November 21, 2018

JAPAN TRAVEL: Vowz Bar in Shinjuku, Tokyo — Buddhist Monks Serving Unique Cocktails!

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  • JAPAN TRAVEL: Vowz Bar in Shinjuku, Tokyo — Buddhist Monks Serving Unique Cocktails!
  • Behind the bar counter at Vowz Bar is where Buddhist monks in classic robes stand, bartending unique drinks and serving up unique bar food. It is a place that offers a different picture of Buddhist monks, quite different from their reclusive, strictly somber image. The bar itself is also not your ordinary watering hole.

    That Buddhist monks are running a bar and serving alcoholic drinks might seem contrary to their doctrine, but the monks at Vowz Bar see it as a good way of connecting with people—alcoholic drinks help people ease up and talk—and educating them about Buddhism. Everyone, regardless of religion, can come in for a conversation and find a welcoming sanctuary where they can have friendly conversations even on mundane issues like relationships, family, and work.

    Their original Buddhist-themed cocktails serve as a way to help visitors loosen up and begin to open up. Ranging from strong to mild, the drinks are uniquely themed based on common Buddhist concepts and saints. A must-try is Gokuraku-Jodo or “Nirvana in the Pure Land,” a refreshing and colorful mix of Hypnotiq liqueur, mango juice, and cranberry juice.

    Gokuraku-Jodo (¥800)

    Another interestingly named drink is Mugen-Jigoku, a mix of black vodka, Framboise liqueur, cranberry juice, and tonic water. Although the name of the drink translates to “Never-Ending Suffering in Hell,” drinking this potent and bittersweet drink feels anything but.

    Mugen-Jigoku (¥800)

    Meanwhile, their bar food menu is perfect for vegetarians and vegans as everything is in accordance with Shojin Ryori or the Buddhist cuisine, which avoids the use of any kind of meat. For meat and modern food lovers, it might be a bit challenging to welcome the flavors in the mouth, but if you choose carefully according to your taste, their dishes are worth the try. They even make a great combination with the cocktails.

    A popular Buddhist food is Daitoku-ji Nattou, which, according to the menu, gives a “sensation you have never felt!” And it’s exactly what I got. At first, the dish looked like prunes, which somewhat created an unconscious expectation that it may taste sweet and chewy.

    It’s the opposite. Daitoku-ji Nattou is a kind of dry natto that is salted, dried, and smelled, produced at Daitoku-ji Temple in Kyoto. It has a strong salty taste and is soft and smooth to the bite. Although the taste and texture may be a bit strange for the uninitiated, the dish actually makes a good partner with alcohol.

    Daitoku-ji Nattou (¥500)

    For something more approachable, other recommended dishes are Miso-Tofu, soaked with bean paste, and Nama-Fu made with wheat gluten fried in sesame oil.

    Miso-Tofu (¥500)

    Nama-Fu (¥700)

    Definitely, conversations with monks are different from talking with a friend or a stranger at a regular bar, and that in itself is a nice experience to be had. The monks are friendly and approachable, and yet talking with them still creates a feeling of warmth and solemnity. The mood is also enhanced by the simplicity of the place. The bar is small and cozy, with a small altar and Buddhist symbols on the walls, and some creative drawings too—which shows that the monks have an impressive talent too.

    You may come to Vowz Bar to experience a unique bar concept, relax and escape from problems, or meet new friends. One thing is for sure—when you walk out of the bar, you will get a new understanding of Buddhism and the people that follow it, perhaps gain a unique friendship with the people at the bar!


    Written by Rei Leaño
    This first appeared in Philippine Primer English magazine’s Vol. 32 – November issue. 

                 
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