One Cup Ozeki

The drink of choice of impoverished but thirsty, or desperate, tipplers, One Cup Ozeki has been around since the 1964 Tokyo Olympic Games. Rumour has it that the sake drink in a 200ml glass jar with a ring-pull top and a plastic cover was developed for the convenience of spectators at the Tokyo Olympics. Whether this is true or not is irrelevant: One Cup Ozeki is now as much a cultural icon as the Shinkansen (Bullet Train), which started running in the same year.

Since the day it first went on sale, One Cup Ozeki has been a success. It is sold in supermarkets, convenience stores and in vending machines, hot in winter and chilled in summer. Because it can be easily carried, it is popular for outdoor occasions like picnics, festivals, or cherry blossom viewing. But it is the people who spend most of their time outdoors, the homeless or day labourers, who have really made this drink their own. In areas such as Sanya in east Tokyo, thousands of One Cups are imbibed every single day, and most of these are purchased from vending machines.

In  Sanya there is a very distinct purchasing pattern that could be called the “Sanya Sake Shuffle,” and this is described in more detail in the book Blinded by the Night.


Newcastle Brown Ale

In the first chapter of the book, Blinded by the Night, Akira Toyoda, the detective and main character, is in a pub in Roppongi drinking his favorite beer, Newcastle Brown Ale. It is only in the past decade that Newcastle Brown Ale has become available in Japan, but it is gaining popularity because it is full of flavor and easy to drink. In fact, it is now considered chic to walk into a Tokyo English pub and order a Newcastle Brown Ale without as much as a glance at the menu.
Newcastle Brown Ale

Introduced in 1927, Newcastle Brown Ale was an immediate hit with beer drinkers on Tyneside, and its fame soon spread. One year later, in 1928, Newcastle Brown Ale won two gold medals at the International Brewers’ Exhibition. This naturally helped to increase the popularity of the beer, especially in the North East of England, where it became a symbol of the tough, working-class men employed in the shipbuilding, mining and steel industries.

Over the years it has acquired a fearsome reputation as a drink that drives men crazy, and for almost half a century there have been rumors of a special ward in Newcastle General Hospital for those who have lost their minds to this fearsome drink. There is, however, no truth in these rumors. Newcastle Brown Ale is no more likely than any other beer to send men, or women, mad—if consumed in moderation!

Newcastle Brown Ale is a dark brown beer that has Protected Designation of Origin (PDO), Protected Geographical Indication (PGI) and Traditional Specialty Guaranteed (TSG), which are all European Laws to protect the names of regional foods. It is the top selling bottled beer in the UK and Europe and the second most popular imported ale in the US.

In Newcastle, the beer is called the “Dog,” which is abbreviated from the two phrases “I’m going to walk the dog” (take the dog for a walk) or “I’m going to see a man about a dog” (thinking of buying a dog), both of which mean ‘I am going to the pub.“ It is also called “Broon,” which is the Geordie pronunciation of the word “brown.” In other parts of England, it is called “Newkie Brown.”

The logo of Newcastle Brown Ale is the famous five pointed blue star, the points of which represent the original five Newcastle breweries that had amalgamated in 1890. The center of the blue star features a Silhouette of the Tyne Bridge. The label consists of the blue star and images of the gold medals on either side.

In 2006, to honor the Newcastle United striker Alan Shearer on his retirement from football, a special Shearer edition was released. This unique packaging for this edition features a black and white label, the colors of Newcastle United.


In the opening chapter of Blinded by the Night, as Toyoda returns to the pub, he is greeted by the sight of a foreigner’s bare buttocks. The practice of dropping one’s pants, bending over and displaying one’s buttocks is called mooning.

In some cultures, mooning is a form of protest, contempt, or irritation; in others it is used to shock or amuse. Although mooning is usually considered impolite and offensive, it is practiced by a wide range of people from all sorts of backgrounds in different parts of the world.

There are numerous mentions of mooning throughout history. In 1346, during the Hundred Years War, hundreds of French soldiers mooned the English army at the Battle of Caen. This was a painful mistake for many of them because the English archers were armed with very powerful and accurate longbows, and they seized the opportunity for a free shot at the French buttocks.

