#87 – Oops! I Did It Again.

It’s August, 1995. I’m in Falls Creek on a skiing trip with some friends. I’m a 24 year old yahoo who has no freaking idea how to ski. I fool around for the first few days and by the fifth day I’m a goddamn Olympic level skier. Or so I thought when I skied straight down a rather steep run. When I say straight, I mean skis pointing down the hill – no turns. Like I’m taking off for an aerial ski jump. But I wasn’t jumping. And I was going so fast, and it was so icy, that I couldn’t figure out how to turn. I certainly wasn’t able to slow down. Which ended up being not so great for me when I wanted to stop and kinda didn’t know how. I was aiming straight for a lovely, big red sign with the word STOP! emblazoned on it and, since I was going to crash into it rather rapidly I decided to do what anyone else would in that situation. I decided to fall.


Who can tell if that was the right decision to make. Perhaps if I’d just ploughed on into the crowd lining up for the ski lift, some lovely person might have broken my fall. But no, I took a hit for the team and tumbled down the icy slope in a most ungraceful and awkward fashion. What’s  supposed to happen when you fall down skiing is that the bindings holding your boots onto the skis are supposed to release, so that you don’t injure yourself. Unfortunately for me, that didn’t happen. I don’t want to say that the ski rental place set my bindings too tight, but the bastards at the ski rental place set my bindings too tight. If the skis had come off during my fall, I am certain that I would have just ended up with some nasty bruises. As it turns out, I felt (and heard – oh yeah, HEARD) my right knee snap as my leg twisted under the ski. I estimate that I did at least five somersaults on my way down and I landed pretty well right in front of that stop sign with my right leg at a most unpleasant angle.


I clearly remember the impact of the fall, and then blacking out. And then, the pain. Ohhhhh my word, the pain. I heard the screaming a few seconds before I realised that it was emanating from my own mouth, which is always rather startling. I passed out again and woke up to a young boy’s voice asking someone, “Is she dead?” I tried to move and realised that my ski was still on, twisting my knee even more. I’m sorry to say that I closed my eyes and expelled a nice, long, robust “FUCK!!!!!!!!!”.  Sorry kiddo!  Eventually my friends caught up to me and helped me undo my ski so that I could straighten my leg.  That helped, but I was still unable to stand up.  My body was broken. Once they realised I was alive, my friends started making fun of me, as only good friends can in these situations.  They laughed at how I’d sailed past them on my way down, shouting “I.  Can’t.  Stop!!!”  They still remind me of that, to this day.


Finally, the ski patrol came down to stretcher me off the mountain. I was kind of mortified at having to be skied off in a stretcher, but there was also something a little bit magnificent about it. It wasn’t fun though. It’s not a smooth ride, and every little bump on the mountain was excruciating.  I fainted several times. They took me to a medical facility on the mountain where the nurses administered first aid and bandaged up my knee with a splint. They weren’t able to give me a diagnosis but they suspected some ligament damage as I wasn’t able to put any weight on my leg at all. We were supposed to be heading back to Melbourne the next morning but my friends decided to make the six hour drive that night, so I could get home and get to a doctor first thing. I love my friends.


During that long drive, the painkillers I’d been given at the first aid station wore off and every little pothole and bump was agony. Going around one corner a little enthusiastically, my friend Mike drove over the curb and I screamed out in pain. I couldn’t help it. He was, of course mortified. He made it up to me later on when he stopped off at a hospital just before midnight, waltzed into the emergency room and sweet talked the nurses into giving him a few codeine tablets. My hero. Suffice to say, I forgave him.


The next day, I went to see an orthopaedic surgeon, who confirmed that I had torn my anterior cruciate ligament (ACL) and medial collateral ligament (MCL). The ACL lies within the joint and prevents excessive forward movement of the knee, and also controls the knee during twisting and rotating. The MCL lies outside the knee joint on the inner leg, attaching the shin and thigh bones and adding stability and strength to the knees. So, it was a pretty serious injury. The surgeon recommended surgery but I was a destitute government worker at the time, without private health insurance. Approval for the operation under the public health scheme would take two years. I went home dejected.


I tore the ACL, as well as the MCL. Ouchie.

To make matters even worse, three days after the injury I woke up to find my right leg swollen to almost twice its size. This was quite frightening and I went to see a doctor right away. Turns out that the combination of a traumatic knee injury along with the leg probably being bandaged a little too tightly right after the accident, had resulted in me getting a deep vein thrombosis. A DVT is essentially a blood clot that develops deep within the body. The risk is that the clot will dislodge and travel to the lungs where it might block a vein, resulting in damage to the lungs and possibly even death. I was immediately prescribed blood thinning oral medication for three months, as well as daily injections of medicine in my stomach fat for ten days. The injections were administered by the Royal District Nursing Service, a charity that provides at-home medical services, which is pretty awesome. The nurses were lovely, but the injections were distressingly painful. I shrieked with pain each and every time they jabbed me- it never got easier. My friend Mike was usually at home when the injections were happening, and one day he asked if he could watch. He’d heard the howling and wanted to see exactly what was causing it. Yes, he is a sicko.


