wFrom:  Jim White Sent: 

wtJuly 3, 2013

Subject:  Akadama

John (and others),

Your memory is OK.  Japan went off the 360 exchange rate on July 29, 1972.   And, while your spelling of Totsuka is exactly as the Japanese pronounce it, when written one has to include the silent "u."

Thinking about it, perhaps one reason I never got all that interested in hard liquors is that in most of the G.I. bars in Japan in the 1950's, many of the hard liquor bottle labels were almost black with age and from handling.  Each bar must have bought one bottle in 1945 or so and then they refilled them with rotgut for years and years.

But, while talking about the old days and various ones of incapacitating one's self, I was an NCO Club Custodian in Korea in 1959/1960 and, as a result have a copy of the April 1960 issue of a quarterly magazine of that era that was sponsored by the various businesses that helped keep the clubs supplied.

One interesting little paragraph is as follows:  "The regular menu price of steaks at the Kadena Airmen"s Club is $1.10, $1.25 or more, depending on the cut and the size  (at some of the officers' clubs, a steak dinner costs $2.50 or more).  There are $0.25 or $0.50 specials, but these are often spaghetti and meat sauce, or hamburger or some other relatively inexpensive dish.  It's rare indeed that even an 8-ounce steak gets on a 25 cent special!"  Don't you feel just as sorry as could be for those poor officers!!

I can remember $0.10 beer and $1.00 steaks at the NCO club at Kimpo Air Base in 1954/55.  And, I think that the NCO Club at Grant Heights in Tokyo was still offering a $0.75 or $1.00 fried chicken special once a week in the early to mid-1960's.  And, when I first got to Taipei in 1971, the NCO Club (Club 63), thanks to the financial support the free-spending GIs from Vietnam who came to Taipei on R&R provided, we had monthly free food and drink MAAG EM Nights   But, those days are now long gone.  Is there a way to get them back???

Memory Lane--  Here are some of the "liquid refreshments" advertised in the magazine:

Philadelphia Whiskey

Four Roses Antique

Courvoiser Brandy

Grant's Scotch

V.S.O.P Remy Martin Cognac

Hiram Walker's Ten High

Hiram Walker's Imperial

Hiram Walker's Vodka

Canadian Club

Old Grand-Dad Bourbon

Old Forester

Queen Anne Scotch

Pommery & Greno Champagne

Usher's Green Stripe Scotch


Miller High Life


Lucky Lager

I know there were other drinks which which aren't in the magazine.  But, is anyone thirsty?


wFrom:  John Thomas
wtDate:  July 1, 2013
Subject:  Akadama
All of this discussion brought back some memories of my time in Japan.  I got over there in '69 and spent 2 years at Atsugi.  I was in the Kanto Plains Microwave Group.  I believe the the exchange rate was $1 = 360 Yen at that time.  Now I was a beer drinker, and I really liked Kirin, I thought it tasted much better than the other Japanese beers.  My problem with drinking in the bars was that you could buy a shot for 100 Yen, it was the 'rot gut' stuff I called Torys.  The good whiskey was called Suntory Gold, I think.  But back to beer, I think that what I liked, Kirin, was 360 yen.  That was really to expensive me so most my drinking was done in our houses, lived in Totska, sp, [Totsuka] or at the EM club.
It seems that Smirnoff [vodka] was about 90 cents a fifth.  We drank a fair amount of that.  During that two years I did my best to uphold the traditions of the Navy, we could drink just about anyone under the table, and stagger away.  After that tour I got to visit the great country of Vietnam.  My drinking dropped to a low consumption.  I had decided that I wanted to go home in one piece, so sober I was 99% of the time.  That worked well.  I do remember some adult beverages that I sure didn't care for, Tiger Beer for one.
After my vacation in Vietnam I was separated finished college and got married.  My drinking came to a screeching halt.  I guess I average a bout 5-6 beers a year and really enjoy everyone of them.
Ah but the memories of a re-up party in Yokohama, we were banned for life at that bar!

