Kasetaniya 1956-2018 [closed] 綛谷屋酒店

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by Matt Kaufman. All photos by Ross Randles

Everyday from Monday to Saturday, at around 4:30, with the exception of Sunday and national holidays, Seinosuke Kasetani, 94 and Toshiko Kasetani, 83, can be seen outside preparing to open their liquor shop, Kasetaniya Saketen, which has been in the neighborhood since 1956 on the corner of a quiet street less than 200 meters from JR Namba Station.

It is around six o’clock in the evening and the rain is coming down hard because a typhoon is scheduled to hit Osaka tomorrow. As I make my way towards the shop I see Mr Kasetani standing on a shaky beer box trying to take down the noren, the cloth curtain that hangs over the door. I run over to give him a hand and then help him take some plants inside.

When I enter the shop Mrs Kasetani greets me with a warm smile. Mr Kasetani goes to take a rest in a small converted storage room located behind the counter. Running a liquor shop is hard work that involves a lot of lifting and stacking, but they still do everything by themselves–there are no other employees.

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Mrs. Kasetani has prepared a selection of five or six small dishes of food, that are covered with saran wrap: shrimp tempura, yakibuta, edamame, yakitori. My favorite dish is the hamburger, spaghetti, broccoli and tomato combination with exactly one French fry (¥300) which I order right away because she only makes one serving a night. A small faded handwritten sign on the wall states that all food is ¥120-¥300. The term for snacks or side dishes that go well with alcohol is otsumami. Anything from peanuts and edamame to yakitori and sausages, but people in Kansai usually say ate (from sake no ate).

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Kasetaniya has two refrigerators by the counter. The larger one is for customers who come into the shop to buy bottles and cans to take home (like an off-license in the UK). The smaller one contains drinks that can be consumed in the shop for a very small markup, a few ten yen coins above the standard retail price. There is also a third option: purchasing cans of beer from the vending machines outside and drinking them at an outdoor bar–a worn wooden slab that has been placed on stacks of Asahi and Kirin beer crates.

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I grab a large bottle of Kirin beer (¥440) out of the smaller refrigerator, place it on the crowded counter and pop the cap off with a metal bottle opener called a senuki. A large bottle of beer is called oobin in standard Japanese and daibin in the Kansai dialect, but most of the regulars like to drink from cans here.

Mr. Kasetani was born in 1924. He took a job at a local company after the war ended. Mrs. Kasetani said with a chuckle that her husband was too strong-willed and stubborn to take orders from his superiors. After the family lumber business burned down, Mr Kasetani decided to quit his job and worked at a liquor shop owned by his cousin for five years.

After Mr Kasetani started his own business in 1956, he went around the neighborhood of one-story houses and small factories and knocked on every door to take orders. Some of his customers still lived in run-down barracks and shacks because the neighborhood hadn’t recovered from being carpet bombed in the war.

Mr. Kasetani is wearing a sharp pressed check shirt and an apron tied around his waist by a belt with small tools that he uses in the shop. He has several hobbies, including calligraphy. On the wall by the entrance, you can see a water-stained piece of paper with ink brush writing on it that has been torn and taped together many times. It contains the lyrics of a popular enka song called Boketara Akan. Nagai Iki Shinahare (Don’t be senile. Live Long) by singer Ryotaro Sugi.

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Mr. Kasetani, who was born in 1924, says working hard keeps him young and fit. “I plan to keep working when I am one-hundred,” he says with a smile.

Mr. Kasetani also likes traveling and adding to his ceramic doll collection which is displayed a glass case under a framed poster of actress Fumiko Miura dressed as a geisha in an advertisement for Kizakura Sake from 1965.

“I don’t like traveling,” says Mrs. Kasetani. “He goes by himself.”

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Mrs. Kasetani was born in 1935. She has a wonderful laugh and a great sense of humor. When I asked her if I should address her as Okamisan, the respectful term that means proprietress She just laughed and said, “This is Osaka. Most people call me Okasan or Obacchan, just don’t call me Mama. This is not a snack!”