So my moment of recklessness on the ski slopes resulted in me requiring crutches for seven weeks, assisted showering for four weeks, painful injections for ten days, three months of daily Warfarin tablets and regular visits to the haematology lab to check my blood work. Once, chopping up a piece of fruit, I nicked my finger with the knife. The cut didn’t stop bleeding for six hours. I thought I was going to bleed out. When my knee finally got better, I vowed never to ski again. But of course three years later I found myself at Mt. Bulla, nervously navigating the nursery slopes.  But it wasn’t the same.  I was scared, and the fun had gone out of it. I didn’t strap on a pair of ski boots for another 16 years.

*     *    *

David and I have some friends in Dubai who are avid skiers and they so inspired us with their enthusiasm for the sport that we were very easily convinced to give it another try. We figured we’d have a go, nice and easy, and see how we liked it. We went to Baqueira, Spain in 2013 and loved it. We skied again in 2014, in Andorra. And then again the year after in Nagano, Japan.  We returned to Japan in January of this year and enjoyed a week of incredible powder. It snowed over two metres in the one week that we were there, and more than ten metres for the season. You just don’t get snow like that in Australia. Or many other places, really. The conditions were amazing. Because Nagano is relatively unknown to foreign skiers, we spent most of the time skiing completely deserted slopes, which is simply heaven. We stayed in a beautiful rustic guesthouse, Hotel Shirakabaso in Shiga Kogen, where they served incredible Japanese breakfasts and dinners and where we bathed in soothing onsens at the end of each day. We slept on futons in a tatami room and wore kimonos all the time. It was truly delightful.


Because we hadn’t skied in two years, it took me a few runs to start feeling confident again. But it only took a couple of days before I was carving up the slopes with confidence. I was a much better skier than when I’d injured myself in ’95, and I was a lot fitter too. But unfortunately, I wasn’t as fit as I needed to be. And I think this contributed to what happened on the second last day of our trip. Right near the end of a long day of great skiing, we started making our way across the 607 hectare ski resort towards our hotel. I must have been tired. Or maybe it was the beer I’d had at lunch (though I doubt it, because I always ski better after a lunchtime beer, natch). Whatever the reason, starting down the fairly steep, ungroomed run I appeared to have lost my mojo. I made two turns where I leant backwards instead of forwards, almost losing my balance. The third time it happened, I was unable to correct myself and took a very nasty fall down the mountain. I hit my head so hard that I had whiplash for a week afterwards – it’s lucky I was wearing a helmet.


Just as it had happened nearly 22 years ago, the bindings on my skis didn’t release, and the speed I was going meant that my knee was subjected to forces it simply couldn’t withstand. This time I didn’t hear the ligaments pop, but I sure did feel them. And just like in ’95, the pain overwhelmed me and I lay there wailing, unabashedly. I do remember being rather moved that David whipped his skis off and ran down the mountain to where I was awkwardly strewn. He helped me remove the offending ski, and comforted me as I cried. We sat for a minute, to regroup and assess how bad the injury was. When we figured out that I wouldn’t be able to ski the rest of the run, he carried all four of our skis the 30 metres back up to the trail (no easy task) while I schlepped up in my boots, labouring through the deep powder, tears streaming down my face. When we got to the top, a ski instructor schussed up to us and insisted on calling the ski patrollers. When they arrived, they decided to (once more) stretcher me off the mountain in what amounted to a body bag on skis. I didn’t feel so cool this time. I felt great disappointment. Hurting myself so badly at 45 felt significantly worse than doing it at 24.


When we got back to Dubai, I had an MRI and was diagnosed with a Grade 3 (complete) tear of the MCL.  The surgeon recommended surgery right away, but I was super reluctant to be operated on, so I got a second opinion. The new surgeon downgraded the diagnosis to a Grade 2 (partial) tear of the MCL and ACL which can (hopefully) be treated with rehab. Call me conservative, but I’d really rather go the exercise and physiotherapy route than have someone cut me open and sew me back together. After all, I healed perfectly after the first injury. I think I might have to work a little harder to get back to 100% this time, but I’m totally committed to doing the work.


And yes, we’re planning on skiing in Japan again next year. Just try and stop me.

