Daisen G-Beer Festival

Erupting from the rolling hills of Tottori prefecture, Mt. Daisen (大山) dominates the already impressive landscape. Sometimes referred to as Hoki-no-fuji (伯耆富士), the Fuji of the Hoki region, the monolithic volcano has made its mark on the surrounding culture for as long as people have inhabited the Japanese archipelago. In the earliest Shinto creation myths, the mountain was revered as both the home of Kagu-tsuchi (god of fire) and as a god in its own right: capturing hearts and minds throughout Japan. During all seasons, the peak is tackled by hundreds of climbers. They come for many reasons: to check off another hyakumeizan (the 100 famous peaks of Japan), to pray at Daisen Temple, to photograph local birds and scenery, or to watch the mountainside ablaze in annual fire festivals. But once a year in early June, both Japanese and foreigners descend (ascend?) upon the mountain to consume prodigious amounts of craft beer at the Daisen G-Beer Festival (地ビール祭り大山).

Being an avid connoisseur of both Japanese mountains and beer, I feared Kagu-tsuchi might smite me if I were not in attendance last year. And so it was, I found myself next to my closest climbing comrade, drunk on convenience store wine, riding a late night bus from Kyoto station to “Daisen Parking” bus stop. The plan was to roll into the festival campsite around midnight, pitch our tent and sleep for two hours, then bomb up the slope for a glorious sunrise to begin our weekend booze-fest. Apart from absurdly high, late-night taxi rates and a near-fatal encounter with oncoming traffic, everything went better than expected; we were fast asleep beneath tent and stars before the new day—the wind singing a lullaby through the trees. Continue reading “Daisen G-Beer Festival”


Monkey Masses

Flags as large as ships’ sails
Waive to and fro in solidarity,
Billowing with pride.

The masses—
Whose fully erect arms
Are only an open palm away
From formal Nazi salutes
Fill the flowing tapestry of blue banners
With air warmed by their impassioned voices
Rising as they chant and sing
The acrid cries of war. Continue reading “Monkey Masses”

Castle by the Sea

The sun was shining on the bay that day,
And in its radiance I thought I saw the way
To my salvation from this, damn lonely, place.
My liberation was written on your face.

You left the beach before I learned your name,
And the memory of your face began to fade
Until that day I found you in the Kyoto snow.
When you gave me your hand, I knew I’d never let go.

You and me in our castle by the sea,
Away from the world, where we can be free.
Raise up the bridge against the tide of reality.
The water is slowly rising.

I am you, and you are free
To conquer my world and rule over me.
Send me to the front against the horde of inner enemies–
Armed with your love I will not fall.

It’s been years since the beach,
But my world’s a little brighter (thanks to you).
I’m no longer afraid of the dark.
It’s been years since that night in the snow;
When you gave me you hand,
I fear if you ever let go!
For I know you’d be fine,
But it’d be the end of me.

The Red Sea of Kyoto

Corralled in the narrow alley
An incalculable mass of humanity
Drunkenly bumbles and stumbles along,
Skipping in hiccuping rhythm,
Belting (and belching) drinking songs,
With the flow of the fleshy river.

Happily chatting and gaily laughing
While taking long swigs in passing,
Thousands of bright red faces
Illuminate even the smallest places,
Packed as tight as a can of red-pepper sardines
So that even atoms can’t squeeze between.

As this turbulent Red Sea roils about
My comrades and I are filled with doubt
That our pilgrimage is nothing but foolery

And we may never reach our favorite brewery.
But with a hearty beer in my hand
I take the first step toward the promised land.
Lest I and my crew meet the fate of Odysseus,
I forge forth, like a fucking-drunk, singing this ode to Moses.

Thoughts at the Kyoto Craft Beer festival last weekend. For those of you who don’t know, this is a reference to Asian flush: an enzyme deficiency that effects the digestion of alcohol.

Thank you for reading! Click HERE for more poems

The Kyoto Craft Beer Festival

If you are like me, the recent boom in Japanese craft brewing has been a boon to your weekends. It seems that with each passing month a new brewery is popping up, and yet every time I go to the market, I’m confronted by overpriced imports of low quality ales or the same three Japanese crafts (obviously excluding Asahi’s terrible excuse for a stout). Too much of anything is a bad thing, and too much mead mediocrity will suffocate the palate. But fear not! As warmth comes back to the islands, the craft beer springs begin to thaw and flow down to us thirsty satyr in the form of beer festivals.