I am standing at the counter drinking with Mr. Sakai, 64, a company employee who sports an impressive designer perm like legendary boxer Yoko Gushien (“Don’t call it a punch perm,” he warns playfully.) The counter is littered with empty cans of beer that we have consumed. Mr. Sakai has been coming to Kasetaniya for around 15 years when it was still crowded.

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“You should have seen it back then. This place was packed with people from all walks of life who drank at this very counter. Businessmen, gangsters, unemployed laborers, even a famous comedian.” He pulls out his phone to show me a familiar face from television.

I point to some small chairs and stools scattered about. “I thought chairs are prohibited in a liquor shop tachinomi.”

Mr. Sakai gets animated. “It is still the rule! You can’t sit down because this isn’t a restaurant. But a lot of the regulars started getting up in years, so these stools were brought in. If someone we didn’t know came into the shop we would say, ‘Oldtimer, stand up!’ and yank them up quickly.”

Mrs. Kasetani, laughs. “I don’t remember any of that.”

“Well, I certainly do”, Mr. Sakai responds with a smile. “I was the one doing all the heavy-lifting!”

I still have questions. I know that you have to pour your own drinks in a liquor shop tachinomi, but what about the harder stuff? I ask Mrs. Kasetani if I can open up a bottle of bourbon and drink it on the counter like a cowboy in an old Western.

“No!”, she laughs. “We don’t sell much whiskey and bourbon here anymore, but it has to be measured by us in exact amounts.

“Who decides the amount?”, I ask. “The breweries?”

Mrs. Kasetani shows me a glass with writing on it. “The local liquor merchants association (shuhan kumiai) we belong to supplies the cups, 200ml for sake and shochu.” Both sell for ¥250.

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Another regular, Mr. Yamamoto, 70, tells me that he grew up in the neighborhood, but started coming to Kasetaniya after he retired 10 years ago. “I got lonely,” he says while pouring a can of Suntory Highball into a cup on the counter. “I drink here five nights a week. I know everybody. It’s like a family.

“Drinking here is very cheap, but you got to pace yourself. When you hit a thousand yen it’s time to go home.” He signals for the check.

Mrs Kasetani pulls out an ancient-looking soroban that was given to her by a brewery when the shop opened and tallies up the total with her fingers. I could watch her calculate on her abacus all day.

These days only five or six people drink here a night. Most people in the neighborhood of high rise luxury condos prefer to shop at the Family Mart across the street, but Mr. and Mrs. Kasetani continue to run their shop well into their golden years because making their customers happy still gives them tremendous satisfaction.

Kasetaniya has six decades of history inside, but the real treasures are the owners who are two of the kindest, hardest-working, most generous people I have ever met. And if it feels like you’ve stepped into a Yasujiro Ozu movie from the 1950s when you enter their shop, then you are not alone. Their affectionate, playful banter and mannerisms remind me of the beloved elderly couple from his masterpiece, Tokyo Story.

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Kasetaniya. 綛谷屋酒店

Update

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Postscript to the story. Mr Kasetani’s handwritten lyrics of the song Boketara Akan that was hanging by the entrance for years was damaged beyond repair in the typhoon and he was sad to discover that he had given the original copy away. Then I remembered that I took a photo of it with my crappy iPod. I printed it up A4 size and laminated. Ross Randles captured the moment when he realized that his work was not lost for good.

 

Update: Mr Kasetani was hospitalized in December 2018 and Kasetani closed for good shortly after.