Mooning was first recorded in North America in around 1524, when the Italian explorer Giovanni da Verrazzano and his crew were mooned by Native Americans of the Abenaki tribe along the coast of Maine . Verrazzano was astonished by the “barbarous” behavior of the natives and called the state of Maine “onde la male gente” (land of the bad people). The Abenaki, however, had previous contact with Europeans and did not think very highly of them. Mooning Verrazzano and his crew was the Abenaki’s unequivocal way of telling the Europeans exactly what they thought of them.

According to legend, in 1534 the city of Nice in southern France was saved from the Turkish invaders by a local washerwoman, Catherine Ségurane, who mooned them from the walls of the city. Although there is no evidence to support this legend, the people of Nice celebrate Catherine Ségurane Day annually on November 25.

Members of the British royal family have been victims of mooning incidents in recent years. Queen Elizabeth II was mooned by a Maori while on a visit to New Zealand. Tame Iti, a Maori activist and serial mooner, claimed that mooning was a traditional Maori form of protest and not indecent exposure. And in 2000 an event called the Moon against the Monarchy took place outside Buckingham Palace in London. A large group of people gathered to protest against the Royal Family by mooning the palace, and some of them were arrested for doing so.

In the United States there is even an annual event to celebrate the practice of mooning. The Annual Mooning of Amtrak is now in its 28th year. The event started in 1979, when a man called K. T. Smith, who was drinking in The Mugs Away Saloon, offered to buy a drink for anyone who mooned the next train. What probably started out as a joke for a few fellow drinkers has turned into a carnival with thousands of participants each year.

Mooning has frequently featured in movies and television series. Marlon Brando in Last Tango in Paris responded to being kicked out of a dance hall by mooning the patrons. In the movie Braveheart, the Scottish army mooned the English just before the start of a battle. And two of televisions biggest stars, Homer and Bart Simpson, are enthusiastic mooners.

Sportsmen are also partial to the practice of mooning. The most famous mooning incident is English football occurred in the 1979 FA Cup semi-final, when Arsenal’s Sammy Nelson mooned the crowd to celebrate scoring a goal for both teams in the 1-1 draw. Mooning is often part of the after-the-game celebrations for American football or rugby teams. Rugby players usually accompany their mooning sessions with rousing choruses of obscene songs.

Rock stars—many of whom have behavioral problems—are also known for their mooning stunts. Ozzy Obsourne of Black Sabbath mooned the audience at the UK Music Hall of Fame ceremony in November 2005. The audience responded by giving him a standing ovation.

Although there are no gender prohibitions for mooning, it is usually practiced by men, and more often than not, drunken men. It can be fun, but it can get a person into trouble if practiced at the wrong time or place. Ken Mitsuda of the popular Japanese comedy duo “Tommys” was questioned by the police and severely warned by the Chinese authorities for mooning a group of tourists at a Buddhist temple on Hainan Island in China. He was obliged to write a letter of apology before being allowed to return to Japan.

Toyoda was about to turn down the narrow lane that ran along the railway track when he heard someone calling his name. He turned around and was surprised to see Koji Hara, a detective in the Organized Crime Control Section.

“What are you doing up here?” asked Hara. “I thought you were strictly central Tokyo these days.”

“I could ask you the same thing,” replied Toyoda. “In my case, I go where the action takes me. What about you?”

“Pretty much the same,” replied Hara. “What’s the action that brought you here today?”

Toyoda told him and said that he was heading back to Roppongi.

“Where’s your car parked?” asked Hara.

“Azabu police station,” replied Toyoda.

Hara’s facial expression asked the question.

“I was off duty and having a drink when I got a call to come up here. There was no way I could drive up after what happened last month, and I couldn’t get a car; so I came by subway. I tired to get a lift back but Watanabe wasn’t in the benevolent mood. So I’ll go back the way I came.”

“Come on,” said Hara. “My car is over there.”

When they were buckled up Toyoda asked Hara what case he was on.

“Stolen cars,” replied Hara. “You would hardly believe the number of cars stolen nowadays. The thieves are very well organized and they seem to be working to order. They are targeting Toyota Land Cruisers, Mitsubishi Pajeros and luxury sedans.”

“High-end stuff,” said Toyoda. “I wouldn’t have thought there would have been a big demand for such high-profile vehicles. They are so easy track down.”