As the last cheery blossoms fall, the Kyoto Craft Beer Festival (地ビール祭り京都), held on May 13th, is the perfect opportunity to keep the party going and experience all the wonders of beer culture that Japan has to offer. Celebrating its ninth year, this festival has had plenty of time to perfect the art of the booze bonanza. They pull customers from all over the world to create a vibrant and lively atmosphere of springtime frivolity. You never quite know who you’ll run into.

Last year, my incessant habit of being on time to appointments meant that I was sitting around the festival waiting for my tardy troupe of friends, when I heard the confused cry of a wounded foreigner hitting the language barrier. An older gentleman was at the ticket counter desperately trying to understand how the ticketing worked while the staff was vainly trying to explain with a mixture of nouns, verbs, and gestures. The conversation seemed to reach an understanding when he handed them 400 yen and received a ticket. I thought everything was going to be all right, until he asked, “so with this I can drink all the beers?” (implying the amazing deal that was a 400 yen nomihoudai), and the Japanese staff—with emphatic drinking gestures—replied, “Yes, you can drink beer!”

Seeing as I was just twiddling my thumbs waiting for friends, I jumped up and told him there was a misunderstanding and that a 400yen ticket is the price of only one beer tasting. We got back in line together and got him a proper ream of six tickets for 2,100yen. By that point (I’m happy to say) my friends had still not arrived. So my new best-friend, Frank, and I crossed over into inebriated Narnia. We got to talking about the usual: Where ya from? How long ya been in Japan? How’d ya find out about this? Etc… Apparently, Frank had a nifty app that alerted him to any and all craft beer events and bars that were near him at any given time. “Wow,” I thought, “this guy must be a raging alcoholic.” Far from it, Frank is a lifelong employee of the beer industry in American and the father of a founding brewer at Melvin Brewing Company—one of my favorite breweries back home—who likes doing “market research.” It turned out he was a wealth of information and anecdotes about the world of beer and the history of the beer industry in the last 40 years.

After getting tickets at the main entrance, you have to go to the park (located about one-third of the way down the arcade) to pick up your commemorative glass—while supplies last. The queue for this was enough to put the British to shame. So Frank and I took turns hopping out of line to grab beers. By the time we had reached the front, one of my friends finally decided to arrive. The three of us were able to get through nearly our entire ream before the rest of our group waded through the crowd. We said goodbye to Frank who wandered off in a haze of what I can only describe as flavorful, inebriated, jet-lagged happiness. (Though it wouldn’t be the last time we saw Frank. About five hours later we would run into him and the family he had ditched at Kinkakuji to come to the festival).

Not every festival comes with this kind of story, but every festival will leave you with some sort of memory. Even if you are not interested in beer and/or have children, the Kyoto Craft Festival has all the standards of a bonafide Japanese matsuri, with succulent skewered meats, sugary sweets, grilled corn, yakisoba, takoyaki, and grilled corn (corn is the only addiction I suffer from more than beer). If you come with no taste for beer and an already satiated stomach, then park yourself in the park and dance off your last meal to live music. And if you do go for the beer, with over thirty domestic breweries in attendance, it would be difficult to leave unsatisfied.

The Kyoto Craft Beer Festival will be held on May, 13th from 11:30 to 18:00. The festival takes place in Sanjo shopping street (三条会商店街). The closest stations are JR Nijo and Nijojo-mae on the subway. You can also take a bus or walk from Kyoto station, though it is a bit of a hike. Tickets go on sale April 1st (no joke) at 10:00am. If you buy in advance, the six ticket ream is discounted to 2000yen (day-of: 1 ticket = 400yen, 6 tickets = 2,100yen). Unlike previous years, you CAN NOT use your tickets to get a commemorative glass this year. Those will cost 500yen and be sold from 11:00-17:30 at the festival. Lastly, you do not have to buy tickets to enter the venue, and food can be bought with cold, hard cash.

In an honest critique, the festival suffers from the venue. As with most streets, the arcade road is extremely narrow. With vendors taking up and lines of waiting customers extending into the road—not to mention the oddly high number of prams—it can become a stand still at points. A bit of life advice: get there early, and plan ahead. Grab a map at the ticket table and scope out the brews and foods that you want to try, and then set out on a mission. Seeing as it is a Sunday festival, finishing your day a little early will give you time to sober up and beat a hangover before work on Monday.

Beer culture around the world is a vibrant and friendly party that never ends. In recent years, Japan has been offering its own creative twist on the age old traditions. We are unquestionably in a golden age of craft alcohol, and that means carefree days with old friends and new acquaintances, flavorful drinks, and great memories. It would be a shame to live through yet never enjoy the riches all around!

