Close

Japan 2015 — Day 4: Kobe — Nada; Osaka — Umeda & Namba

20151121-DSC09344

The Nada dis­trict in Kobe has the most sake brew­ers of any pre­fec­ture in Japan as a res­ult of the high min­er­al con­tent in the water in the region that makes for a high qual­ity sake. D and I aren’t big drink­ers — in fact, unless we’re in Japan with access to chi-hi, we usu­ally only have sips at work func­tions. But, we love factor­ies and find­ing out how things are made, so we’re keen to vis­it the brew­er­ies in the Nada dis­trict. A vis­it means we can sample some sake and per­haps find some­thing more pal­at­able than One Cup Sake.

But, of course, we must start off the day with a bout of TV

Osaka — Nippombashi

Mid-2015, I watched an anime series called Futsuu no Joshikousei ga [Locodol] Yattemita in which two girls and a loc­al mas­cot, Uogokoro-kun, join togeth­er to pro­mote their loc­al town and par­ti­cip­ate in a nation­wide loc­al mas­cot fest­iv­al in the hopes of win­ning and attract­ing tour­ists to their town. The anime was one of the most inter­est­ing series I’d seen but I’d thought it was all fic­tion­al.

20151121-DSC09309

So ima­gine my sur­prise when I turn on the TV to find that it was the week­end of the three-day final Internet bal­lot for the 2015 Yuru-Kyara Grand Prix, a Real Life fest­iv­al dur­ing which the most pop­u­lar loc­al mas­cot is voted. Anime is based on Real Life, I tell you! The win­ner for 2015, is the char­ac­ter on the far right of the top right photo: Shusse Daimyo Ieyasu-kun for the city of Hamamatsu in Shizuoka Prefecture. What an inter­est­ing start to the day!

20151121-DSC09314

A bit past 9am, we head down to Namba Walk near Nippombashi Station to find break­fast. Christmas dec­or­a­tions are up! They used the same dog with the poin­set­tia hat from last year. The shops are still closed, though the cafes are open.

20151121-DSC09332

We have a look around Namba Walk and spot Kiefel Coffee. There’s a kiwifruit soda that I want, but the rest of the food options don’t par­tic­u­larly entice us, so we keep walk­ing.

20151121-DSC09316

And we reach a St Marc’s Chococro Cafe! This will soon be our favour­ite haunt.

20151121-DSC09328

Alas, they only have one of those eggs bene­dict buns so D and I decide to get the bun for takeaway and go back to Keifel Coffee.

20151121-DSC09325

At Kiefel Coffee, D gets the hot­dog morn­ing set with an iced cof­fee. Aren’t the col­ours pretty?

20151121-DSC09320

D’s iced cof­fee on the left, and my kiwifruit soda. The kiwifruit soda is tasty — not at all like the bottled kiwifruit juice that we got from the super­mar­ket in Sydney — with real fruit pulp and just the right amount of sweet­ness and fizz.

20151121-DSC09334

Inside the Kintetsu Station at Nippombashi, we acci­dent­ally get on the plat­form going the wrong dir­ec­tion. And we only real­ise this as I was tak­ing this photo of the lim­ited-express train we were meant to be tak­ing. Luckily, trains — even lim­ited express ones — come pretty fre­quently so we were wait­ing only 15 minutes.

Kobe — Nada District

20151121-DSC09349

We get off at Uozaki Station to make our way to the first of the brew­er­ies. There isn’t much English sig­nage, so we’re rely­ing on our map and pho­to­graphs of the brew­ery from the Internet. We reach a loc­al super­mar­ket (above), so we stop for a drink.

20151121-DSC09341

We’ve not come across mik­an (man­dar­in) tea before and it’s a refresh­ing take with the sweeter cit­rus fla­vours of the fruit.

20151121-DSC09348

About 50m down the road, we spot our first brew­ery! This is Hamafukutsuru Ginjo Brewery. Some of the brew­er­ies around the Nada District offer tours of their actu­al brew­ery, but it’s a week­end and the start of the sake sea­son, so none were offer­ing them on the day.