“There is in Russia, the Middle East and Africa, places where the roads are rough.”

Toyoda nodded. “That means they have to be shipped out. Who is doing this?”

“The usual suspects—the yakuza in partnership with the Russian mafia.”

“What’s the connection with Senju?”

“It looks as if the cars are being stored up here somewhere. We’ve had a tip off, and we’ve now got a group under surveillance. That’s what I was looking into today. Whatever you think of the Senju cops, or at least some of them, you have to admit that they know their own turf. I’ll probably be coming up here on a regular basis until we crack the case.”

“Rather you than me,” said Toyoda.

Hara laughed. “Don’t speak too soon! If foreigners are involved in the car racket, and I think they are, you could end up working with me. The globalization of crime has finally reached Senju.”

“As far as I’m concerned,” said Toyoda, “Senju is Watanabe’s turf; so he can deal with any of the foreign crooks that are stupid enough to move in here.”

“I hear what you are saying,” said Hara, “but Watanabe is not in the Foreign Crimes Division; you are. Of course, if there are any crimes involving foreigners in Senju, Watanabe could easily be involved.”

“He already is,” said Toyoda, and he briefly explained the situation.

“That’s bad luck,” said Hara. “I hope you get it cleared up quickly or this could be just the start of a long tortuous relationship.”

Toyoda sighed. “That would be my worst nightmare.”

“Where do you want me to drop you off?” asked Hara.

“Anywhere in Roppongi,” replied Toyoda.

“If you are going drinking, I’ll join you,” said Hara. “It’s a bit hectic at home right now, so I could use a beer or two before heading back.”

Toyoda looked sideways. He knew that Setsuko, Hara’s wife, was heavily pregnant with their third child. He had seen her coming out of the police housing compound in Tamachi a week earlier with the two boys, when he had dropped off a colleague after an all-night stakeout of a Chinese gambling club. She was obviously taking the elder boy to kindergarten and looked more than a little stressed.

“How is the family,” Toyoda asked.

“Hara sighed. “If anyone else had asked that question, I would have said that everything is fine at home. But I know I can talk openly to you without it getting around headquarters. The thing is that Setsuko is pregnant again, and she is having a hard time with this one.”

Toyoda didn’t let on that he had seen her. Instead he asked what the problems were.

“The first two pregnancies were fine,” replied Hara. “But this one is really difficult. She is vomiting a lot and complaining of nausea and fatigue. The boys are a real handful and I am not much help. You know what it is like with this job, never enough time off.”

Toyoda nodded. “That’s the nature of this job. Practically every Friday I get called out. It’s starting to put a strain on my relationship with Yelena, that’s the Russian girl I live with. She wasn’t very happy when I left her in a pub this evening.

“A Russian girl?” Hara took his eyes of the road for a brief moment and had to swerve as he almost didn’t see the taxi shoot out from the side of the road in front of him. “I thought that you were living with an English girl.”

“I was,” said Toyoda, “but she gave me the red card.”

Hara again took his eyes off the road. “The red card?”

Toyoda laughed. “It’s a football term. If you commit a bad foul or get two yellow cards, which are warnings you get a red card and are sent off the field. You are obviously not a fan.”

“No interest in team sports. You know me, the dojo is my preference. Anyway, what did you get the red card for?”

“The usual things,” answered Toyoda, “irregular work hours and heavy drinking.”

“It’s the same for us all,” said Hara. “I suppose the family is the only thing keeping Setsuko and I together. We’ve had a hell of a lot of fights over the past year. And it’s getting worse.”

Toyoda looked at his watch. It was almost ten-thirty. “Just a minute,” he said. “I’d better make a quick call or I’ll be getting into another row.”

He dialed and waited: no answer. “Out of range,” he said.

“I’ll park the car behind the station,” said Hara, turning into the narrow lane next to Azabu police station. “There’s a great izakaya just down the road, do you know the place I mean?”

“I know the place, but I’ve never been inside.”

Hara laughed. “It’s not just another tavern: it’s dirt cheap and the food is as good as you’ll get anywhere in Tokyo, including any of the fancy places you frequent.”