Ejo #86 – Drunk In….. Tokyo (Part 2)

So, guess what? I love Tokyo. Tell you something you don’t know?? Don’t worry, I plan to. We just got back from our fourth trip to Japan a week ago and I am still recovering from all the awesomeness. It’s a truly vibrant city, absolutely chock-a-block full of wonderful establishments to get varying degrees of drunk in. So here we go with the second volume in what I’m sure will be an ongoing saga of tipsiness in Tokyo (Part 1 is here). We did return to quite a few of the scenes of our old crimes, but I’ll feature only all the new places we discovered on this trip. Are you ready?  Let’s go!



Every single neighbourhood in Tokyo is crawling with tiny little izakayas* where the beer and sake flow freely (and usually the staff don’t speak English).  Here’s my advice to you. Learn a few phrases.  Some that we found useful are “Nama biru, o kudasai” which translates as “Draft beer please”.  Very handy indeed.  Another that we used a lot was “Osusume” which translates as “Whatever you recommend”.  This can be used to refer to a choice of sake, or an entire food menu.  We’ve used it for both with unmitigated success. Don’t be fussy, just eat what they give you.  It’s going to be amazing.

So, it was our first day in Tokyo.  We’d found our Airbnb, dropped off our bags and headed out into the mean streets of Shibuya looking for some action.  About two minutes later we found it when we walked by this little place.  The plan was to grab a beer to hydrate, and some gyoza for energy before moving on – there’s such a plethora of restaurants and izakayas, there’s no point staying in one place too long, you’ve just gotta keep moving.  Or at least that’s our motto.  So while we were relishing our gyoza and beer we noticed that EVERY single other person in the place was eating this weird looking cabbage stew.  We thought, fuck it and decided to get one each.  Oh my god, what a perfect thing to eat on a freezing cold Tokyo winter night.  Comforting, warming, delicious.  It was packed with chewy noodles, fatty pork bits that just melted in your mouth, and seafood galore.  It was a delight.


Because every good izakaya serves beer.


The first stop on our Gyoza Tour Of Tokyo


Noodle, pork and seafood hotpot with cabbage.



There’s a whiskey bar in Minato called Bar Le Coq which we stumbled upon a couple of years ago and decided we had to go back to.  When we arrived, we were disappointed to find that the street sign heralding its presence in an unassuming residential building was no longer there.  Perhaps it had closed. Being the intrepid travellers that we are though, we decided to go upstairs and try anyway. We walked up the stairs and faced what appeared to be the front door of someone’s apartment.  We looked at each other, and pushed the door open. And there it was, in all it’s glory.  But different.  Unfortunately, the old owner had died of a heart attack in the two years since we’d last been and it was no longer a whiskey bar, having morphed into a wine bar called Last:order.  We ordered some whiskey as a tribute to the previous owner and looked around the empty bar, wondering how the place stayed afloat with absolutely no signage and no patrons, when suddenly the door flung open and a group of young movers & shakers took the place over (which wasn’t hard as it is a very small bar, probably smaller than your living room).  Over the course of our drink (which was supplemented with some very tasty Pinot Noir, compliments of the owner) we learned that we were in the company of a famous Tokyo film director and actor, and their entourage. That’s how we do, folks!


Mmmm, Pinot Noir – oh, and a whiskey highball. And an incredible bar made of a single, twenty foot long, piece of wood.

南青山4-1-8 Minato-ku, Tokyo
+81 3 6438 9864




Every good lush knows exactly where to get good, strong coffee for those morning-after paroxysms.  I’d done my research and we tried a few different ones, but the best (and the closest to our Shibuya apartment) was About Life Coffee Brewers, a small little shop window on a street corner.  The coffee was tasty, strong and consistent.  And that’s about all you need to know.


Good coffee’s worth waiting for.

1-19-8 Dogenzaka, Shibuya-ku
+81 3 6809 0751




Since we’re always on the lookout, our eyes peeled for drinking opportunities, we happened to notice that two doors down from About Life Coffee was a place called SAKESTAND.  We were intrigued, so we decided to explore (mind you, this was after a little skiing mishap I’d had, so navigating the steep stairs of this establishment was a bit of an ordeal, but totally worth it in the interests of research).  What first struck us is that the staircase is completely wallpapered in sake bottle labels.  Very fucking cool.  Upstairs revealed a cute (and yes, tiny) space that kind of resembled an espresso bar in Italy – standing room only, hence the name. We asked the lady behind the bar to recommend a sake for us (“osusume”) and she gave us a very fine selection indeed.  Unfortunately we had to pack for our flight home that evening, so we couldn’t linger, which is a shame.  But probably a good thing.  But we’ll definitely come back next time.  And so should you.


