When I first arrived in Tokyo, beer vending machines lined the streets of city taking pride of place at the front of a queue of underage school children enjoying their Saturday afternoon Asahi Super Dry on their way home from the compulsory weekend educational schedule. Times have changed and from around 2000, store keepers have slowly removed the "givers of joy and enlightenment" to the young of Japan, only to replace them today with in-store touch screens that require you confirm you are of legal age to drink alcohol. Note there is no option to say "no, I'm to young" by the way.
But a few years on and you find yourself more in the mood for an afternoon tipple and chatter with friends than a furtive sip in a back street in case your mum's friends walk by. In summer it is time for the beer gardens where you can sit outside, get eaten by the rampant mosquitos, and while away the hours, conferring with the flowers, as it were. And my favourite location used to be in the grounds of, the now long gone, Shibuya Castle; of which only the shrine still remains. Strolling down Hachiman-Dori and across the remnants of the Shibuya river (which, back in the day, acted as the southern defences of the castle itself) you find yourself climbing back up the slope to Konno-Hachimangu Shrine.
And it was in these gardens, concreted over in the name of progress a decade or so ago, where a friend, a professional horologist, once demonstrated how my watch was both shock proof as well as water resistant by drunkenly slamming it off the table and dropping it into my beer. Never did tell the time particularly well after that. But sip and sup as we might, it was always fascinating to imagine the lives of the Lords of the land, as they would drink with friends, swapping stories from somewhere between the twelfth to the seventeenth centuries. Little exists of the castle today except an unassuming corner stone in the grounds of the shrine; which is worth a visit when you have a free afternoon . Something to enjoy; that and the thought of a beer on a sunny day.
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