Mount Fuji....Fuji-san....in all his glory.
Trip Start Jul 25, 2009
41Trip End Ongoing
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Where I stayed
Chris The Brewer's Place
What's that you say? What mountain? Well, the mountain behind the impenetrable fog that has completely surrounded us and everything within 10 meters, of course.
Yep. Views of Fuji....
well this was a 5-star weekend, but it wasn't because of the infamous mountain. No, that's not what drew me out there in the first place. A good friend of mine, a one, soon to be married, Daniel Harrison, offered me a chance to see his neck of the woods--as far as breweries, good people, good times and great locations go
I know better than to judge this usually scenic area around Fuji based on what was considered "the worst weekend in twelve years, for sure." Aside from constant drizzle and never-ending fog and mist, this weekend was most memorable because of the excellent company I was with.
D.H. and I headed out as early as possible that Friday. I was able to step out a little early because we had a ceremony that day, and nothing afterwards. As soon as DH was done, we took off from his place around 4PM, admiring what was easily the hottest and most beautiful day we've had so far this year, and took the mountains roads.
We got lost within 30 minutes. But it wasn't the kind of lost that you were left wandering...we somehow were ALWAYS on the right road, we just didn't know it. Aimless wondering has its days, I guess. When we did arrive at Numazu, we didn't even know it. We had to ask some dudes in a combini who weren't even sure themselves if it was Numazu. With a map and DH to back up my limited skills in orientation, we did confirm that YES, we had arrived in Numazu.
We started out with a stroll down the walkway at night. I remember this stroll, not because of the calm beauty of the ocean, but because of the alarm that suddenly went off. The fishermen on the shore leaving at the same time was a coincidence that got my heart going a bit..I asked DH "What's with the alarm? Is it an earthquake?"
Lately, since doing some research, I found out that this particular area, specifically, has an overdue earthquake of destructive proportions (a 7 or 8)
We arrived at The Taproom for Baird Beer, easily the best bar in Japan. The people, Brian Baird the owner, Chris the brewer, bartender 'Cajun' Chris, Rob the potter, regulars, Japanese locals, and the beer itself all make this place an instant favorite. The beer is actually...delicious. I mean, it's like that episode of Simpsons where Homer invents a drink that's like "there's a part in my mouth and everyone's invited". Moe steals the recipe, but that's besides the point....this beer is ridiculously, and meticulously, made delicious.
Our tour of the brewery on that Sunday solidified that for me. Our tour guide (his name escapes me), was generous with his time and walked us through everything, letting is taste the various grains they use, along with smelling the 'hops' (the secret ingredient), which gives craft beers his delicious (yet meticulously earned) flavors
The night before the tour, we sampled as many as our stomachs and livers would hold. Chris brought out a wicked surprise: about 5 bottles of 3-5 year-old beers, kept at proper temperatures for proper testing. Surprisingly for everyone, they still held their delicious flavor and did not have gunky residue on the bottom.
I've heard time and time again that it's the journey--not the destination--that makes traveling so much fun. So much went wrong that it couldn't have been more right. With terrible weather ahead of us, we set off into the mountains with our new friend Chris Chuwy, probably the funniest man I've ever met. Hailing from Welshland, or Wales, he was our GPS and DH's co-tour guide. We started our morning with a taster in Gotemba Kogen, a beautiful little brewery and onsen-village. We met with Scott (I think....or maybe Jeff), the brewer there, talked about beers and weather, but unfortunately couldn't have him take part in our tour.
The boys wanted steak buffet and nomihoudai (all you can drink), and I wanted to 'see' more of the area
Next stop, we tried the local specialty, Toho, a pumpkin udon-noodle soup, that was absolutely delicious (our starvation-point may have helped that rating). After that, we topped our meal with Japan's worst beer: Fujiyama. Everyone should try this beer at least once, to know what you're NOT missing. One smelled like cheese. We debated for awhile whether it was the recipe or cleaning/external factors...we couldn't agree on it.
We wandered a bit around the mountains, going down a road that played music for us based on the bumps on it (see video for sample), a brewery that was closed (but I'm dying to try it out), and then we ending up at the German Stephan's brewery. A small, quaint place that smelled of delicious cheeses, beers and...home. It was Stephan's birthday, and we didn't expect the place to be open (which it wasn't), but we were still welcoming with open arms into this man's home. He served us all beers that he refused our money for, gave us beers for about 200-yen each ($1), fed us some delicious cheese, left for a bit to pick up some of his friends from the embassy with the "you guys behave, I'm leaving you alone with my wife" salutation, and then arrived shortly after with some fine drinking gentlemen and a Japanese girlfriend of theirs
Upon leaving, we realized three things. One: I could hardly find my car due to the mist and night that had suddenly come upon us. Two: I had a headlight missing. and Three: we were on Japan's tallest mountain, surrounded by fog at night, with one headlight and certain death on either side of us as we would wind down that mountain. At one point, in a sheer moronic attempt to get my car's light back on, I stopped my car, turned it off along with the headlights, and turned it back on. It didn't work, but there was one surprise in this attempt: the car coming up behind us was suddenly presented with a car less than 20 feet in front of him. Somehow, he veered out of the way, and we went on ours. Chuwy's iPhone GPS probably saved us, and eventually we turned into the Brewery that night sampling, and fending off Jersey girls. If I may quote a man wiser than myself, there is a different between trash and Jersey girls, trash does eventually get picked up.
This is where we met Rob the potter the night before. Rob a gracious gentleman, explained to us his recent trip to Okinawa's Io Jima with his father and son、the historically infamous place of battle between America and Japan during the 2nd world war
Anyhow, the next morning, without a hint of hangover (thanks to great beer!), we headed to Numazu's famous fish-market for some serious sashimi. I could never dream of stomaching so much seafood...and I have to admit, I did gag once over the raw shrimp with his beady little eyes. But most of the rest was actually really delicious, albeit a little strong in flavor, but a hearty meal that kept me going for the rest of the evening. We toured the market before a final beer at The Taproom, coming across dolphin meats, fish that I didn't think could exist, and ice-cream flavors that just...shouldn't...be....ice-cream.
I will visit Numazu again, and this time when I can sit outside with a beer in hand, and enjoy the wonderful views of Fuji.