20151121-DSC09347

They sell a vari­ety of snacks to go with sake, and there’s free sake tast­ings at Hamafukutsuru Ginjo Brewery. The gen­tle­man who mans the free tast­ings doesn’t speak much English, but we man­age. They’re very approach­able with their tast­ings!

20151122-DSC09579

We try ginjo sake, plum sake, black sug­ar sake, nigori sake, and our favour­ite, namaza­ke. Namazake is a unpas­teur­ised sake, which gives it a fresh­er and more lively taste than pas­teur­ized sake. As it’s unpas­teur­ised, it should be kept cold. D and I love the refresh­ing and fruity taste of the yuzu namaza­ke (made from 11 yuzu!). We end up enjoy­ing our bottle dur­ing the night in our accom­mod­a­tion as keep­ing it cool and trans­port­ing around Japan would’ve been too dif­fi­cult.

20151121-DSC09344

Outside the brew­ery, there are examples of the large bar­rels they used to make sake in.

20151121-DSC09350

…and we’re on our way to the second brew­ery as we cross this river.

20151121-DSC09376

This is Kikumasamune Sake Museum, and unlike the pre­vi­ous brew­ery that opened the shop to vis­it­ors, has a ded­ic­ated museum sec­tion. Admission is free.

20151121-DSC093561

The exhib­it is housed in the large ware­house space in the left of the pre­vi­ous photo and shows you the pro­cesses and equip­ment used in each step of mak­ing sake, from sourcing the rice, the water, the brew­ing and the mat­ur­a­tion.

20151121-DSC09362

This last exhib­it shows the bar­rels they used to store the sake in while aging. Sake pro­duc­tion no longer uses these bar­rels, hav­ing advanced to mod­ern tech­no­logy.

20151121-DSC09365

There’s a shop attached to the museum selling the brewery’s products.

20151121-DSC09366

We spot these cute tiny cups of sake com­plete with a mal­let to break into the bar­rel and a masu (a wooden, box-like cup). We’re not par­tic­u­larly fond of straight sake, cute as this is.

20151121-DSC09367

So! We end up try­ing the suda­chi spark­ling sake. Sudachi is a Japanese lime that tastes some­where between a yuzu and a lem­on. We prefer yuzu over suda­chi for its uplift­ing fla­vour.

20151121-DSC09370

And we try amaza­ke gelato made by the brew­ery. Amazake is made from the lees left over from sake pro­duc­tion, and (under­stand­ably) has the taste of fer­men­ted rice. It’s an inter­est­ing fla­vour that’s more mel­low when eaten in cold forms, and rather sick­en­ing in hot forms (like as a hot drink). It’s not some­thing we’d want to eat all the time.

20151121-DSC09378

Outside Kikumasamune Sake Museum we see sig­nage point­ing in the dir­ec­tion of the closest train sta­tions. With the brew­ery back­drop, they seem to be aimed at tour­ists vis­it­ing the Kobe brew­er­ies.

20151121-DSC09381

We’re on our way to the next brew­ery and walk past many res­id­en­tial streets. The clad­ding of the houses are quite styl­ish.

20151121-DSC09383

It’s a fair walk to the next brew­ery (some 700m) but we spot this sign just out­side its entrance.

20151121-DSC09385

This is the Hakutsuru Sake Brewery Museum. Like the pre­vi­ous brew­ery, it is equal parts ded­ic­ated museum and shop, with the brew­ery itself behind it.

20151121-DSC09384

The load­ing and stor­age areas are on the oppos­ite side of the street.

20151121-DSC09389

The museum in this brew­ery spans the entirety of almost two floors. The dis­plays are detailed, with English sig­nage and video nar­ra­tion through­out. Clockwise from top left, the pho­tos show the sake brew­ers hoist­ing a bar­rel, filling the bar­rel with water, pol­ish­ing and rest­ing the rice grains.

