In this column, we celebrate the best beers our writers have ever enjoyed. But it’s not just about the beer: it’s often just as much about the who, where, or when.
The best beer I ever had was on a Shinkansen bullet train traveling about 200 miles per hour somewhere between Hiroshima and Tokyo in 2010.
My friend Vicki and I had traveled to Tokyo to visit our friend, Kay, who let her American visa expire and had to return home to Japan for a few months to process paperwork. As a World War Two history buff, I was intent on seeing the city of Hiroshima on our trip. We woke up early one morning and boarded a four hour bullet train for the 600 mile trip across the island. After arriving at the Hiroshima Peace Memorial museum, we toured the somber grounds where the first atomic weapon was used, taking note of the A-dome -- the only building left standing from the detonation -- and thousands of paper cranes that are left each year in memoriam. My friends and I then headed to the beautiful orange floating gates of the Itsukushima Shrine, a place as peaceful as the memorial.
Before leaving the city, we stumbled into a small restaurant that specialized in Hiroshima’s most famous dish, okonomiyaki. We each ordered a Japanese savory pancake and a large Kirin, and quickly ran to catch our train back to the capital. I sat in my seat, dropped down the tray table, and cracked open the Japanese lager. I can still taste how crisp and cold the Kirin was in contrast to the fried and slightly sweet pancake. I remember sitting on the train and reflecting on the destruction of Hiroshima and how crazy it was to be moving at such an incredible speed, thousands of miles away in a foreign land, enjoying a pleasure as simple as a cold, delicious beer.