Numazu Summer Festival – Natsu Matsuri

17 07 2007

Fireworks at the Numazu Summer Festival

The Numazu Summer Festival (Natsu Matsuri) is coming around again. This big event floods the streets on the south side of Numazu in a three day event filled with endless parades, deja vu stalls, excellent music, gorgeous yukatas and ends each night with a huge display of fireworks over the Kano river. Living so close to the center of town means that some of the parades actually passed by our very windows last year. During the previous years Summer Festival we were fortunate enough to sit on our windowsill and watched the parades go by. The dancers in their immaculately dressed quasi traditional garb are an awe inspiring sight. The huge floats born on the shoulders of cheering sweat sodden participants with balancing beauties precariously positioned on top of gorgeously crafted woodwork, are to sure infuse you with energy and excitement.

Numazu Summer Festival

We couldn’t just sit on our windowsill all day. There was so much else to see.

Natsu Matsuri Streets of Numazu

On every street at every time there is something different to keep you well entertained throughout the day and well into the night to finally enjoy the fireworks.

Floats at the Numazu Summer Festival

I am sure that these few pictures from last years event will tempt you enough to pay a visit.

Numazu Summer Festival

When 27, 28 and 29th of July.

Numazu Festival
Location South side of Numazu Station flowing down the main streets and along the Kano River.

Numazu Yukatas

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Baird Beer’s Fishmarket Taproom – Numazu

17 07 2007

The Fishmarket Taproom and Baird Beer.

Fishmarket Taproom

In the words of the famed bad boy chef, Anthony Bourdain, this review is going to be an unashamed ‘blow job’ for Baird Beer and their bar the Fishmarket Taproom.

In fact, if anything, I’m a little nervous about writing about this place. I mean how can my rather self absorbed baby dribble reviews ever hope to capture what one experiences at the Fishmarket Taproom? But from my very core I need to write about this place. If just to have some far more astute writer read my crap, mentally vomit and then feel compelled to put into words a place that I struggle to articulate.

My love affair with the Taproom began even before I reached the shores of Japan. My wife and I were honeymooning in Thailand for three months until our work in Japan started. About a month before our arrival in Japan we received the details of our assignment to Numazu. Regular visits to internet cafe’s in search of information on Numazu ensued. However, my wife and I kept returning to the Baird Beer Fishmarket Taproom website.

Taproom entrance

Thinking about it now with the benefit of hindsight, I realize that all our searching was for us to try and establish some small thread of connection with Numazu. Something that would make us feel at home and shed some of the concerns of our new life ahead. That connection for us was beer.

In tribute to this connection, on our arrival to Numazu the first bar we visited was the Fishmarket Taproom. The love affair was cemented.

Stairway to Taproom Heaven

Today, a mere 18 months after our arrival in Numazu, our affection for the Taproom has only increased. I know many who share the same love of the well crafted beer, beer inspired food, warm setting and sense of being welcomed into the life of ones family that one gets from visit this place.

Last Saturday, the 7th birthday of Baird Beer and the Taproom, was a sign for me to finally bite the bullet and attempt some sort of review that will always pale to the reality of this amazing place.

Of course the most important part of Baird Beer is the beer. The owner, Brian Baird is a beer master with alchemical skill. His core regular beers, denote individual character and form a standard lineup certain to appeal to any palate. Baird Beer’s core philosophy ‘the experience of flavor’ that is free of interferences, such as extreme cold or carbonation, are displayed by this lineup. This starting line up includes such diverse beers as the Wheat King Ale, Rising Sun Pale Ale, Kurofune Porter, Shimaguni Stout, Red Rose Amber Ale, Teikoku IPA and the Angry Boy Brown Ale.

Fishmarket Taproom

Of these, my palate is more attuned to the Shimaguni Stout and the Angry Boy Brown Ale, with their contrast of richness and full taste. While my wife prefers the ales.

The beer experience does not end there. Brian’s ever changing seasonal beers are an exploration into the full and purest potential of how beer can taste. With his most recent seasonal batch, Brian has added fresh whole fruits to his beers prior to fermentation. One of the most tantalizing of the new season ‘fruity’ beers is the Strawberry Field Milk Stout. An almost creamy experience with out the chewiness of a dry Guinness, this stouts richness and subtle allusions to chocolate are a enjoyable treat.

