Tuesday, September 23, 2014

Beer, chopsticks, and Sanyo advice...

It's not often that my travel-adverse spouse is jealous of my day trip adventures around Japan with the ladies. But yesterday morning, he was, indeed, jealous.

Spouse: "So, I see on the calendar you are going on a chopsticks painting trip."
Me: "Yes! And we are having lunch at a brewery."
Spouse: "A brewery?" (there was unusual, genuine interest in his voice)
Me: "Yes. A brewery."
Spouse: "You are going to a brewery on a Monday?"
Me: (Wondering why the day of the week matters) "Yeeeesssss....?"
Spouse: "Without me?"
Me: (Now understanding the problem) "I'll bring you some beer back."
Spouse: "Sold! OK... you may go."
Me: "Like I needed your permission..."

And so, I went.  And with seven other adventurous ladies.

Our teacher was the lady on the left in the front row.
Photo compliments of my friend, Chie, in the top row, behind the teacher.
The agenda for the day was to paint chopsticks and eat a "Viking," or buffet, lunch at a local micro brewery in Yamaguchi City, about an hour and a half from Iwakuni. You can get details about both of the Ouchi Chopsticks Painting at the Yamaguchi Furusato Denshou Centerand the Yamaguchi Narutaki Kogen Brewery, on the Iwakuni Explorer website. There is definitely enough time in one day to do both... as long as you do not miss your exit off of the expressway too many times.

As the Iwakuni Explorer website will mention on the chopsticks post, but I will also emphasize with great vehemence here: DO NOT MISS THE YAMAGUCHI CITY EXIT. Because if you do, it is another 20 minutes until the next exit to turn around and another 20 minutes back to the interchange). And that is if you have a really nice attendant and someone with you who can speak Japanese to tell them you went the wrong way. If you have both of these things, like we did (Thank you, Chie!), then the attendant will open the gate and allow you to turn around without having to pay the extra tolls. Another item to note: If you do miss the Yamaguchi City exit and go to the next one, and are able to turn around and get back on to the expressway, take the fork that says Kitakyushu, not Hiroshima. At the moment you are reading this, this detail will either make no sense, or it will seem counterintuitive. After all, we just came from Iwakuni, which is in the direction of Hiroshima, and the opposite direction from Kitakyushu and we want to go back the way we came... right? Wrong! Take all logic out of your head and just take the fork to Kitakyushu. You will be glad you did! And a third item to note: This is the second time my group has made this error on separate trips. Both times we were using GPS. The GPS may be flawed, delayed... or it could be user error. But we are reasonably intelligent individuals, so I wanted to put that technical-error possibility out there so you will be extra cautious, even when following your Google Maps. Also, plan on about 5,000 yen in tolls round trip (if you don't miss an exit).

OK, with that said, let's get on to the fun stuff.

Fun stuff, as in painting chopsticks with a lacquer made from a plant that is a cousin to poison ivy. Excellent! Extreme Arts and Crafts! We were warned not to get the lacquer on our skin or clothes. It will burn our skin and permanently stain our clothes. Or vice versa... the details are fuzzy. I just heard "poison" and my mind wandered for a bit.

We selected either a pair of traditional red, or less traditional black, chopsticks. I, being less traditional and a big fan of black, selected black. You paint the lacquer on the end in one coat, then add gold foil diamonds and glitter. And you're finished! Seriously. The whole class took about 15 minutes. A perfect Girl Scout trip... except for the poison lacquer, but the affect of that you could get while camping and actually encountering poison ivy, right? There has got to be a badge for Extreme Arts and Crafts. Here's a way to earn it, ladies!

Don't sneeze on the thin, foil gold pieces, we were told. They will scatter everywhere and be charged by the ounce. Just kidding on the being charged... I think.

Me, after licking the end of my chopstick, lightly spearing a gold fleck with it, and then attempting to place it gently on my other chopstick. Once the gold leafing is stuck in the lacquer, you blow the paper off... but away from the trays of foil and glitter, of course. I am not sure who was the lucky one who got sweeping duty that day.

MaryAnn glittering.

My chopsticks are the ones on the left.
Once our group was done, the next group sat down. And then I was able to get some shots of the teaching process.

We had to leave the chopsticks there... because it take three weeks for the lacquer to dry and cure. Wow! They will be mailed to us and we will see them in about a month. The papers stabbed by the chopsticks have our names on them so that when they are shipped to us, we know whose is whose. After all, we won't have seen them for a month and will probably forget what ours looked like. Just FYI, this project cost 860 yen (about $8) and to ship all of the chopsticks to Chie cost 1,000 yen.

By now, after getting lost and potentially poisoned and all, we were hungry... so after about a 15 minute drive, we headed to the brewery. Our GPS led us to this:

And, yes, it was the brewery.

They specialize in four different beers. But more on that in a moment...

Lunch was 1500 to 2000 yen, depending on what you ordered. Each lunch set, either a pasta or meat/fish dish, came with the buffet, and it was all delicious. Except for the coffee Jello... stay away from the brown Jello. Ugh.

Seafood spaghetti
The pilsner
The dessert I am ordering for my meal next time. :)
The brewery also has a small cottage that can be reserved for special events, such as weddings. It was very cute.

If you walk down past and to the right of the cottage, there is a grassy walkway and stairs leading down to a road. Right above and to the right of this road is a waterfall. Very picturesque, although this shot doesn't do it justice.

Once we checked out the waterfall, it was time to head home... and on the way we found a stretch Prius. Thinking like a true American, with our stretch Hummers and stretch limos, I found this to be hilarious! Who would stretch a Prius?! The Japanese, of course! But, then, Chie had to give me a dose of reality - this Prius is actually a funeral car, like a Hearse in the States. Whoops. Well, the dumb American learned something today.

Yes, that is my elbow. Of course I wasn't driving and photographing. I would never do that.

As for the beers, I bought my husband a sampler of all four and, since I don't like beer and do not drink it, here are his unscripted reactions for your consideration:

The Weizen: "It was good. Very good."
The Stout: "I did not like the stout at all. I liked the initial taste, but it had just a horrible after taste to me."
The Pilsner: "It was good." (Me: "Why was it good?" Spouse: *exasperated sigh* "I don't remember, Jessica." i.e.: "I'm done answering all your stupid questions." Until...)
The Pale Ale: "It was phenomenal. Smooth, taste, great finish, no nuttiness or grittiness. Just a clean, really good tasting beer." I'd say this one was his favorite.

Note: I went to the brewery again a few months later. Here is the post with additional details about the brewery.

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