Recently, while enjoying some delicious sweet and sour pork in a cozy Chinese restaurant near our house, Joe and I got a bit of a shock.
Out of the television mounted to the wall came a cheerful chorus of children's voices singing "Kanpaiiiiiiii!"
My head whirled toward the screen to see children merrily clinking their mugs together and imbibing a frothy golden drink. My jaw hung.
It looked something like this.
Add this to the "WHAT the...?!" file!
I knew enough Japanese to understand that "Kodomo no nomimono" meant "Children's drink." With a little poking around on the Web, I found that this was indeed a commercial for Japanese "Kid's Beer," a non-alcoholic beverage marketed toward children ages 8 to 13.
The best part is the drink's slogan: "Even kids cannot stand life unless they have a drink."
At a couple of the work parties I've attended, I've seen the Japanese bend the elbow 'til they're quite jolly red in the face. So I wondered, did it just make sense to them to ease the kids into the real thing?
I asked a couple Japanese teachers if they would ever give Kid's Beer to their kids. Were parents around Japan going to be handing their little ones some brews to ring in the new year? Both of them laughed like I was some kind of circus clown. Oh, silly gaijin!
One teacher explained that she had in the past given her son sparkling grape juice when the adults were toasting a special occasion with champagne. She'd feel guilty, she said, if she didn't also give her child a special drink to include him in the celebration.
But beer is different, she said. That's something people drink every day, so it's not so special. You don't want to encourage your kid to drink beer. Fair enough. I'm sure the beverage giants are happy to hook youngsters on the idea of drinking beer as young as possible. There's a reason McDonald's uses a big goofy clown to market to young children. You develop habits young, you're likely to keep those habits when you're older.
Curious to see this stuff in person, I went on a quest to find it. The search ended quickly when I found it on a shelf at our local Ten Maya grocery store.
I was amused to see that they made "boy" bottles and "girl" bottles, as well as a special winter formula.
Now it may look like a duck, but it doesn't quack like a duck. These suds taste like guarana, a tropical berry that grows in the Amazon region.
Witness Joe and I taste test the Kid's Beer!
Yeah, that's one way to describe something that tastes like a cross between cream soda and apple juice.
And while we're on the subject of beer, I want to share the delightful variety we came across in the beer case. It wasn't so much the variety of selection that surprised me, but the variety of sizes.
Joe likes to refer to these puppies as Papa Bear, Mama Bear and Baby Bear.
The Papa Bear is about on par with a 40-ounce while the Mama Bear is like your typical 12-ounce can of beer. But, for people like Joe who get woozy just looking at alcohol ;), this Japanese beer maker conveniently offers you the Baby Bear size. At 135 ml, it's only around 4.5 ounces.
Maybe this is the kid's version?