However, my favorite of this seasons beers was the 7-Year Ale. It’s dry tingly nature and simple construction pales to its complexity of flavors. It was a beer you really had to sit down and spend some time to enjoy. It’s 7.5% alcohol kick is another reason for you to be seated while you are enjoying this beauty. This beer was quite a surprise. The different flavors assaults your taste buds and you find yourself slowly sinking into a chair and smelling the beer and loosing yourself in it’s taste.

The Baird Beer website does a much better job than me in describing their beers. I have actually tried to reduce my descriptions of the beers in favor of Brian’s so I recommend that you check out his site.

Fishmarket Taproom Bar

Finally, moving away from the beers and onto the wonders of the Fishmarket Taproom. The Taproom’s earthy design with it’s tree trunk stools and enormous trunk base tables seemingly embedded into the floorboards provide a sense of closeness and openness with the beers. Feeling such a primary closeness to nature really makes you want to know more about what you are drinking, whether by taste or from the staffs extensive knowledge.

The large bay windows opening out to views of the fish markets also add that primary sense of ease and earthy peace.

The in-house chef is a blessing. The menu has been carefully designed to support the flavors of the beers with the addition of recognizable bar fair with top taste.

Baird Beer Staff

Last but not least, is the family that make the Fishmarket Taproom and Baird Beer so great. It seems that Brian spends as much time and care choosing his staff as he does making his beer. These wonderful people know their beer, are passionate about their beer and are so welcoming in showing you their world that you immediately feel to be part of the family. The added touch of Brian’s family regularly in attendance chatting to the patrons really makes you feel at home here.

Baird Beer’s Fishmarket Taproom is an awesome place where the full diversity of beer can be explored with great food and relaxing family environs. Happy 7th Birthday.

Location In the Fishmarket area. 19-4 Senbonminato-Cho, Numazu 410-0845. For further details check out MyMaps at MapBuilder.net
Hours Monday, Wednesday through Friday;5pm-12am. Saturday and Sunday, Holidays, Noon-12am. Closed Tuesday.
Style Bar – well…Taproom
English Menus Yes
Gaijin Friendly Yes
Contact Phone/Fax 055-963-2628. Website: http://www.bairdbeer.com





Blankey’s Bar -Numazu

17 07 2007

Blankey’s

There is just something about ascending into the pits of a dim lit bar sitting down on a stool and peering through the smoky haze at the multitudes of quality whiskey on offer.

Great Staff at Blankey's

Perhaps it is because it saves a couple of flights of stairs on the way down to a much warmer pit of sin. Perhaps it is because it generally hurts less to fall up stairs than down them. But most likely its because you know you are going to be met with a friendly face of a barman who knows what you want and lets you enjoy it how you want to.

The demon eyed patrons of Blankey's

Blankey’s is my kind of place. It authentic. It a has a musk about it that is enticingly wrong and so very right.

I sit, slouch or sprawl on the bar stool resting heavily on the age stained wooded bar top, a Glenmorangie Scotch rests loosely in my hands I am happy. The occasional conversation with the barmen or the odd stranger and the mood set by this dark subterranean cavern is enough to send my mind back to my forefathers. Their quiet talk and big laughs mere echoes reverberating in the memory of the old wood of the bar.

For the more adventurous liquor lovers you can pour over their large range of spirits or allow these guys to show their true talents by asking them to create a cocktail for you.

Blankey’s is a naughty experience. Something warranting the occasional indulgence.

Blankey's owner
Location: Blankey’s is located in the Nakamise about 70 meters south of the Northern Enterance. MyMaps at MapBuilder.net
Stlye: Bar
English Menu’s:No but the staff speak some English.
Gaijin Friendly: Yes





Tanabata and those beady eyed Magpies – Numazu

10 07 2007

Tanabata the star festival.

Well, Orihime, the weaver and Hikoboshi, the herder weren’t getting ‘any’ this year. But then again the choice to use magpies as a bridge for the two lovers to make their annual union on the 7 of July is just plain ridiculous… Ducks would have been a far better choice with their greater buoyancy and predilection for the wet. Nevertheless all bets are off and wishes unfulfilled. The bamboo trees strung with wishes are a glaring reminder that you just can’t rely on magpies or gods for that matter, when it comes to getting what you want.
Welcome to Tanabata, a magical time of wish fulfillment that was created by an angry dad-god who was fed up with his lazy daughter-god and son-in-law(no not sun)-god and separated the buggers so they could keep theirs hands off each other long enough to either weave up a new frock or make sure the herd(stars all) don’t come hurtling into our solar system and incinerate the earth.