What it says on the label. Immediately to the left of this door is About Life Coffee.


Steep stairs. Sake labels.


Sake in a wine glass, coz we’re fancy like that.

〒150-0043 Tōkyō-to, Shibuya-ku, Dōgenzaka, 1 Chome−19−8, 2F
+81 3 6416 4200




Here’s the thing about Tokyo.  As of a few minutes ago there are 82,824 restaurants in the city.  And that’s only counting the ones that are registered on Tripadvisor.  Our favourite restaurant in Tokyo, No Name Teppanyaki isn’t even on there.  Thank god or it might be overrun with tourists (we’ve never seen another gaijin eating in there and I hope we never do which is pretty awful of me, but that’s just what I’m like, and if you didn’t know me by now, well… that’s on you). Anyway, what I’m trying to tell you is that when you want to get drunk in Tokyo, just take a walk. There’s an izakaya calling your name, just around every corner.  For instance, one afternoon after gorging ourselves on Nagi Golden Gai ramen, but before heading out for a late fancy sushi dinner we needed somewhere to go for an in-betweenie.  We spotted this mystery izakaya half a block from our house, and we took the plunge.  This place was a particular challenge as it had signs all the way down the staircase exclaiming “No English, Japanese only”.  We slid open the door and a lady stared us down.  In my very broken Japanese I asked if we could come in for some sake.  She looked dubious.  I looked her in the eye and said, “I understand Japanese” in Japanese, and she bought it!!!  The farce didn’t last long (who the fuck did I think I was fooling), but she served us sake anyway and then told us to get the hell out.  But it was nice while it lasted.  My advice to you?  Give it a go.  Walk through that curtain, slide open the door and say “Konban wa”.


She filled our glasses to overfilling, but refused to refill them because we wouldn’t order anything to eat.  I liked her.  I liked her a lot.



If you travel to an amazing city like Tokyo just to get drunk, sorry buddy, but you’re doing it wrong.  You need to balance all that drinking with some culture (especially the kind where you can grab a beer at the same time).  This is something I refuse to compromise on, being the high-culture hound that I am (cough cough). And so, we went to see the Sumo.  Firstly, this is some serious Japanese culture right here. I’m not going to go into the history of it, but there’s a LOT of history – check it out. Secondly, I am going to make a huge confession and admit that the last time we’d had reservations to see the Sumo, we missed it because we were so hungover from karaoke the night before (more on that later). And just to give you some perspective on that, you can enter the stadium anytime up until 3pm.  So yeah, we were hungover.  Anyway, this time we made SURE we got there on time – and we were so glad we did.  We expected to maybe hang around for an hour, watch a match or two, tick the box and leave.  But no, we were there for nearly three hours, drank a few beers each and had a rip roaring time.  Check out the video below of one of the earlier bouts.  AMAZING!!  If you’re in Tokyo during Sumo season this is a MUST do – we’ll definitely be back. Word of warning, if you stump for those ringside seats be prepared to have a Sumo wrestler fall on, and probably crush, you.


This is the crowd at 3pm on a Thursday!!!!  Completely booked out.

Check out the unbelievable athleticism. No, I’m not joking. These guys train like warriors. They’re agile, flexible and STRONG!!!

Ryōgoku Kokugikan
1 Chome-3-28 Yokoami, Sumida-ku, Tōkyō-to 130-0015
+81 3 3623 5111
Various tournaments throughout the year




OK, so I’m posting two culture hits in a row.  Whaaaaaaat??  Who am I anyway??  Trust me, I was drunk at both, so it’s fine.  But seriously, when a friend (thanks Cath) gives you the heads up that this exhibition is going to be in town at the same time as you are, you book the goddamn tickets. And because I am rather self-actualised, we paid extra for the “come-whenever-you-want-and-not-at-a-specific-date-or-time” tickets.  Worth every yen. Unfortunately, cameras were strictly forbidden in the exhibition itself, so I couldn’t take any pics of the exhibits, but let me just say that we spent three hours poring over his handwritten notes, mind-blowing costumes, video footage, interviews, music clips and much much more. The most I have ever spent in any museum or gallery is an hour – tops.  We actually ate into valuable drinking time by staying that long, but it was just so mesmerising.  I loved David Bowie before.  Now, I feel like I know him, and love him even more.  If you have the chance, go. Just go.  It’s on in Tokyo until 9th April 2017.


It was light when we went in.


Dark when we came out.


Yes, he is.


Oh, you pretty thing.

Check website for details.