wFrom:  Frank Rogers
wtDate:  June 30, 2013
Subject:  Wine for you, sir!
[In Japan] I heard of a lot of men getting surprises on their bar bills.  The beer was listed at a very low price, but when the bill came it was thousands of yen for only a few bottles. That's because it was "understood" that on top of the beer cost, there was a "table" charge, then a "service" charge, and, the biggest expense was for the girl who sat at your table even though you didn't ask for her. And of course, you had to pay for her expensive "drink."  This process was part of the Japanese tax system which was (is?) very lenient in exempting "entertainment" expenses as a legitimate part of doing business, and is probably still in effect.

wFrom:  Ken Kalish
wtDate:  June 29, 2013
Subject:  Wine for you sir!
Well … Back in 1967 when Boone’s Farm wine was being introduced, there wasn’t much question about who was putting it out.  The shoulders of the bottles bore that raised Thunderbird image.  Any guesses what that meant?

wFrom:  Jim White

wtSent:  June 28, 2013

Subject:  Akadama

Black Nikka is still available.  See  However, regarding your question about it being a big hit "over here" (the U.S. or the P.I.?), that is something I can't answer.  I can barely spell "whiskey" let alone drink the stuff.  Perhaps the only whiskey I have ever enjoyed at all was that at one time I enjoyed a little Wild Turkey once in a while.  Maybe one reason I don't like whiskey is that I do tend to be a gulper rather than a sipper.


From:  Jim White

Sent:  June 27, 2013

Subject:  2014 Reunion - We have a go!

Your mention of Thunderbird as "one of the better wines in California" brought back some memories.  A number of years ago I used some air miles and got a seat in business class on United Airlines.  The young lady who came around asking what kind of wine I would like was obviously of Japanese ancestry, but I wasn't sure if she was a born-in-Japan Japanese or perhaps a third or whatever generation Japanese-American.  Therefore I quickly came up with an "instant cultural background litmus test."   I said "I'll have the Thunderbird."  She broke down laughing, and after several rather long moments later, after she had regained her composure, I said "From your reaction, you are obviously Japanese-American."   She readily admitted that she was.

Japan has a close to "Thunderbird" equivalent called "Suntory Akadama Port Wine."   My wife, shortly after we were married got sick on it and for the next several decades she couldn't walk by a display of Akadama without turning green.  Akadama must have been one of Suntory's earliest adventures into the production of whiskey/wine/beer.  It was first put on the market in the early 1900's.  They also started making whiskey in prewar days but it wasn't much better than the wine.  I can remember receiving a gift of a bottle of "Suntory White Label" whiskey in the mid-1950's and it was basically horrible.  (Of course, with the Yen at 360/$1.00 and a fifth of White Label costing only 360 Yen, many of the GI's didn't complain.)  Then in 1963 Suntory came out with it's first beer.  Following their long tradition of "fine drinks" this was also barely potable--if even that.  Three GI friends and I went to a place to try it out one evening after work.  Fortunately, we were smart enough to order and split just one bottle.  I don't think any of us took a second sip.  We simply paid for the beer, thanked the bar tender and went on our way.  Six months or so later, Suntory came out with a "Suntory Hon Nama" which wasn't a great beer but not all that bad either.

This is one of the earlier posters for Adakama Port Wine:


June & July 2013

Sometimes also known as getting drunk.

AFVN Group Conversations

wFrom:  Jim White
wtSent:  July 1, 2013
Subject:   Wine for you, sir!
You ran your own company in Japan at one time so you know more about company-related tax laws than I have ever even heard of.  But, "thousands of yen" is a little low.  Today, there are sometimes stories of "tens of thousands of yen" being charged some poor (usually Japanese) sucker who walked into the wrong place.
I don't do it very often anymore, but when I do go out I stick to the "Aka Chochin" (they hang a red paper lantern at the entrance) places that serve drinks and snacks--but not girls.  For the uneducated, "Red Lantern" places in Japan have nothing to do with the "red lanterns" the railroad men used to hang outside the door of a prostitute’s crib to show that she was busy.  Police stations and small police boxes in Japan have red lights and there was many a GI who got fooled in the early days of the occupation thinking he had found a "red light place."  The Japanese use blue rather than red.  I.E., an XXX movie in the U.S. would be a "blue movie" in Japan.