20151121-DSC09411

The top pho­tos show the rice being soaked in water and the rice being stored in bar­rels after steam­ing, while the bot­tom pho­tos show the steamed rice fer­ment­ing after the mold has been added, and the filtered sake stored in bar­rels.

20151121-DSC09420-2

Here’s a close up of the sake bar­rels, as well as a ceram­ic ver­sion on the right.

20151121-DSC09421

Since July 2012, the brewery’s fact­ory uses 1, 176 sol­ar pan­els on its roof to gen­er­ate about 315,000kWh. It’s green!

20151121-DSC09423

This photo shows the gen­er­al floor plan of the tra­di­tion­al brew­ery pri­or to being rebuilt as a mod­ern fact­ory.

20151121-DSC09393

At the end of the museum route, we reach the shop that sells a vari­ety of sake based goods.

20151121-DSC09429

There are four types of sake tast­ing: sake, yuzu sake, plum sake and sak­ura sake. Sakura and plum sake are rather rich and too flor­al for our tastes. Yuzu provides the fresh­ness and sweet­ness that ordin­ary sake lacks. We pur­chase this yuzu sake, which has a stronger alco­hol fla­vour than the namaza­ke above, being pas­teur­ized.

20151126-DSC01922

We try these spark­ling sake jelly drinks in a vari­ety of fla­vours: plum, lem­on, yuzu, peach and apple. I’m sur­prised that jel­lies man­age to be fizzy! Apple and yuzu were favour­ites, while plum came in last and lem­on was rather unre­mark­able.

20151203-DSC04216

And finally, this is a foil pack­et of yuzu sake that freezes to a slush­ie like con­sist­ency. I find that the bit­ter­ness of the yuzu becomes more pro­nounced when frozen.

20151121-DSC09436

On our way to our last brew­ery, we walk past a num­ber of these giant silos. Full of sake?

20151121-DSC09437

Walking past more res­id­en­tial areas, we find this blue house with a blue bicycle out­side.

20151121-DSC09439

The prox­im­ity of the Nada dis­trict to the coast means it’s vul­ner­able to tsuna­mis.

20151121-DSC09443

The last brew­ery is Kobe Shushinkan Brewery, which usu­ally offers tours of its brew­ery to vis­it­ors with pri­or reser­va­tion. Unfortunately, I was told that the par­tic­u­lar week­end we were vis­it­ing was the fest­iv­al for the first brew of the sea­son. And true to the word, there was indeed a fest­iv­al being held in its rowdy interi­or!

20151121-DSC09445

We’re hungry and exhausted from the 4km walk from the first brew­ery, so we skip the giant crowds at Kobe Shushinkan Brewery and head towards the dir­ec­tion of the sta­tion. The har­bourfront of Kobe didn’t interest us so we’re head­ing back to Osaka.

20151121-DSC09451

One last stop on the way to the sta­tion is the Kobe Konan Muko no Sato.

20151121-DSC09447

Rather than sake, Kobe Konan Muko no Sato sells food­stuffs, con­di­ments and pickles made with sake lees.

20151121-DSC09448

There’s no English in this store, and I’m not sure how some­thing this (a fruit or veget­able?) involves sake lees as it looks to be pickled in some sort of miso paste, which is fer­men­ted soy­bean?

20151121-DSC09452

Back en route to the sta­tion we spot an train stor­age facil­ity on the roof of a car­park.

20151121-DSC09456

The car­park is for the Oasis super­mar­ket under­neath. It’s the biggest super­mar­ket we’ve been to in Japan (and we’ve been to many!) with a fresh pro­duce sec­tion that rivals those we find in Australia.

20151121-DSC09453

We find their boxed curry sec­tion in a book­shelf set up!

20151121-DSC09457

And we buy these Calbee Consomme chips, and we man­age to eat them after I con­vince D that my hun­ger could not wait until din­ner! Even if it was all-you-can-eat-yakiniku!