Tanabate Numazu
On the seventh day of the seventh month each year these two lovers come together for a bit of sweet love before dad drags them back off to work. The only problem is that to reach each other they have to cross a river. I don’t think dad send his daughter to ‘lil’ tadpole’ swimming classes when she was young (but I mean who would. You know what kids do in the pool at that age.).

Tanabate Numazu Nakamise
With little social skills due to their previous sweatshop existences and no knowledge of the phrase “You can tell a person by the friends they choose”, the couple befriends a flock of magpies.

Numazu Tanabate crass marketing
Magpies, renowned for their perverse and cruel sense of humor, agreed to provide their wings as a bridge across the river so the couple may meet each year when daddy gave them their day off. However, the magpies felt that they should remind the couple that their union provides them with a “work stop” policy in rain for occupational health and safety reasons. Although a little envious of their unionized labor policies, the couple desperately agreed.

Tanabate Numazu
Now the magpies aren’t stupid; that’s why they’re lazy. Unbeknownst to the lovers, July is the rainiest month of the year, with most parts of Japan experiencing more rainy days than dry during this month.

Tanabate Numazu Once Piece
It’s no wonder magpies make so much noise in the rain. They are laughing their bloody heads off.

Tanabate bamboo wishes
While a smidgen of curiosity is raised over why it is exactly that two trans-galactic beings are affected by rain in Japan; or for that matter, how magpies can make the trip out to that intergalactic river aka Milky Way, may easily be explained by the modern scientific popular theories of quantum physics.

wwwhooo Buddha - Tanabate Numazu
In homage to this myth, the Japanese of today prepare wishes and affix them to the branches of cut bamboo. If the day proves to be rain free then the wish is granted. If it rains then the wish is a dud, which is fair enough too. I don’t thing I would be in the mood to grant wishes if my only day of sexual bliss each year is a wash out.

Numazu Tanabate - Pirates
In Numazu this festival has its visual peak in the Nakamise and Shin Naka malls on the south side of Numazu station. The malls are strewn with dizzying designs of brilliantly coloured banners all of which are temptingly tasseled at the bottom. Hidden in amongst these overwhelming designs are several meters high cuttings of bamboo with wishes written on coloured paper tied to their branches.

These hearty little banners stay up for over three weeks running through Tanabata. Indeed, the banners bamboo like strength and flexibility is frequently put to the test by clutching airborne children and the late night inebriated.
The crass advertising such as the popular One Piece manga or the rotating, body swapping Pirates of the Carribean banner really highlight the marketing opportunity that many of Japan’s festival have become. While to some this would seem a betrayal of tradition; to others, like me this seems like an opportunity for amusement and well worth a visit.
Banners are usually erected one week before Tanabata. On the seventh of July there is also a large number of organized festivals on in and around the Nakamise.

Scott Garbie

Location: With your back to the south entrance to the Numazu Station follow the footpath to the right (west) around the new building construction until you get to a pedestrian crossing. Cross it. Look up at the milky green arch reading Nakamise. Look down from the arch and smack yourself in the head for missing all the banners. 😉 .MyMaps at MapBuilder.net





Gokigen – World Skill Festival – Numazu

8 07 2007

Preparations are definately under way for the WorldSkill Festival hosted in Shizuoka prefecture at the end of this year. Numazu has the pleasure of hosting one of the larger portions of events and the city certainly has taken the event in its stride. Schools have been given countries to support and host, buildings are being built just for the event in Kadoike and the Numazu Locals are building themselves up for what will undoubtedly be WorldSkills Fever. I know that I will certainly be trying to get in to watch the cooking events.

The WorldSkills competition pits talented trade and craftsmen against each other in order to represent the skills of their country. In short, the WorldSkills competition is an Olympics for Craft and Tradesmen. With 38 official skills on display this with be an awesome event worth seeing.

The skills festival will kick off in Numazu on the 21st of November with its official opening ceremony held in the Kira Messe complex on the north of Numazu Station.  The competition starts on Thursday November 15 and concludes on Sunday november 18. The majority of the event seems to be heald in the specially build village in Kadoike.