Toyoda dialed Yelena’s number once again. She did not respond. He fleetingly thought about leaving the photos of the victim at the station, but decided against it. If he went inside, he might get lumbered with something else to do, and he figured he had already given up too much of his free time for one night.

“OK,” said Toyoda. “I’ll join you for thirty minutes, then I’ll have to track Yelena down and make up for letting her down again. I can’t afford another red card.”

The door opened automatically as they approached the izakaya and they went in. The place was crowded, noisy and smoky, but they managed to squeeze in among some red-faced salarymen who were aggressively putting down their boss. One of the flushed fellows turned to look menacingly at the newcomers, but quickly changed his manner when Toyoda made eye contact with him.

Hara ordered two large Sapporo draft beers and half the items on the menu. Then he said, “I heard a little about that incident at the back of Azabu police station last month. What really happened?”

“Stupidity!” replied Toyoda. “I’d been drinking with a couple guys from Kyushu who were following up on a Chinese gang that is smuggling people in through Fukuoka. You know what it is like: I volunteered to show them the night life in Roppongi. The next thing I knew it was three o’ clock in the morning. I don’t know what got into me, but instead of walking home—as you know I live right on the edge of Roppongi—I went back to the station and got into my car. Just as I was pulling away a squad car came in and I had to swerve to miss it. Unfortunately, the squad car also swerved and smacked into a wall. There was a bit of a scene, and I was up in front of the chief inspector the next day. Old man Tanaka came to my rescue and I got off with just a warning.”

“You’re lucky Tanaka likes you,” said Hara. “I bet he wouldn’t have stepped in if it had been Watanabe instead of you.”

The beers came. Hara raised his glass and proposed a toast to Superintendent Tanaka. Then he took a long thirsty swig that practically emptied the glass. The speed at which Hara attacked his drink took Toyoda by surprise, but he didn’t say anything. Instead, he raised his own glass and took a moderate mouthful of the chilled draft beer.

“So it looks like you’ve got a rape and murder on your hands,” said Hara. The others at the table suddenly fell silent and tuned in to the conversation. “Do you have any idea who the victim is, where she’s from or what she’s doing in Japan?”

“We don’t know much right now, but I have the feeling that we will find that she worked in the mizushobai,” said Toyoda.

Hara took another swig and emptied his glass. He took a quick look at Toyoda’s glass and shouted for one more large draft. “What makes you think that she is working in the night trade?”

“As you know,” said Toyoda, “most of the eastern European women in Tokyo, and many of the western Europeans, too, are working as hostesses, strippers or hookers.”

“Of course I know that, but what makes you think that this particular woman was working in the night trade? I saw a program on TV a few weeks ago that featured foreign women who worked in the financial sector. I didn’t realize there were so many.”

“Well, to begin with,” replied Toyoda, “the victim was young and very attractive, and nobody has reported her missing yet. I bet she’s not registered anywhere, so there’ll be no fingerprints on record. Work it out! If she had been dead for at least twelve hours before she was found, as Amakawa estimates, she must have been killed some time between six and seven o’ clock this morning. Surely any woman working in the financial sector would have been reported missing by now.”

Toyoda picked up a piece of marinated octopus and chewed it slowly, before adding “But I don’t go along with Amakawa’s estimate.”

Hara’s beer arrived and he took a quick swig before asking Toyoda why he disagreed with Amakawa’s estimate of the time of death.

“It was already daylight at six o’clock and the construction site opposite the waste ground where the body was dumped was crawling with people. We know she wasn’t killed there; so that means the killer must have brought the body in from somewhere else. That alone means that she was killed much earlier.”

Toyoda stopped to take a swig of beer. Hara did the same and Toyoda realized that he was almost a liter of beer behind his friend. The last time they had been drinking together the roles had been reversed, with Toyoda guzzling at the rate of a seasoned Geordie drinker and Hara sipping his beer like the average Japanese.

Hara called for more beers and Toyoda continued. “There is only one way into the dump site, so nobody could get in without being seen. Anybody dumping a body at that time would have been taking a hell of a chance. I’ll bet my balls to a large beer that it was dumped much earlier. Even though some old guy walking his dog claims it wasn’t there at seven this morning, I think he is mistaken.”

“Sound logic,” said Hara, “I’ll not bet against you. What does Watanabe think about your theory?”

