Beer gods and pancakes

Looking forward to a three day weekend here– but unfortunately it’s also a Japanese three day weekend, so our initial scheme of escaping the city has been put on hold temporarily. We’ve been advised not to try that at the same time as everyone else. Fortunately there are acres and acres of Tokyo that we haven’t even found on a map! So today after Tara got back from judo we went a’wandering.

We headed over to Hiroo (“hero-oh” not he-roo just in case you were wondering). We were not two steps into this adorable little sun-dappled park when the last mosquitos of the year came for me.

Fortunately, Tara did battle with the little fellow, we won, and moved on.  This was a great little neighborhood park– no flashy statuary, but lots of benches and clumps of middle aged men and school kids leisurely fishing.  (Well the men were fishing leisurely, the kids were probably scaring away their prey with all the yelping, jumping, splashing, etc)

Urban knight in training

Leaving the park and its bloodsucking fauna behind, we headed off again, only to trip over an irresistible shrine. (Maybe you could have resisted– I’m developing a fixation with these little messenger fox statues and this particular entry guardian looked adorably fierce.)

Deceptively cute little neighborhood shrine

I can bumble along pretty well in Japanese, but some of the history placards in these places are so dense with very specific religious kanji that I find it quicker to gist the title, take a picture of the sign and translate it at my leisure here at home.  So I missed the point of the main shrine, spotted what I really came for– the Inari side-shrines– and left none the wiser.

Super fierce!

So I get home and enter the kanji for the shrine name into my dictionary. For those that haven’t had the misfortune to get me started on kanji/characters, this is a fascinating but laborious process.  You can either draw it in online (being sure to draw all the lines in the right order) or just identify it’s component parts and piece them together puzzle-like. Then you either hope that your dictionary can complete the phrase for you or repeat character by character until you have your phrase assembled. In this case, my dictionary added two characters that weren’t in the phrase and gave me this somewhat odd definition:

staying awake on the eve of the 57th day of the sexagenary cycle (to prevent the three worms from reporting one’s wrongdoings and shortening one’s lifespan), while worshipping Sakra, the Blue-Faced Vajra, or Sarutahiko

How odd, I tell Tara, and go back to translating, since that wasn’t the exact right phrase… except as I continue to read the placard… that’s exactly what this temple is for! (The placard notes that this is not a unique temple either but that they are found all over Japan.) So now we know what to do… still have to figure out the sexagenary cycle before we’re really set. But we didn’t know that at the time– so blissfully unaware of the worms waiting to escape and turn us in– we headed off to get a beer.

Maybe the worms will take bribes instead...

The Yebisu beer museum is just up the metro a way. It’s quite proud of the fact that the brewery named the train station (Ebisu) and not the other way around.We missed the tour but apparently it was all in Japanese anyway and if my temple-related vocabulary is still a work in progress, I’m quite sure my ability comprehend brewing and bottling terminology is a solid few years off.  There was just enough English in the museum for us to get the basics though and we can share with you the secrets of a successful brewery.

Item #1: Pick a god as your logo and build temples in his honor (in this case Yebisu is the god of fishermen, luck, and commerce and you’ll see him on all the bottles)

Proud founders and their temple

Item #2: Run bars that sell your beer with salty, un-filling food so people drink more

Strategic bar snacks

Item #3: Product placement is key–even if some of your target audience can’t drink for years

One of several proud logo displays

So with our thirsts somewhat slaked, we went off for more filling (& less salty) fare. Okonomiyaki literally means grilled things you like. How can you go wrong? It’s kind of a mix between a flat souffle and a monster crepe with all kinds of goodies in the middle. So we tried a pork and asparagus one and one with seafood. The pork was a clear winner! (I love squid but it just didn’t work for me in a pancake…)

As with most comfort food, not complete without copious mayo

So on that note, g’night and mind your worms!

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One Response to Beer gods and pancakes

  1. Calley says:

    fascinating little tidbit about the shrine warning/instructions – did you ever find out what the three worms story is? There must be an interesting little fable here…

    I’m loving these pictures of all the little shrines and parks. I can’t decide if y’all have much better access to cute green spaces or if you’re just more diligent about photographing them 😉

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