Some friends and I piled back into my trusty car and made a trip north to Okayama Prefecture. There are a number of things to see there, but we singled out the Kirin Beer Brewery, a castle, and a park. I had spent a little bit of time here stuck overnight in the station, and again with my students on a school trip last year. I’m getting to a point where I know my home prefecture of Kagawa rather well. There are certainly some things I have yet to see and do, but it’s high time to take more of these trips to see some of Japan’s other marvels.
I collected my passengers, and we drove up to the Kirin Beer Park, one of the breweries where the stuff is made. Japan has 4 main beer brewers, and this is one of the big two. I made our arrangements for tour, and when we arrived it was us and a lot of Japanese people. The tour itself was rather basic, just showing off a couple of rooms where the different steps of the process take place. Since the basic recipe for beer isn’t too drastically different from company to company, I was able to fill in what I wasn’t understanding. And where that failed, we had received some pamphlets in English.
Hanna, Jon, a company employee, Ben & myself.
The highlight of the tour was certainly the free drinks at the end of it. Though, I had unfortunately driven there, so I had the privilege of wearing a badge and being restricted to the nonalcoholic offerings. Sorta disappointing, since it was all free. My Royal Milk Tea may have been some of the best I have ever had though… While we were sitting at the tables, there was one guy in particular who must have pregamed, since he was seemingly feeling the effects pretty early. During the pouring demonstration, he was very eager to taste it, and won the prize for his efforts. I couldn’t have disagreed with their pouring methodology more though – from a foot above the glass directly into the base so as to create as much foam as possible. While waiting for it to recollect into a drinkable substance once more, and warming up, the consumer must wait. Then, once it settles down a bit, a little more is added to top it off. The goal is to have the foam overflowing at the time of initial consumption. Then, the can’s remaining contents are poured, and enjoyed for what appeared to be a vastly different flavor. I’m a bit skeptical though.
Here is a video showing most of the above events.
From our happy beer time, it was back to the Okayama city center to check out the castle and the Koraku Gardens. The castle itself is only a reproduction, as the original burned down during WWII. It was however rebuilt to the specifications of the original blueprints, so the design remains true to history. I was looking forward to getting here, since its outward appearance is rather different than any of the other castles I’ve seen. Castles here tend to be mostly white, but this dark styling was pretty unique, a nice touch. Though, since time was short and the inside wasn’t all that interesting to us, we decided to book it to the nearby park before it closed.
The garden we made our way to is called Korakuen, and is considered one of the Three Great Gardens of Japan. It was finished in 1700, and offers many wonderful views, though it isn’t quite as lush in the winter. For whatever reason, Japan’s grass turns very brown this time of year. The garden was still managed a lot of beauty; the ponds and open expanses were very nice. We walked around to a couple of scenic points and then made our way back the to car. This last stop was just a little shopping. I hunted for something at the mall, though it remained unfound. It was a nice day thus far, though there was still some fun to be had…