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British-style pub quizzes tease the mind — and help charity

by Minoru Matsutani

Combining booze and a quiz at a pub is a popular British pastime. That plus charity is Oxfam Japan IVG’s monthly pub quiz.

The Japan unit of the international aid organization holds the event at a Tokyo pub, charging participants ¥1,000. The proceeds go to charitible activities of Oxfam, including donating the funds to people in war-torn African and Asian countries.

“Spending ¥1,000 is not a big deal to me. But the same amount of money matters to some other people,” said David Wilkinson, 43, from Scotland, who attended the quiz event at The FooTNiK in Ebisu, in Shibuya Ward, Tokyo, on Feb. 16. It was the first time he had ever participated in a pub quiz in the 20 years he has lived in Japan.

“Japan is a rich country and people are fortunate. So you should give something,” he said.

The signup fee, however, probably paid off for the roughly 50 participants, who competed in 10 teams. Two teams that won “shooter quiz” competitions got shots of tequila, a team that won the entire event got a glass of sparkling wine, and each of the participants got traditional British sausage rolls, all courtesy of the event’s sponsors and the pub.

“Pub is less about drinking and more about socializing,” said John McEvoy of caterer John’s Kitchen, one of the sponsors of the event. “That’s what a British pub is all about.”

Julian Lai-Hung, a Briton, was on the same team as Wilkinson because his senior colleague asked him to come. “Pub quiz is a great British tradition,” he said.

The event began at 8:30 p.m. and lasted until 11. About 30 percent of the participants were Japanese and the rest were foreigners. Of the foreigners, about 80 percent were British.

The questions came in five categories: general knowledge, pictures, sports, music and celebrity scandals. Each genre had 10 questions.

The two quiz masters, Samantha Woodgate, an Oxfam IVG representative, and Anna Imai, a FooTNiK co-owner, read out the questions to the teams, which gave themselves funny names like “Bye Bye Manchester,” “The Casanovas” and “Two Kennys and a Hoe.”

Each team had at most five members, and they sat at tables with an answer sheet in front of them.

The masters, both of whom are British, began the event with general knowledge quizzes, which included the following questions:

Marmite is made of what and what is it a byproduct of? The answer: Yeast, brewing.

Give the English names for these vegetables commonly found in Japan: gobo, daikon, kyuri, kabu, renkon, kabocha and takenoko. The correct reply: burdock root, giant Japanese radish, cucumber, turnip, lotus root, pumpkin, bamboo shoot.

Why has the Shady Lady Ranch in Nevada been in the news this week? The Shady Lady Ranch is a brothel and it was given national and state approval to employ a male prostitute.

Songs were played for music questions. The participants had to identify both the title and the singer, then had to answer questions about either one.

For example, the quiz masters played “Who’s Loving You” by the Jackson 5 and asked “Who did this group’s lead singer marry in 1994?” The teams had to come up with the name of the song and the group, and the answer the question, in this case Lisa Marie Presley.

In general, participants should be familiar with current affairs as well as trivia from further in the past.

Among questions in the scandal category, the masters asked the following:

David Beckham’s alleged affair with personal assistant Rebecca Loos happened when he was playing for which team? Real Madrid.

Which French president had an affair and a daughter, which remained secret until 1994, with Anne Pingeot? Francois Mitterrand.

At the end of the 2 1/2-hour battle, the team Inglorious Bar Stool, whose members included Wilkinson and Lai-Hung, emerged victorious. The members proudly poured their prize — sparkling wine — into five glasses and cheered.

Yuji Imai, a co-owner of FooTNiK with his wife, Anna, said, “Charity is part of culture for American and European people. I hope it becomes Japanese culture as well.”

Oxfam Japan and FooTNiK will have a pub quiz event specifically for Japanese on Feb. 23 at the FooTNiK near Osaki Station in Shinagawa Ward, Tokyo.

Oxfam Japan and FooTNiK hold regular pub quizzes, in English, one Tuesday a month. Oxfam also holds a quiz event at Heaven’s Door in the Shimokitazawa district in Setagaya Ward one Sunday a month. The next is this Sunday.