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Stand Takachiho スタンド 高千穂

Stand Takachiho is a popular little spot at the end of the Sanno Shotengai that attracts a mixed crowd of all ages. It’s a family owned business run by a delightful purple haired mama in her 80s. I was surprised that Takahiro has only been in business for two years. It seems like it has been around for decades. They are famous for their wonderful hot egg club sandwiches (¥480)

All food 250-700
Beer: Daibin 460
Chuhai 300~
Hi Ball 330
Sake 300~
Glass of wine 380~

Draft beer
Small 200
Medium 400
Large 500
Mega 780

 

西成区山王3-18-16 Nishinari Sanno 3-18-16
Osaka 557-0001

From Subway Dobutsuenmae Exit 2 Walk into the shotegai and walk all the way down until the shotengai completely ends. Takachiho is on the left. Open 17:00-23:00. Closed Sunday and Monday.

https://www.facebook.com/tachinomi.takachiho/?ref=br_rs

 

 

Hitomi Saketen 人見酒店 in Ebie

I’ve been meaning to come to this place in Ebie for 3-4 years. It was closed the first rime I went with a few friends after drinking around Noda Hanshin Station. Went there the other day and it was fantastic! 300 yen Kirin beer (not happoshu) in a nice sized glass. Chuhai and shochu only 200 yen. Sake 320 yen. Huge selection of whiskey and scotch. The young master was a really friendly guy. He told us Hitomi Saketen is 90 years old. It underwent a renewal 11 years ago. Nice long bar and plenty of space in the back. He gave me his meishi and his last name is 人見 so I assume he is the grandson(?) of the original owner. We had the homemade hamburger set of two and a bag of Doritos served in a plate. Ebie is a great place to explore and it is nice to have a bar to go to after drinking in Nakagawa Saketen near Nodahanshin Station. About a 12 minute walk from Nodahanshin Station. 大阪府大阪市福島区海老江3丁目6−19 Osaka-shi Fukushima-ku Ebie 3 chome 6-19.
電話: 06-6451-6523

Ichifuku (Takoyaki/Ikayaki) 一富久 Destination Hanazono Part 2

Address:大阪府 大阪市西成区 花園南 1-9-31  Osaka-shi Nishinari-ku Hanazono 1-9-13
Tel: 06-6657-0225
Open: Wednesday to Sunday. 11;00-19:30. Open on National Holidays. Closed Mon, Tues
Nearest Station; Hanazono Station Exit 3-B (5 minutes) Nankai Tengachaya West Exit 10 minutes
Type: Takoyaki, Ikayaki
Founded: 1958
Beer: Asahi Super Dry Can ¥300 yen with set.

 

On my second visit to Hanazono, I was fortunate enough to be taken to a landmark and institution by three locals who grew up in the area. Ichifuku has been serving takoyaki and ikayaki to hungry residents since 1958. Takoyaki and Ikayaki can be considered Osaka soul food and you don’t last sixty years unless you make the best.  Takoyaki has evolved over the years and some places add things like cheese but Ichifuku keeps it simple, and former residents of the area from all over Japan often come back to enjoy the same taste they remember from childhood.  Ichifuku recommends eating their takoyaki with two spoonfuls of ponzu vinegar and sprinkling them with Shichi-mi tōgarashi (唐辛子, seven-flavor chili pepper),

Ichifuku is primarily a takeout place. The staff will ask customers if they are in a hurry so they can prepare them quicker than usual. If you choose to eat at the counter (10 seats) you can watch them make your food at a much slower pace, and watching them mix the batter and turning them quickly  on the takoyaki grill so they don’t burn never gets old. The ikayaki press looks like the sort of contraption found at an old laundry used to take wrinkles out of disheveled trousers.  One of the best thing about Ichifuku is that the location keeps hoards of tourists away and you can experience eating takoyaki as a local. If it were in Namba or Umeda it would be as packed as say,  Wanaka (also excellent!) and the lines would be around the block.

Ichifuku is also known for their many sets and combos that will suit people who just want to have a snack and others who feeling like splurging on a full meal with cold beer, soup and a couple of tasty side dishes. There is even an option for vegetarians*. You can order the Tako-nashi set (¥400), 14 pieces loaded with ginger and scallions instead of octopus. *The set is not advertised as being vegetarian. I will confirm it on my next visit.

I am going to translate as much of the menu as I can below.

Takoyaki: 7 (¥320),  10 (¥440) , 15 (¥650)  I think they had prices listed for 5, 8, and 20 too.