“I didn’t mention it to him. Amakawa is his brother-in-law, so I thought it best to keep my mouth shut until he has done the autopsy. If he still maintains that she was killed between six and seven o’clock after the autopsy, I’ll bring the subject up.”

Hara called for more beers, again taking Toyoda by surprise at the speed he was drinking.

“I’m struggling to keep up with you,” said Toyoda. “It used to be the other way round; you were always one or two drinks behind me. What have you been doing? Practicing?”

Hara laughed but did not answer the question.

Toyoda continued, “I reckon the body must have been dumped between midnight and four o’clock. There is hardly any chance of being seen then.” He picked up a skewer of grilled chicken and popped it into his mouth. “If we take that as a starting point, add the fact that she was murdered somewhere else after being raped, we can safely say that she must have been missing since yesterday evening. Anyone living a normal nine-to-five life would surely have been reported missing by now.”

Hara nodded as he reached for a piece of broiled squid, dipped it in mayonnaise and started chewing. “Good logic! Where do you think she is from?”

“She’s a blonde Caucasian so it’s got to be North America, Europe or Australia,” said Toyoda. “Right now, Tokyo is packed with Europeans, with East Europeans and Russians topping the list. They are working as dancers, hostesses and prostitutes.”

“What’s your girl doing here?” asked Hara.

“Yelena is working as a hostess in The Golden Slipper. Do you know the place?”

Hara shook his head and put another piece of squid into his mouth.

“It’s one of the most expensive clubs in Roppongi. The thing is, she has a degree in computer science. Back in Russia she was earning thirty dollars a month. Now she earns that an hour. You can see the attraction for these girls, can’t you?”

“You bet,” said Hara without looking up from the fish he was now carefully dissecting. “How did you meet her? Surely you can’t afford to drink in a place like that?”

“I met her in one of the bars that was showing a Premiership football game. She came in after work one night and we hit it off. She told me later that I stood out because I was the only Japanese man in the place.”

“I’ve never been to one of those bars where all the foreigners drink. It would be pointless because I can’t speak English,” said Hara.

“Some of the foreigners can speak Japanese.”

Hara took another hasty swig and then continued. “But back to this case, how are you going to start trying to identify the victim?”

“I may as well start in here in Roppongi. I know most of the clubs and it is practically on my own doorstep. There are about a hundred; so that should take me a few days. If nobody reports her missing by then, I will turn to Shinjuku. Somebody should recognize her, but whether they will cooperate or not is a different matter. Most of the girls are working illegally so they don’t want anything to do with the police. As a rule, they don’t trust us, but I get on all right with most of them. I’m a cop not an immigration officer; so as long as the girls are not committing a crime, I don’t care about their visas.”

Hara nodded as he ate a piece of chicken. “Have you got the photos with you?”

Toyoda opened the A4-sized envelope. “Here they are; have a look at them.”

Hara looked at the photos and whistled. “What a waste,” he said, “just get that photo on the evening news and someone is certain to recognize her. Nobody could forget a face like that.”

“I agree,” said Toyoda, “but let’s be honest; in the eyes of the media she is just another foreigner, and probably an illegal working in the mizushobai, so who really cares? This story will never hit the evening news.”

Hara threw the photos on the table and stood up. The others at the table, flushed but all ears, suddenly became all eyes. Simultaneously, they leant forward for a closer look at the photos. But they drew back quickly when Toyoda banged the table, picked the photos up and put them back in the envelope.

While Hara was in the toilet, Toyoda looked at his watch; it was already past two o’clock. He called Yelena’s cell phone. It was switched off. He called his home number; it was engaged.

Hara suggested one for the road when Toyoda told him that it was time for home. Nevertheless, they drank two more before Hara called for the bill. Then they stumbled out into the muggy and still vibrant streets of Roppongi. Hara jumped into a taxi and Toyoda staggered home.


What is a Geordie?

Strictly speaking, the term Geordie refers to a person from the Tyneside region (River Tyne) of England, or the dialect spoken in the region. But this definition would be so restrictive that people generally use the word Geordie to mean anyone from the North East of England, from Durham in the south to the top end of Northumberland in the north.