Bar Martha

This bar in Ebisu is on the same street as our favourite No Name Teppanyaki.  It’s kind of an imposing place, inside and out, and it definitely divides people.  Tripadvisor is peppered with reviews saying things like “worst experience in Tokyo”, “very unfriendly to foreigners”, “rude people, not worth the visit”, “rudest staff I’ve ever encountered” and, quite alarmingly, “the downside of Japan”.  On the other hand, some of the reviews state “a must visit if you love early rock music”, “amazing listening bar” and “not for everyone, but I loved it”. Guess which camp I sit in!  So, you walk in to this place and are abruptly told not to take photos.  And then the bar staff kind of ignore you until you actively seek their attention.  There’s no cocktail menu, per se, so that pisses people off too.  And then, there’s the fact that the staff don’t speak much English.  How inconsiderate!!! Seriously people, get over yourselves.  The bar has great booze, amazing records spinning and a lively atmosphere. What the hell is not to like about that.  We got the attention of our surly bar lady and with our broken Japanese ordered some whiskey cocktails, dealer’s choice.  She whipped up some very tasty concoctions and left us to enjoy them while she changed records.  She seemed to be in charge of the music, so of course I started wondering if she was Martha.  After our second round of osusume cocktails (gin for me and tequila for David), I mustered up the Dutch courage to hobble together in Japanese the question, “Are you Martha?”.  A huge smile crossed her formerly surly face and she ran to the back of the bar to flick through some albums.  She came back and showed me the back of Tom Waits’ album, Closing Time and pointed to one of the songs, “Martha”.  She smiled again as we put on our coats and left.  See, it’s not that hard to make friends with people that others might consider rude.  All you’ve gotta do is be silly, nice and just a little bit drunk.


Uh, I’ll do what I goddamn please. In the toilet anyway.


But not where people can see, and evict, me – in which case I’ll use a photo I found on Google Images. Two walls are completely covered, from floor to ceiling in records.  Vinyl heaven!!!


The last song on Side 1 – Martha.

1 Chome-22-23 Ebisu, 渋谷区 Shibuya-ku, Tōkyō-to 150-0013, Japan
+81 3 3441 5055




What is a yokocho, you ask.  I must admit, I was also in the dark until our most recent trip enlightened me, as I am about to enlighten you.  The literal translation is “an alleyway off to the side of a main street”.  How that translates into real life is a collection of small eateries and drinkeries all collected in an enclosed alleyway.  This is NOT fancy food.  It’s rough, and it’s a little bit intimidating, but it’s also a lot of fun.  We were in between eating gigs (again) and only had time to drop in for a quick sake.  This little shop had a few big bottles peering at us seductively, so we stopped for a while.  The only other customers were three burly Japanese men who good-naturedly (I think) made fun of us until we took off our coats and sat down. Once we were seated, I instantly felt at home and we osusume’d our way to this delicious sake (I told you that phrase came in handy).  My suggestion to you, if you want to visit a yokocho – have a drink before you go, just to loosen up a bit, and then walk through and try a little something something from each of the shops.  While they all serve something different, the one thing on the menu that they all offer is Japanese hospitality.


So you can aim where you’re drinking.


Really delicious sake in a really rough and tumble alleyway.

Some stalls are open from 1100, but most open at 1700 and stay open until very late




What to say about karaoke in Tokyo.  Bloody hell!  Just… bloody hell.  It’s fun.  It’s dangerous. It’s addictive.  It’s something we do every time we go to Tokyo, and something we will continue doing whenever we go back.  We like the Big Echo chain, and in particular the one across the street from Ebisu Station.  They have different size rooms depending on your group, and we always get the smallest but there’s still room for at least four people in there (maybe you’ll join us next time!).  It ain’t fancy but it has everything you need.  There’re booths, a table, a television and speakers, microphones, tambourines, a telephone and a drinks menu. There might be a food menu too, but I wouldn’t know coz we don’t come here to eat, bitches! We come here to sing, and we come here to drink.  What we like to do is order bottles of dry sparkling sake and glasses of umeshu, a kind of sour, kind of sweet liqueur made from ume plums.  And what we do is tell the staff to keep ’em coming!! Because everyone knows you can’t do karaoke unless you’re drunk!  Time behaves differently in Big Echo. You walk in at 10pm, all bright eyed and bushy tailed and ready to party, and about forty five minutes later you’re stumbling out into the cold street and it’s 4.15am! This happens ALL the time.  I tell you – it’s dangerous.  This time we decided we had to do a David Bowie, George Michael and Prince tribute. Seven hours wasn’t enough, so we did another five hours a few days later.  Dangerous.


Enter these doors if you dare.