Takoyaki Drink Set: 7 takoyaki plus soft drink: cola, cider, orange soda, oolong tea (¥420)

Takoyaki Beer Set:  7 takoyaki plus can of Asahi Super Dry (¥620)

Takoyaki Soup: Contains 6 takoyaki (¥400)

Takoyaki Negi Nose: Takoyaki topped with scallions 7 (¥360)  10 (¥480)

Takoyaki Negi Nose Beer Set:  Takoyaki topped with scallions + Can of Asahi Super Dry Beer 7 (¥660),  10 (¥780)

Takoyaki Healthy Set:  7 Takoyaki, Toroten (心太 gelidium jelly –made into thin strips and eaten with vinegar) and two spoonfuls of black honey. (¥520)

Osumashi Set:  7 Takoyaki and osumashi soup (¥420)

Tako-nashi Set:  14 pieces loaded with ginger and scallions instead of octopus (¥400),

 

Suyaki: Squid grilled in vineger (ponzu?) No eggs. (¥270)

Ikayaki Tamago:  (squid omelet)  (¥320)

Ikayaki Tamago W: Same as above. Think W stands for Wide. (¥370)

Kyabe Tamago  Squid cabbage and eggs omelet (¥420)

Kyabe Tamago W: Same as above but wide? Will confirm. (¥520)

Ikasupe Think this stands for Ika special. Must confirm (¥520)

Beer Set: Add ¥300 for can of Asahi Super Dry

Soft Serve Ice Cream ¥150

 

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DESTINATION HANAZONO (Part I)

Tamayu Ramen Tengaiten (タマユラメン天外天)

AKA 博多ラーメン天外天

Address: 大阪府大阪市西成区1-2-13  Osaka-shi Nishinari-ku Matsu 1-2-13
Open: Everyday from 11;30-14:00,  18:00-05:00)
Nearest Station; Hanazono Station Exit 3-B (5 minutes) Nankai Tengachaya West Exit 6 minutes
Type: Chinese Restaurant
Founded: ?
Beer: Asahi Super Dry Medium Bottle: 500 yen

 

 

 

Tamayu

I decided to set off in search of the legendary Osaka Ramen (大阪らーめん), a located favorite that is famous for 200 yen ramen. The price was 100 yen for many years. I have been going to Osaka Hanten大阪飯店, another local favorite near Kishinosato Station that is also famous for it’s delicious 200 yen ramen. I found out that the master of Osaka Hanten served as an apprentice at Osaka Ramen for several years before deciding to open his own place in the mid eighties. The owner of Osaka Ramen is getting up there in years so his restaurant is only open sporadically. I could have called ahead, or at least written down the address, but sometimes it is more fun to just explore, especially in the age of smart phones with precise GPS that can pinpoint any location.

I got off at Tengachaya Station and walked towards Kita Tengachaya Station on the Hankai Line (Tram). Osaka Ramen is actually one stop down, near Matsuda Station, a short walk away but I didn’t know that at the time and started walking back to the other side of Tengachaya Station. I wandered around aimlessly for about 20 minutes and came across a ramen shop that advertised Nagasaki Chanpon called Tamayu Tengaiten(タマユラメン天外天 The Italian style tomato ramen with cream cheese caught my eye and I was getting hungry. Decided to go in.  The place was about to close for the afternoon, but I managed to get my order in. There was only one guy doing all the cooking, probably a good sign. I don’t want my ramen prepared by some part-time high school kid whose heart is not into it.

The tomato ramen was good but it did not fill me up for 750 yen. I realized that I should have gotten the set for a couple of hundred yen more or at least ordered a side of gyoza like I usually do.  Decided to walk back towards Tengachaya Station and stumbled upon the entrance to Hanazono Street, which is located between Tengachaya and Haginochaya Station.  The entire street has a very Showa 80s vibe. I realized that I had never been in this area between. I walk a bit up the block and there it was…Osaka Ramen. But it was closed.

