Tuesday, February 24, 2015

Ume at Tenmangu: The first ladies' day trip of the year

You know what makes my heart happy? When the weather gets in to the 50s (usually late February) and my day trips with the adventurous ladies of Iwakuni start happening. Our first trip of the year: 10 ladies and two nursing babies headed to Hofu to check out the ume, or plum blossoms, at the famous Tenmangu Shrine. After checking out the flowers, we had an oishii (delicious) lunch at the Yamaguchi Narutaki Kogen Brewery. Some of us had the buffet-style lunch there in the fall and enjoyed it. It's very close to the shrine, so it's a great place to stop before heading home.

First off, we took a microbus... I just found out a few weeks ago that base residents can lease buses that can carry anywhere from 19 to 41 passengers... complete with driver. Here is the link to access for this surprisingly affordable service. It cost us $180 to charter the bus to Hofu... and we had a very nice driver so we could all enjoy the micro brew beer if we so chose. I highly recommend it for trips with large groups.

A quick picture before we headed out!
Then we were chauffeured and hour and 20 minutes away to the famous Tenmangu Shrine in Hofu. It is the oldest one of its kind in Japan... it turns 1,111 years old this year.

Just FYI: There are a lot of stairs up to the shrine itself, so be able to climb them, and strollers are not recommended.

The ume blossoms were just starting to bloom, so they weren't as beautiful as they could have been. but the day was sunny with gorgeous blue skies, so there was still plenty to get photos of.

This Yochien field trip was hilarious. These 4-year-olds couldn't have cared less about the millenium-old shrine... they were huge fans of feeding the pigeons.

And then we got hungry... and there was festival food available... the Japanese equivalent to county fair food.

This sponge cake thing was filled with either white bean (don't have a photo of that.. no one was brave enough to get it, not even Chie), custard...

... or sweet red bean.

Nom, nom, nom...
And we got some lucky charms at the shrine... I got this cute purple zippered bag with a white stone in it. The clear stone signifies the opportunity to transform myself this year. I'll have to see how much transforming I've done when December rolls around.

Then it was off to the brewery for our lunch buffet reservations. Again, you can read more about it here. Here is the brewery's web site.  Here is some new info I can provide:

Beer samplers are available. These are the four main beers the brewery makes. 
There is also a chocolate beer. No sampler for it, though.
I'm sorry these images are on their side. I tried to fix them but they would not fix.

Below is the lunch menu... 1,420 yen for a pasta main dish, access to the buffet and juice and tea bar. Well worth the price.

The very rough translation of the menu. Ignore the Lawsons comment... but the dates for spring break for Japanese kids might be useful... don't plan to travel those dates.

A big thank you to the lovely ladies pictured... this was a great way to kick off the 2015 traveling season!

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