human body is more often, there’d be fewer problems with rape, body image, and self-esteem.

Drugs/alcohol/smoking. I’m against drugs and smoking, but they’re a reality.  Alcohol is fine in moderation. There are some ways to show how they can be bad in literature by showing the effects.  Isn’t that a positive way to use them?  But I think that books aren’t likely to influence people to takes drugs or start smoking.  It’s far more likely that other people will influence.  Books aren’t the problem here, it’s the people.

Racism. I’d like to mention one book here that I read in school, To Kill a Mockingbird. This was a book about racism.  Let’s ban this one?  I don’t think so.  It was against racism.  It was also required reading in school.  I wasn’t very impressed with it back then, but that’s because we had to read it.  If I’d chosen to read it, I think I’d have enjoyed it more. Anyway, since racism is still a big issue, it’s important to bring up the subject.  Books are a great way to show the negative effects of racism.

Homosexuality. Another hot topic.  This is mostly a problem to religious groups.  And I have this to say: get over it.  Homosexuality has been around for as long as humans have.  It exists in wild animals.  It is natural.  Yes, natural.  It’s not a choice, it’s not a decision.  I’m happy to see homosexuality in books.  It needs to be represented.  And shielding your children from it will do more harm than good.  They’ll become prejudiced against it.  Again, parents need to be responsible here.

Religious viewpoint. One religious group tries to ban books from libraries and bookstores because it offends them.  What about the other groups who aren’t offended?  Aren’t you imposing your beliefs on others?  I won’t tolerate that.  You keep your religion out of other people’s freedom to read books.  You don’t want your kids to read a book?  Then it’s your responsibility.  I don’t care what your religion is.  No religious group has a right to prevent others from reading books.  Go away.

And there you have it.  You may agree or disagree with me, but if you are one of the people who wants books banned, then you are part of the problem.  Don’t be a problem for others.  Respect other people’s right to read what they want.

Please leave your thoughts in the comments below.

Beer, wine, and sake and how they affect me

I’m not a big drinker.  I occasionally like a drink, but I never feel like I need a drink.  However, I have developed my own preferences for different kinds of alcoholic beverages.  So, I started thinking about how three different drinks affect me.  They all have alcohol in them, but I react differently to each one.


This is the staple alcoholic drink of many countries, including my home country of Canada and my adopted country of Japan.  When people go out drinking, most will drink beer.  Beer in Japan is very similar to beer in Canada.  I would describe it mainly as a lager type beer.  With an average alcohol content of 5 to 5.5%, this beverage has the lowest level of alcohol of these three.

I like beer, but I find that the last bit in the glass is so bitter that it makes me shudder a bit.  I don’t do well with strong bitterness.  But the more I drink, the easier it gets.  It takes a lot of beer to really affect me.  A glass does very little.  I start to feel it after 2 glasses, but after 4 or 5, I have trouble walking completely straight.  The alcohol in beer sneaks up on me.  It slowly affects me, and it slowly goes away.  It leaves me with an unpleasant aftertaste.  But I still like beer.


I’m not a big wine drinker.  In fact, I can count the number of times I’ve had wine on one hand.  My first experience with wine wasn’t very positive.  I just didn’t like the taste.  I had wine tonight.  It was decent.  It was like dry, alcoholic grape juice.  It wasn’t so fruity, but it was quite dry.  What I drank was a red Cabernet Sauvignon from Argentina with a 13.5% alcohol content.  I only drank 2 glasses, and when I was finished, I still didn’t feel the alcohol.

So, how does wine’s alcohol affect me?  It takes a while for it to show itself.  About 50 minutes after starting to drink it, I could finally feel it a bit.  Since I had only 2 glasses, it wasn’t really much.  I felt a little lightheaded, and the feeling kept growing for about half an hour.  It seems like wine’s alcohol has a delayed reaction for me.  Within an hour, I felt nothing from the alcohol.


Japanese rice wine, or sake/nihonshu, is my biggest alcoholic love.  I absolutely love this stuff!  Hakkaizan from Niigata prefecture is my favourite at the moment.  With an alcohol content of 15%, this has the highest level of alcohol of the three drinks.  It also tastes the best, in my opinion.  While beer’s bitterness makes it a bit unpleasant for me, and tonight’s experience with wine was similar, sake goes down so smooth.

It is very easy to drink, yet it is the strongest.  Even if I drink it slowly, the alcohol goes to my head very quickly.  Even the dry sake is easy to drink.  I don’t feel that it’s bitter, which is a bonus.  The alcohol affects me quickly, but I recover very quickly, and I don’t feel the alcohol within a couple of hours.  Although it has a higher alcohol content than beer, its effect is much shorter for me.  And I don’t have any kind of bad aftertaste.  It seems that sake is the perfect alcoholic drink for me.


While beer is the cheapest, and I drink it the most, it isn’t my favourite.  I think my level of satisfaction with the flavour is on par with wine.  Sake wins in all aspects other than price.  It is the best tasting, the easiest to recover from, and the most satisfying experience.

Of course, alcohol affects different people differently.  I’ve noticed that many Japanese people can’t handle alcohol very well, and this has a good explanation.  Most Asian people have an enzyme that prevents the efficient metabolisation of alcohol in their bodies, so it makes them drunk faster.  I have 3 or 4 drinks with little effect on me, while many Japanese people turn red-faced with only one drink.  This is known as Asian flush reaction.  It’s amazing how most people in Japan can’t handle alcohol well, yet it’s very common to go drinking with colleagues and bosses every week. But some people have such low alcohol tolerance that they can’t drink alcohol at all.  It makes them feel sick with just a little bit to drink.

As I said before, I don’t have much experience with wine, but I am interested in trying different kinds.  What’s your favourite kind of alcohol?