 

 

 

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Osaka Ramen

Tunnel Yokocho Nishi Kujo

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Entrance to Tunnel Yokocho in Nishi-Kujo

Tunnel Yokocho トネル横丁(tunnel alley) is home to six bars and restaurants, three on each side of a narrow passageway that runs through a building across the street from Nishi Kujo Station on the Loop Line. Tunnel Yokocho was named after the nearby Ajigawa Ito (aka Ajigawa Tunnel) which was completed in 1944. Ajigawa Tunnel is the only tunnel in Japan that runs through a river bed. It connects Nishi Kujo to Konohana. Commuters take an elevator down to the bottom of the river and then walk 81 meters through the narrow tunnel to the elevator on the other side. Bicycles are permitted inside the elevator. (There is another elevator for cars, but it is no longer in operation.)

Canadian photographer JYT and I came to Nishi Kujo from Chibune (see last blog post) because I wanted to take him to Sezon, the oldest izakaya in Tunnel Yokocho. I had eaten there three or four times before and it was always good. Unfortunately, Sezon was closed, so I decided to take JYT to one of the best tachinomiya’s in Osaka, Kobayashi, which is run by a very nice old couple. We got there and it was also closed. That’s what happens when you go drinking a day before New Year’s Eve in Japan. After wandering around aimel for 30 minutes we decided to head back to Tunnel Yokocho because we knew a couple of places inside were still open.

 

BAR WESTERN Harley on The Rocks

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Address: Nishi Kujo 4-1-23-19 Tunnel Yokocho
 〒〒大阪 府大阪市此花区西九条4-1-23  19番飲食街 トンネル横丁
Open:
Nearest Station; JR Nishi Kusho (1 minute)
Type: shot bar
Founded: Heisei 29  (2017)
Beer: shobin 小瓶 (small bottle) Kirin (¥500) Budweiser (¥550)/Corona (¥600)

Upon entering Tunnel Yokocho I noticed that there was a new bar in a space that had always been empty whenever I visited called Bar-Western Harley on The Rocks. I peeked inside and remarked, “This looks like a gaijin bar without any gaijin.” Then suddenly the door opened and we were greeted by a young Japanese guy in a cowboy hat who invited us to come inside. Normally, I would have politely refused, but I had always wanted to drink in all six bars and restaurants in Tunnel Yokocho. And we were tired from walking around in the cold. What the hell. We’ll go inside for one drink. The bar was owned by the young man, and an older woman who I am pretty sure was his mother. As soon as we sat down she told us that they both absolutely love Harley Davidson motorcycles, but they actually own Suzuki motorcycles.

I noticed a Japanese poster for The Great Escape, (Daidassou 大脱走), the 1963 film starring Steve McQueen, James Garner and Charles Bronson. I’ve noticed a lot of Japanese people of a certain age love this film, especially the scene in which McQueen escapes on a motorcycle. The proprietress told me that she was also a huge fan of Charles Bronson. “He’s an American Indian, right?” I happened to remember that Bronson’s real name is Buchinsky, so I told her he was Polish (actually Lithuanian).  JYT asked her if she saw Death Wish, but the title was different in Japanese and she had no idea what he meant.  This is always a bit frustrating when talking about movies in Japanese, especially old movies. “I wish there was some kind of machine that just translated the titles instantly so we don’t have to go through this every time”, I fumed. JYT calmly pulled out his iPhone and looked up the title: Okamiyosaraba (狼よさらば). Oh!

The proprietress told us that her all-time favorite movie was The Godfather. She pointed to a poster hanging behind the bar. “Godfather I and II…not III, right?” She nodded. Just as I thought, nobody with any taste likes Godfather III. We recommended The Sopranos and Goodfellas. The Sopranos never caught on in Japan, but we were surprised that she had never seen Goodfellas, which is called “Good Fellows” (グッドフェローズ) in Japan. No wonder she hadn’t seen it. It sounds like a British whimsical comedy from the 1960s.