Various locations throughout the city



Thank god for Afuri Ramen.  In more ways than one.  Firstly, it’s fucking amazing ramen – a lighter variety that’s made from chicken rather than pork stock, it’s also seasoned with yuzu, a tangy Japanese citrus that makes the soup dance in your mouth. Secondly, it closes at 5am which is the ONLY reason we ever left the Big Echo karaoke before the sun came up. I swear, if this place was open 24 hours a day, we’d still be doing karaoke.  This ramen calms you down, but revitalises you at the same time.  It’s a miracle cure for whatever might ail you, especially if you’ve gone a little overboard on the drinking.  You MUST eat here if you are ever in Tokyo.  And when you face down that vending machine all written in Japanese, just press the button with the handwritten sign that says #1 Classic.  That’s all you need to know. You will thank me later.


What you need to perk you up at the end of a long night of drinking.


We stuck to the classic Tanrei (which was recommended), and never once felt we were missing anything.


Oh my god, the ramen.

1F, 117 Bld., 1-1-7 Ebisu, Shibuya-ku, Tokyo




So there was a LOT of beer and a LOT of sake drunk on this trip (did you happen to notice that?).  Sometimes, you just get a hankering for a good ol’ cocktail, so we headed out to find Library Lounge These (with a minor accidental detour to a French/Japanese fusion izakaya for a glass of wine along the way). When we arrived, we were greeted warmly (a stark contrast to the welcome we received at the edgier Bar Martha) and shown to the bar before being presented with a bowl of fruit and asked to pick a couple each.  David went with pomegranate and lemon, while I chose mint and lemongrass.  Hey, we’re nothing if not adventurers.  We watched the man behind the bar do his magic and then marvelled at the beautiful libations he presented us.  And then we drank them, and we ordered some more.  This is a really lovely place where you could spend some serious time having some seriously good cocktails.


Fruit, glorious fruit


Pomegranate & lemon


Lemongrass & mint


Pear & ginger


Tequila negroni – YUM!

〒106-0031 Tokyo, Minato, Nishiazabu, 2−15−12, カルテットビル 1F
+81 3 5466 7331
1900-0400 (-0200 on Sundays)


* an izakaya is a place that serves sake but usually only with food – it’s not a bar, it’s not a restaurant, it’s an izakaya.

Ejo #78 – Drunk In….. Kyoto


They know what’s up.

Well, it’s official.  David and I have fallen madly and deeply in love with Japan.  Our most recent visit in April totally put a ring on it, and we’re already planning another trip early next year.  We experienced twelve days of incredible food, hospitality, sake and exploring the culturally rich and different cities of Tokyo and Kyoto.  Long time readers will recall that my very first foray into the Drunk In….. series started in Tokyo.   Even though we’ve discovered so much more in Tokyo since then, I decided to open up a whole new drunken city to you.  Sure, Kyoto is a little milder than Tokyo when it comes to debauched after-hours activities, but that doesn’t mean the city doesn’t have a wildly beating heart hidden beneath its reserved patina.  And luckily for you, we’ve done all the hard work to find a bunch of fun things to do when you’re drunk in Kyoto.



Housed in a seriously tiny alcove in front of an office building, Nokishita Edible Garden was our first stop after arriving in town.  We took a stroll along the cherry blossom festooned river, goggling at all the gorgeous geisha clad women out and about.  And when we got there we enjoyed a very refreshing Hendricks gin and tonic for about AUD6.  In fact, we enjoyed two each.  There’s no seating (and barely enough room to stand) so this isn’t a place to linger, but it’s certainly a fun start to a night out.


〒604-8022 Kyoto Prefecture, 京都市中京区Nakagyo Ward, Minamikurumayacho, 282
+81 7 5746 5675
0400-0000 (closed Mondays)





It’s a bar and it has rocking chairs.  It doesn’t have an English menu but it more than makes up for that with the amazing cocktails that come out when you say “osusume”* to the bartender.  We couldn’t stay long because we had a dinner reservation to get to.  And that’s probably a good thing as the cocktails we had were so delicious (and strong) we may have ended up spending the whole night there.  We each tried a couple of different whiskey cocktails, all of them made with seasonal, local fruit.

* “you decide


〒600-8044 京都府京都市下京区御幸町通仏光寺下る橘町434−2
+81 7 5496 8679
1700-0200 (closed Tuesdays)





There are two of these yakitori shops.  We’d been to the other one before so decided to give this one a try.  First off, let me tell you that it’s very difficult to find (hopefully my google map helps you).  We actually got dropped off by the taxi driver nearby and literally followed our noses to peek behind a curtain where we found the tell-tale woodpecker welcoming us in.  So, yakitori is basically grilled chicken, but let me assure you that there’s nothing basic about the flavours.  The skewers are roasted over special coals, as well as marinated in an assortment of spices and secret ingredients, to impart some pretty damn juicy flavour.  The coal is such an important part of yakitori that the origin and species of wood are usually considered as important as terroir is to wine.  We ate a lot of chicken, including wings, skin, meatballs, cartilage and thigh.  We also asked to try some of their raw chicken sashimi but they were sold out.  And yes, we were disappointed.  😉