For more information about the Kyoto Craft Beer Festival, please click HERE.

Tsuyu: The Rainy Season

As the conductor takes the stage,
The gentle drone of the audience
Turns to apprehensive, expectant silence
Awaiting the impending down stroke.

But before the ictus,
His rushing rise of the baton
Sends forth a gust of wind,
Chilling the atmosphere,
And raising the heat of anxiety.

It beginnings soft and slow.
A quiet patter from an unsnared piccolo drum
In flirting flurries of notes,
As woodland bird calls of woodwinds
Gaily hop about the branches in spring.

The undampened bass drum somberly rolls
A foreboding pianissimo off in the distance,
Stirring ever bigger brass horns to life
As they scramble about the forest floor
Preparing for the approaching storm.

Everyone has heard the classic piece,
And knows the climax is coming.
Yet no one remains unmoved when at last
The maestro signals the grand pause,
Holding the entire world in suspended anticipation,
Nearly bursting with energy,
Yet unable to make a sound—
Unable to breathe.

The eerie calm lasts only a moment.
The conductor slyly steals a glance
At the mischievously smiling snare
And raises both hands in tandem
With the percussionist’s sticks
Only to bring them raining down
To the spark of a crash symbol,
Drenching the room with a drum roll.

The shower has begun,
And on it will continue
As long as the maestro suspends the fermata,
holding out an upturned, convulsed hand
With such intensity you would think
He was trying to cling to the very air.
At his will, in perpetuity,
As the rain comes down to Earth,
Crescendo and diminuendo
become the only source of time.

And yet, againt the conductor’s suspended reign,
Woodwinds begin chirping again
As brass and metal roam the landscape
And life moves on.

This video has nothing to do with this poem… BUT I think it’s awesome, and you should check it out! Sounds of Rain and Thunder

The Sneaker

Damselflies flutter about
Among the green, broad leafs
Above the mountain stream,
Darting through the river rocks
That make a natural bridge
To the mountain boulder field,
Where stone goliaths lie in wait.

Halfway up The Sneaker,
My love fights to hang on
To nothing more than a pebble: Continue reading “The Sneaker”

Lost and Found

I am in search of something unknown,
Just beyond my grasp of comprehension.
I stand at the temple doors of Self,
Sealed shut by monks of Sophistry
To conceal their esoteric knowledge and rites,
Of which I desperately long to understand.

I am searching for the answers
Without first finding the questions.
If only there was a textbook of life,
Like in grade school geometry,
So I could turn to the back pages
And find all the answers neatly supplied.

I am searching. I know not why.
I am caught in a paradox:
The purpose of my search is to find meaning,
But my meaning has become my search!
I think I am terrified that my search may succeed,
Because I fear that will be the end of me;
I will see a nothing in a vast sea of nothingness.

Maybe I should stop this searching
And start seeing the reality all around.
I am here and I am living, right now.
What more reason need there be?
I am lost, and I don’t care to be found.


Grey file cabinets line beige-green walls,
Stretching from the speckled grey ceiling
To the off-white (grey), tiled floor.

I sit on a plastic grey chair,
That is the antithesis of comfort,
And makes me lean on its grey armrests
To ease the pain in my aching grey bones
That radiates from my office chakra:
The seat of rational, unnatural man.

Atop my uniform grey and lifeless desk—
Complete with not enough leg room,
Uncomfortably sharp metal edges,
And squeaking draws whose screech
Is only slightly less wretched
Than that of my graying soul—
Is the only source of color in this monotone hell:
A mass produced, green leaflet entitled,
“Mental Health in the Workplace”.

I read the dark grey letters
Who tell me that spring has arrived,
Bringing green life and happiness;
Who tell me all the “typical” symptoms,
Attempting to objectively diagnose me
Without knowing a single thing about me;
Who suggest solution after generic solution
That others like me have found of use
Without first knowing what I am like.

I let the green paper fall into the flat sea of grey
Feeling even more pallid and defeated,
And look out the window upon the spring day
Where the radiantly smiling sun shines down
Upon the joyously budding life of the mountain side
Which is filled with newly green leaves
That are greener than any damn leaflet.

Sorry it’s been a while. Thank you for reading.


Barely alive at five forty five
Off to do something I’d rather not.
On the train in the rain
With a head full of pain,
Wishing this hard seat
Was a swinging cot.

To mountains and snow, off we go!
Says everyone except me.
They long for fun
And insist there’s some
But only cold (and more cold)
Can I see.