We ordered pizza and beer. I got a Corona with an actual lime, which are expensive in Japan. The young master came over to talk to us. He a massive fan of 80s music and had the television set up to a Mega Hits 80s channel on YouTube that was playing “Jump” by Van Halen. He said he loved Men at Work and  Cyndi Lauper. I told him I saw Cyndi Lauper open for The Kinks in 1983 before she was famous.

I noticed a jar of Shine On Georgia Corn Whiskey that was 80 proof and contained 40% alcohol . The tagline on the label said “First ya’ swaller, Then you holler!” One glass of shochu usually is enough to make me woozy, so I wasn’t about to try legal moonshine from Bardstown, Kentucky in Osaka, Japan.

I wasn’t expecting to like Bar Western so much, but I did have a very good time here chatting with the owners. A nice place to have a drink before exploring the rest of Tunnel Yokocho and the many bars near Nishi Kujo Station.
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Nishi Kubo Cowboy

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Ajimuso 味むそう

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Address: Nishi Kujo 4-1-23-19 Tunnel Yokocho
 〒〒大阪 府大阪市此花区西九条4-1-23  19番飲食街 トンネル横丁
Open:
Nearest Station; JR Nishi Kusho (1 minute)
Type: izakaya
Founded: ?
Price for a nama chuu生中 draft beer: Too drunk to remember.

A party of 4-5 young salaryman entered Bar Western and asked if there was enough room for a few more of their friends. Small bars make their money from selling hard liquor to loyal customers with deeper pockets than ours. It was time to leave anyway. JYT didn’t sign up for the Corona and pizza tour. We headed across the hall to Ajimuso and sat down at a table near the door. We ordered beef tataki ham katsu and a plate of french fries  Nice sized portions. JYT got much better photos of the beef tataki. It doesn’t look very appetizing on my iPod Touch photo, but trust me it was delicious.

A young guy walked by in a t-shirt that said Fuck You Bad Girls Drink Milk. The Wisconsin Dairy Association has really upped it’s game in promoting milk in the Far East. Actually, I have wondered about who designs these English t-shirts and how many are manufactured. They definitely don’t sell them at Uniqlo. A nice lady sitting with two gentlemen at the next table gave us homemade kimichi. Bringing in  food to a restaurant and giving it out to other customers not something that is tolerated in most places, but it happens frequently at many of the places I go to in Osaka, usually with regulars who have a good relationship with the owners.

The next day I was browsing through Netflix Japan and came across a series called Osaka Loop Line: A Love Story at Every Station. The Nishi Kujo episode filmed inside Tunnel Yokocho about a man from Tokyo who encounters the mysterious Tunnel Yokocho Devil. After failing to lure the man to a love hotel, the devil (who looks like a hipster) tries to lead him to hell through the Ajigawa Tunnel.  Unfortunately it was the worst episode in the entire series.

 

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Kuise Station (Hyogo) & Chibune Station (Osaka)

12.30.2017
I took the train from Hanshin Namba (which I had no idea existed until today), towards Amagasaki and changed trains for the Umeda line at Daimotsu.  I got off one stop later at Kuise Station. The entire ride took 20 minutes, much shorter than expected, but I managed to finish reading Suicide Casanova, a very entertaining novel by Arthur Nessian. This was my first time in Kuise and it reminded me a bit of Taisho Station on the Loop Line. I was here to meet JYT, a trilingual photographer and teacher from Montreal who has lived in Japan for sixteen years. He arrived on his bicycle a few minutes later and we set out to explore the nearby Showa Shopping Road.

Ikenaga Saketen 池永 酒店

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Address: Hyogo Ken Amagasaki shi Kuise Honmachi 1 Chome 24-13
〒660-0814 兵庫県尼崎市杭瀬本町1丁目24−13
Tel: 06-6481-2441
Open:
Nearest Station; Hanshin Kuise (5 minutes)
Type: kakuuchi 角打ち(combined liquor store and bar)
Founded: Showa 6 (1931)
Price for a daibin 大瓶 (large bottle of beer)  : ¥400*

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