wFrom:  Joe Ciokon
wtSent:  June 30, 2013
Subject:   Akadama
Jake Sugiyama is a fellow Judo instructor here and came from Watanabe Dojo in Yokosuka where many of our Navy Judokas began.  Ed Alseika, to whom he refers, was a Navy Radioman First Class (E-6) who spent most of his 20-yr career at Fleet Activities Yokosuka.   I met him here in North Island in 1964 during one of his rare tours in the States.   He’s the only one of us to attain high dan rank: Shichidan (7th rank red and white belt) and the only “Gaijin” to win the All-Japan Judo Championships back in the 60s and 70s.   He is a legend at the Kodokan Judo Institute in Tokyo where they refer to him as “Ski-san."   A big Polack who could read Kanji and sing the traditional Japanese songs.  He married a Japanese girl and passed away in Guam where he had retired as Athletic Director for the Naval Base there.  He was my inspiration to continue my studies of Judo and the martial arts.

wFrom:  Steve Sevits
wtDate:  June 29, 2013
Subject:  Wine for you, sir!
Luckily I didn't marry the girl who used to drink rum and root beer.   She was too exciting for me.

wFrom:  Dick Ellis
wtSent:  June 28, 2013
Subject:  Wine for you, sir!
We used to mix Thunderbird with Sun-Drop cola on ice.....How did we survive high school days?   Then in college we drank Cold Duck....not much better!    

wFrom: Frank Rogers

wtSent:  June 28, 2013

Subject:  Akadama

Jim, your mention of Akadama wine brought back a lot of memories from my Navy days. I don't drink, but remember the crew-mates talking about it.   Cheap was the big reason for them to drink it. I once got a gift of Suntory Whiskey for something I sent the Japan Times. Do they still have the Black Nikka whiskey?  Wouldn't that be a big hit over here? Sip, don't gulp.


wFrom:  Ken Kalish

wtSent:  June 26, 2013

Subject:  AFVN Reunion - We have a go!
(As part of his message about the 2014 Reunion,) Ken wrote:  We can bring in our own beverages, but remember, this is California.  The wines are OK, if you don’t count Thunderbird and Boone’s Farm, but their idea of brandy is Patron and whiskey is from a San Francisco distillery that steals empty bottles from dumpsters and refills them without changing the labels.  Last time I was there, they didn’t know that Earnest and Julio Gallo offered something called E&J brandy or that Windsor wasn’t scotch.  If you must sample local libidiments, please remember the warning ode, “One tequila, two tequila, three tequila, floor.”

wFrom:  Steve Pennington

wtSent:  July 4, 2013

Subject:  Akadama I remember on Okinawa we had a guy in the unit who drank Akadama Plum Wine.  He was a skinny kid from Oklahoma and was our welder in the field maint. unit.  One afternoon I was walking into the barracks ( Ichi maro hachi? [Correct!] 108, at Kadena)  And Johnny was drinking from a bottle.  When I walked by he asked if I wanted a drink.  Sure thing, thanks. I took a swig and noticed particles floating in the wine.  I showed him and he said it was chewing tobacco.  He had a plug stuck in his craw while he was drinking.  Needless to say no one shared with him after that.  I remember beer was a dime a can at Da Nang, as was soda.  A forty ounce bottle of Calverts American Whiskey was a buck ninety five, but the officers bought the good stuff, Chivas Regal, at four fifty a bottle.  Yep, those are mostly good memories.  Last time I was at McChord, the scene of many a good time, I found out the consolidated club bars are only open 2 days a month when the reserve unit is drilling.


wFrom:  John Thomas

wtSent:  July 3, 2013

Subject:  Memories I do not want all of you to think that all I did was drink while I was in the Navy.   I really enjoyed walking around, meeting people and taking pictures.  I wish that most of my film had not disappeared over the years.