〒604-8144 Kyoto Prefecture, 京都市中京区Motohonenji cho, 683 烏丸 錦 東入 ル 烏丸 錦 ビル
+81 75 211 3750





We visited this wonderful little hidden bar on our first trip to Kyoto and have been wanting to go back ever since.  The owner and bartender basically chucked in his corporate job and opened up a speakeasy in his garage, specialising in his two passions – whiskey and jazz.  The first time we visited, in 2013, I didn’t really truly appreciate either of these things.  In the three years since, I have developed a passion of my own for both so I totally loved this bar.  We spent far longer than we should have, just trying new whiskies (neat, of course) and listening to some amazing music and feeling like the cat that got the milk in terms of being the only non-Japanese in the bar for the whole night.  This one is a favourite.


Takakura Dori, Nijo-agaru, Nakagyo-ku
+81 75 231 2488
Mon-Sat: 1800-0000





Every good drinking city needs a good coffee joint for those mornings after.  Before our trip I compiled a list of third wave coffee places to try (something I do before every holiday) but we just happened upon Drip & Drop by accident and then never ventured from it – the coffee was that good.


604-8074 京都市中京区富小路通三条下ル朝倉町531
ピースホステル三条 B1F,  +81 75 231 7222






So the sign outside this ramen place proudly claims that they are number one, not just in Kyoto but the world.  Bold.  The problem with making such claims is that there are just so many damn good ramen places in Kyoto (and even better ones in Tokyo, sorry RSNK).  But this one is definitely worth trying.  We arrived about 20 minutes before opening time to find ten people already queued up.  Unfortunately for us, this tiny little shop only has ten bar stools.  But fortunately for us, we were shown to a special little two seater table in the front window where we promptly ordered some beers (ain’t no better drink to have with ramen).  It was nice to have our own little table, but I must admit I’m a sucker for sitting at the bar where you can see all the action in the kitchen.  The ramen here is spicy and filling and absolutely delicious.  Perfect drinking food.


らーめん千の風京都, 中京区中之町580, 京都市 京都府 604-8042
1200-2200 (closed Mondays)





The specialty at this ice-cream store is soy bean ice-cream.  Doesn’t sound very nice, but oh my lord, it’s very nice indeed.  The shop serves other flavours too, including green tea, black sesame, black sugar syrup, mugwort and sweet red bean.  These are all very traditional Japanese flavours, but hey, you’re in Japan (and they’re all delicious).  But my favourite is the basic soy-bean flavour, known as kinako, which is also the only flavour they serve freshly made (as opposed to frozen).  The fresh stuff is called dekitate and it is TO DIE FOR.  It is the smoothest, creamiest ice-cream I’ve ever had and luckily for us they serve it at the counter for when their upstairs restaurant is full (I’m not sure why, but you aren’t allowed to take the ice-cream away, you must eat it all in the shop).  When we visited it was a weekend, and the place was absolutely jam-packed upstairs, and downstairs too, with people waiting for a table.  But we got to skip the line and eat our dekitate kinako at the bar while everyone else had to wait.  Suckers!!!  The next time we went (oh yes, we went again – and again) we made sure it was a weekday and we didn’t have to wait at all.  Yum, yum, yum!!!!


Higashiyama-ku, Gion-machi Minami-gawa 570-119
+81 75 525 8300





Sometimes the life of a Drunk In….. blogger isn’t all it’s cracked up to be.  After lunch one day we went in search of a bar (any bar) to while away a few hours before dinner (OK, it actually is a pretty good life).  Sadly for us we just couldn’t find one.  Giving up, we decided to go home and chill out instead (where we knew that there was a bottle of whiskey with our names on it).  Walking home we happened upon a cute little house with pictures of drinks out the front.  Thinking that we had stumbled upon a bar after all, we got quite excited and prepared to enter.  But then I realised that the photos were of smoothies and fruity teas.  Deflated, we started walking away.  But then it hit us, why the hell not have a smoothie!!?  Why not indeed.  We knocked on the door and were greeted and welcomed (albeit with some surprise) into the home of a lovely little Japanese lady wearing a homely apron around her waist.  We took off our shoes and were led through her living room, which was set up as a juice bar, and into the tatami room beyond – the room reserved for esteemed guests!  Eeeek!!  We bowed as she retreated and sat down on our heels and just looked at each other and giggled.  Not a word had been exchanged between us and the lady and we were wondering what she thought we were doing there.  Not to worry, before long she reappeared with a menu (thank goodness it was one with photos) and we each selected a delicious looking drink which we could hear her whipping up with a blender in the other room.  It was kind of weird to be sitting in someone’s TV room with pictures of her kids on the mantle and completely unable to communicate.  But weird in a very fucking cool way.  I was really glad that we took a chance on that smoothie because not only was it delicious, it was an absolutely lovely experience.  And I think she thought so too.