Osaka — Umeda

20151121-DSC09460

Fueled by potato chips, we arrive back in Osaka. On our quest to find the din­ner des­tin­a­tion, for the first time, we have trouble find­ing a way out of the train sta­tion to ground level and then once we do, we encounter a bunch of con­struc­tion that pre­vents us from cross­ing the road effi­ciently!

20151121-DSC09461

We end up on this side of Osaka Station, which we’d not seen since our first vis­it in 2011.

20151121-DSC09462

After some 10 minutes, we’re on the oth­er side of the road and into this shop­ping arcade.

20151121-DSC09494

The res­taur­ant, 298: All-You-Can-Eat Yakiniku, is loc­ated at the end of the shop­ping arcade. If we weren’t bent on find­ing it, we’d have turned back as the shops aren’t all that inter­est­ing.

20151121-DSC09487

We get a booth to ourselves. You take your shoes off to sit at the booths.

20151121-DSC09477

This res­taur­ant sup­posedly offers all-you-can-eat yakiniku (grilled meat) for Y1080 and all-you-can drink soft­drink for Y420 over 90 minutes, but we’re told that we only get it for 60 minutes because we didn’t make a pri­or reser­va­tion. We’re con­fused but Y1080 for an hour is still decent.

20151121-DSC09479

The rules state that if there is any meat left over on your table when your 90 minutes is over, you must pay Y1000/​g. That’s about $10/​g, an insanely high rate that works as a sure deterrent.

20151121-DSC09463

You start off with a plate of assor­ted meat, after which you can order any­thing addi­tion­al from the choices of beef, chick­en, pork, intern­al organs, and saus­ages. We end up eat­ing a lot of beef, which is par­tic­u­larly juicy. The chick­en was tasty, but took an very long time to cook! And the pork was rather dry, alas. I enjoyed the saus­ages, although D thinks they’re a rather cheap meat to eat at all-you-can-eat.

20151121-DSC09497

After din­ner and before the meat settles in our stom­ach to put us in a food coma, we stop by this mel­on pan place.

20151121-DSC09496

The shop, called World’s Second Best Freshly Baked Melon-pan Ice-cream, is fam­ous for its crispy mel­on pan bread sand­wich­ing a slab of mac­cha ice cream.

20151121-DSC09495

The bread is warm and crunchy, and con­trasts well with the cold and soft slab of mac­cha ice cream. The sign on the wall of the store recom­mends eat­ing it with the pack­aging so you don’t end up with ice cream on your­self, and even sup­plies straws, spoons and wet wipes for your con­veni­ence.

Osaka — Namba

20151121-DSC09576

We head back to Namba Parks to view the Christmas illu­min­a­tion.

20151121-DSC09523

This year, it’s called the Super Flower Illumination.

20151121-DSC09506

At the base is a Christmas tree that changes col­our.

20151121-DSC09514

The walk towards the top of Namba Parks is illu­min­ated with a mul­ti­tude of LEDs.

20151121-DSC09517

Half way up, there’s an illu­min­a­tion water fea­ture out­side one of the entrances to Namba Parks.

20151121-DSC09520

And the view from above, with the east­ern side of Namba in the back­ground.

20151121-DSC09533

This is the main attrac­tion at the Christmas illu­min­a­tion. The lights oper­ate to a music­al track that runs on loop. We’ve come just a bit too early (around 7pm), so all the kids are still about run­ning riot!

20151121-DSC09560

At the very top of the Christmas illu­min­a­tion, there’s a mist­ing light dis­play of a fairy on the grass beneath. You climb onto an elev­ated plat­form to view it from above.

20151121-DSC09561

And…finally, the view of the Christmas Illumination from the oppos­ite dir­ec­tion. This year’s Christmas Illumination looked much the same as last years and hence less impress­ive. To my dis­ap­point­ment, I’ve since found out that that’s much the same case with illu­min­a­tions across Japan. So the only way to see new ones is to keep vis­it­ing new places!