wFrom:  Jim White
wtSent:  July 1, 2013
Subject:  Akadama
Your friend, Jake, has it down pretty well pat.
I'm not sure, but I think some of the places in Yokosuka that cater to the GIs let them bring in their own (exchange purchased) beer and then charge only a small fee for keeping it cool and serving it.  
Regarding Johny Walker Black or Red.  I don't think I have ever tried either one.  But, historically, perhaps one reason that Black is more popular and considered "better" is that in pre-war days, Imperial Navy officers drank Black but the enlisted had to settle for Red.

wFrom:  Ray Profeta
wtDate:  June 29, 2013
Subject:  Wine for you, sir!
We used to drink a wine by Mogen David, MD 20/20, we called it Mad Dog 20/20 mixed it with 7 UP had a "Red Eye Special"!!  Oh boy those were the days!

wFrom:  Frank Rogers
wtDate:  June 28, 2013
Subject:  Wine for you, sir!
I'm surprised they haven't moved apple cider or juice "behind the counter" at drug stores.  Open it, let it sit ... then taste it.  Really cheap wooziness for grandma.

wFrom:  Forrest Brandt
wtSent:  June 28, 2013
Subject:  Akadama
So what you guys are saying is that Akadama is [like] Thunderbird wine, the preferred weapon of temporary destruction?  I still remember the Thunderbird jingles from early 50's radio and TV, What's the word?  Thunderbird!  What's the price?  Fifty twice!
My head hurts just thinking about it.

wFrom:  Rick Fredericksen

wtSent:  June 28, 2013

Subject:  2014 Reunion - We have a go!

Can't speak for the wine, but that advertising poster is very artistic--would look nice hanging on the wall.


wFrom:  Jake Sugiyama
wwtiTo:  Joe Ciokon
 wtDate:  June 30, 2013
Subject:  Akadama
Hi Joe,
How are you feeling tonight ?  I hope you are getting better and better.  Thanks for the info.
It’s an interesting  story  about Akadama Port Wine.  I never like it since I had a drunk real bad ( I was only at age of 15) at Watanabe Dojo.  Sensei W. told me a week later that A.P. Wine will get a drunk faster, so if you want to get a drunk faster, get it.
Whiskey :
I used to drink a little bit, not much.  In my opinion, Black Nikka is better than Suntory, of course B.N. is  much more money than S.T.  S.T. is a cheap Whiskey, so get a drunk faster than B.N.  Yes, they still have B.N. in Japan, but not so big sale today because there are so many W from the overseas, J. Walker (black, red), Canadian whiskey and so forth.  Sensei W. used to like only J. Walker (B), never like (R), so he asked always to [get him] Ed Alseika only J.W.(B) at that time.  Yes, US$1.00/360 yen in 1945-1960, but Today US$1.00/90 yen.
Beers ;
Japanese Beers, Kirin, Sapporo, Asahi and several more (Suntory beer and so forth). a large bottle (720ml).  Today, large one  average costs about 500 Yen at the stores, and 1,000 yen at the bar.  Therefore, GIs can not afford to go in the bar to have a good time with Ojo-san (a girl) any more.
I was in Yokosuka for 10 days in March last year.  There are not so many bars in the Honcho Street in Yokosuka, a few of bars are still remain as the same as  I remember.  Such as, a bar called St, Louis, Tennessee, Alamo, and so forth.
Suntory Beer :  I still don’t like it even today because I had a headache [the] next day after having a large bottle in 1960s.  They started producing the beer which was no comparison with Kirin, Sapporo, and Asahi at that time.   Suntory should stayed making  Whiskey.

wFrom:  Bob Nelson
wtDate:  June 28, 2013
Subject:  Win for you, sir!
Yuck you guys - raised in the country - ever thought about water or lemonade?   Wanted to get high, while you were feeding the cows twice a day - head for the silo and sniff the insulage (sp) [NB: ensilage or silage] -  the further into the season the stronger the fermentation.  Remember, this was pure corn you had blown in there,