So, it’s not all about drinking and eating on our vacations.  We like to squeeze a little bit of culture in there from time to time and in Kyoto we did that with a private tea ceremony.  Now this experience was just awesome.  So much better and more fun than I’d expected (and definitely more than David expected).  It’s something I would recommend to everyone visiting Kyoto because it gives you an insight into a ritual that is fast disappearing.  The kids of today aren’t really interested in learning about it, so sadly, one day it might be lost for good.  I hope not because it’s something that is steeped in history and culture and ceremony and it’s a wonderful way to connect with people through structured conversation.  The 45 minute ceremony began with the host explaining the reason for the ritualistic aspects of the ceremony (including the utensils used) and then moved onto the four principles of every ceremony which are purity, respect, harmony and tranquility.  It’s super fascinating to discover that every single element of the ceremony, from the movements of the host, to the wood that is used to make the tea spoon represents something, means something.  In a world where meaning has been replaced by convenience, it was really nice to experience something meaningful.


〒605-0063 Kyoto Prefecture, Kyoto, Higashiyama Ward, Matsubaracho, 272
+81 80 3782 2706





So it’s springtime in Kyoto.  Which means that there are shitloads of stunning cherry blossoms to be seen everywhere.  But nowhere are there more to be seen than on the 2km long Philosopher’s Path.  This is an absolutely stunning walk (and the thousands of other people who were there that day obviously agreed).  Yes, it is tourist-ridden.  But it’s a must-do in Kyoto.  Another must-do?  Making your own cup at Mansagama Pottery, a little shop about half way through the walk.  When we saw dozens of little cups and bowls lining the shelves inside the shop we asked if we could buy them and were told they weren’t for sale.  But!!!  But, we could make our own!!!!  How exciting.  The whole process from jumping with glee at the prospect of getting my “Ghost” on, to washing my hands at the end took only 20 minutes.  We had them shipped to Australia so I still haven’t seen them but I’m super excited to have my own little cup (with my name etched on the bottom in Kanji).


606-8404 Kyoto, Sakyo-ku, Kyoto Jodojishita Minamida-cho, 148
+81 75 751 8199
1100-1800 (irregular)





OK, so you’re thinking pottery, philosophy, blah blah blah.  Where’s all the drinking and eating?  Of course as we meandered down the Philosopher’s Path I was on the lookout for a little izakaya in which to quench our thirst – but to no avail.  Plenty of teahouses; not much in the way of sake houses.  But lo and behold, just when I was giving up all hope I looked across the canal to see a little handmade stand announcing that there was fried chicken and beer to be had.  I got mad excited, not so much for the beer or fried chicken but because this place was just fucking amazing.  A little lady had decided to set up shop on one of the most touristic routes in the country.  Brilliant!!!  She’d set up an esky with cold brews and she cooked the chicken fresh to order.  And it was delicious.  I just instantly fall in love with places like this.  I can’t guarantee that she’ll be there if you go visit, but if she is you must drop in.  Say hi from us.

CLICK FOR MAP OF PHILOSOPHER’S PATH – you’ll have to find the chicken stand yourself, but I’d say it’s about 3/4 of the way down if you’re heading south.



The final stop on our Drunk In….. tour of Kyoto was Gyoza Chao Chao.  We had been hankering for gyoza (fried Japanese dumplings) from Day One, but had yet to find some.  On our last night I took to the internet to find “best gyoza in Kyoto” – hey, when you’re desperate, you go there.  And Gyoza Chao Chao came up.  So off we went to wait in line for about an hour in the chilly evening air.  Luckily we’d already had a few drinks so we didn’t feel the cold, or the time, too acutely.  And before we knew it we were summoned into the shop where, upon entering, the entire room shouted and cheered us in, as though we were old friends they’d been waiting for, for hours.  There’s something to be said for such a warm welcome.  It set a friendly, relaxed and fun tone for the meal ahead.  And what a meal it was.  We ordered about five serves of gyoza and devoured them as if we hadn’t eaten food in over a week.  They were delicious.  So much so we decided to also try their steamed dumplings.  I ALWAYS put on weight when we go to Japan and this is the reason why, but it’s totally, totally worth it.


餃々 三条木屋町店
+81 75 251 0056
M-F: 1700-late, S-S: 1400-late