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Issue 34 - The Buddha of Bourbon

Whisky Magazine Issue 34
October 2003


This article is 14 years old and some information provided may be time sensitive. Please check all details of events, tours, opening times and other information before travelling or making arrangements.

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The Buddha of Bourbon

Michael Jackson has a vision, and learns why the Japanese sit on the floor to eat dinner

Through the windows of the cab, the neons of Tokyo flashing light Jimmy Russell's face. I keep expecting him to say; “I couldda been a contender,” but why would he? Jimmy Russell is a champ.

He has just flown in from Cincinnati, and I think he looks tired as his head turns away and rests on the anti-antimacassar. Then I realise it is just the yellows and greens of the neons casting their ghostly glow.

We reach the restaurant. The driver pulls the control that opens the nearside doors of the taxi. It's a system of levers and curiously low-tech for Japan.

After years of visiting the country, I still forget the door opener, and attempt to do the job myself. The driver looks at me as if I am a vandal. Jimmy sleepwalks out of the cab in perfect sync with the door-opener.

We take the elevator, which despatches us into a phalanx of bowing greeters. My heart sinks as low as their heads. Our host has booked one of those rooms where you are obliged to sit on the floor. It is to be the full torture, not the compromise type where you sit at floor level: with your legs and feet in a “well”.

This is the type where there are no concessions or adaptations, save perhaps a minimalist cushion.

I have always believed it right in Rome to do what the Romans do, but there are limits – and this was Tokyo.

Can't the reservation be changed? No. Back at street level, another half-dozen taxis are bringing further victims, whose sole crime is to be American and have some connection with...

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