Although the origin of the term is disputed there are two theories that sound logical enough for either of them to be true. The first is that during the Jacobite Rebellion of 1745 the people of Newcastle took the side of King George II, while the people of Northumberland were largely Jacobites. Hence the people of Newcastle became known as Geordies. The other theory is that miners in the North East used Geordie safety lamps, invented by George Stephenson, and not the Davy Lamps invented by Humphry Davy that were used by miners in other part of the country.

Well-known Geordies

Well-known Geordies include: footballers—Alan Shearer, Jackie Milburn, Bobby and Jackie Charlton, Paul Gascoigne, Chris Waddle; musicians—Sting; Eric Burdon, Alan Price and Chas Chandler of the Animals, and Mark Knopfler; writers—Catherine Cookson (one of the best selling authors in the world), Jack Higgins (pseudonym for Harry Patterson, horror writer Stephen Laws, playwright and screenwriter Alan Plater, and poet Basil Bunting; actors—Stan Laurel, Robson Green, Imogen Stubbs, and Jimmy Nail; industrialists—George Stephenson, who is known as the “Father of the Railways,” Robert Stephenson, Lord William George Armstrong, and Sir Charles Parsons.  And, last but not least, there is Detective Akira Toyoda, the honorary Geordie and central character in the novel Blinded by the Night.

Geordie — The Spoken Language

The Geordie dialect and accent is closer to Anglo-Saxon pronunciations and accents than standard English because it was originally derived from Scandinavian languages brought to the north of England by the Angles and Vikings. Personal pronouns, for example, are pronounced differently in Geordie than in Standard English: I – aw; you – ye; my – me; our – wor. The “er” at the end of words sounds like “a”, as in “father” becoming “fatha.” The “ow” in words like “down” or “town” becomes “oo” as everyone in the United Kingdom knows, thanks to the famous football team, Newcastle United, which is know locally as “the Toon.” But it is not just the pronunciation that distinguishes Geordie from standard English: there are many words that are completely different. Geordies still uses many Anglo Saxon words like, for example: larn – teach; aad – old; claes – clothes; dyke – ditch; gan – go; lang – long. They also use Viking words: lass – girl; bairn – child; hyem – home; in fact, the phrase “gan hyem” means exactly the same in Danish as it does in Geordie.

The Shogunate*

The title of shogun (barbarian-subduing general) was first given to military commanders in the 8th century, and in 1185 Shogun Minamoto Yoritomo became the ruler of the entire country. He established his government in Kamakura in 1192 and his descendants ruled as the Kamakura shogunate until 1333. The next three centuries, known as the Sengoku (Warring States) period, were marked by prolonged civil wars which fragmented the country into hostile fiefdoms. In 1600 Tokugawa Ieyasu reunified the country and became the shogun of Japan after his decisive victory at the battle of Sekighara. From the new capital in Edo (Tokyo), the Tokugawa shogunate ruled Japan until the restoration of imperial rule in 1868.

* Taken from the Popout Cityguide Tokyo, published by Compass Maps Ltd. UK and written by Charles Pringle

Inn for the Night

Blinded by the Night opens in a bar* in Roppongi. This scene was inspired by a now defunct bar which was, in its day, one of the best and most popular bars in Roppongi. Practically every night was party night. Most of the male clientele were Westerners while the females were predominantly Japanese with a preference for western men.
Bar in Roppongi

Most people probably think that the scene that greeted Toyoda as he entered the bar from the street—a bare backside—is something inverted by the author. In fact it is the kind of thing that frequently happened, especially on Fridays. A group of brokers gathered there every Friday to let off steam and one of them invariably dropped his pants every week.

That the bar no longer exists is indeed regrettable, but while it was in business it was definitely a fun place to drink in. It had a great staff, friendly and very efficient, and they kept the drinks flowing as long as people were still standing and able to enjoy the party spirit.

The only negative aspect about the bar was the fact that there was only one toilet — problematic with the amount of liquid consumed on the premises — which often called for creative solutions to the call of nature. It was not unknown for some of the clientele, usually foreign men, to relieve themselves over the balcony at the back of the bar. This occasionally caused offense to some of the more vociferous denizens of Roppongi, especially when they were the recipients of an unwelcome shower.

* The name of the bar has been changed in accordance with wishes of the original owner of the bar.