I will endeavor to post further comments about The Skills Festival closer to the date. In the mean time here are some useful links to sate your curiosity.

http://www.worldskills.org WorldSkills home page

http://www.skillsfestival2007.or.jp/en Skills Festival 2007 Shizuoka prefecture home page with links to Numazu

http://www.gokigen-numazu.com/ The official site for Skills Festival Preparation in Numazu. This site also boast some excellent photo’s of the Numazu Area.

Cheers

Scott





Itchibaten – Numazu Fishmarket

8 07 2007

Note: Itchibaten has since closed its restaurant doors.

I have been neglecting the wonderful local produce synonymous with Numazu and in particular its popular fish market area. While this time I did not indulge in Numazu’s calling card, Himono (nope not a fish dressed in silk), I was hungry for sashimi. Not inclined to getting up in the dark of the morning to indulge in the fresh catch being unloaded from the boats onto the open air market shed, I settled for the comforts of a restaurant that overlooked the fish market floor. Perhaps in this way an early rising alter ego could be sated with visual props and a sound imagination.

Itchibaten - Numazu Fishmarket

This time I was off to the Itchibaten. The Itcibaten is a restaurant that had caught my attention in the past, but I never really got around to visiting. From the outside it is easy to see why it would catch my attention. With is pastel blue wall and cheerful seafood art, it would look at home in Shibuya (perhaps with something mechanized like a giant crab, a fishmonger chopping a fish, a trawler taking in a net. Alas the joys of gaudy animatronics could go on and on.). However, in Numazu this place stood out like…well…me in Numazu. This looked like a fun place.

As I entered I was ushered to a table and give some large picture menus. The menu offered a range of sashimi, sushi, soups and other seafood dishes starting from about 1300yen and finishing at around 3000yen. Taking note of what the other patrons had ordered I chose a midrange sushi set and settled back and enjoyed my surroundings.

Although I think I would much rather have liked to have dined upstairs where there were better views of the fish market port and the enormous croquet hoop, View-O, their downstairs dinning area displayed the chef’s at their work and the clean light wood decor offered a hint to the freshness of the meal to come.

Itchibaten - Sushi Set

The sushi set and accompanying soup that arrived at my table was decked out on a a large wooden board with large pieces of sushi splayed across it. There was no pretense of delicate mouth sized portions arranged in dizzying designs. This was plain, simple fair and ideal for the feel of the restaurant. You could almost imagine standing next to a fish monger as he carves the morning take and offers you a slice of fresh mouthwatering fish.

The fresh flavors of the set were fantastic. From the bottom left; The sweet egg sushi was a solid palate cleanser between fish , the juicy bursts of oily saltiness of salmon roe (ikura) were amazing, the prawn was tender, the white fish, aji was clean and un-presuming, the mackerel a rich smoky flavor, the buttery tuna was a delight, the crisscrossed calamari brilliantly white, the red salmon a treat and contrary to appearances (note the across grain cut along joining tissue) soft and free of any stringiness. Finally the the six small sushi rolls half of which stuffed with fatty minced salmon and the other cucumber, were an unnecessary filler but a treat all the same.

Fishmarket through the door of Itchibaten

The only real thing of note was the bone in the pink salmon. By some, thought of as a cardinal sin for the sashimi/sushi chefs but by others, shit happens. Note: for more information on Shizuoka sushi and sashimi please visit the Shizuoka Sushi and Sashimi blog, one of the homes to the big daddy of Shizuoka Gourmet writing Robert-Gilles Martineau. Oh and RG, I am pretty sure I have all the fish right but if you could give it a once over that would be great mate.

One of the Chef's at Itchibaten

For a warm and pretense free experience in Numazu’s seafood you can’t really go wrong with Itchibaten.

Location: In the fish market district. From Numazu Station follow the main road south about 1000m to the end and turn right. You are in the fish markets. For better details check out MyMaps at MapBuilder.net

Style: Seafood featuring sashimi and sushi fresh from the fish market across the road.

Picture menu: Yes for the mains but the side dishes are in Japanese.

English menu: no but you can work out most of it with the pictures.

Gaijin Friendly: Yep, but a little nervous about the potential of having to try and speak English. Poor buggers they do try.

Prices: Sushi and Sashimi sets start from around 1300yen and finish around 3000. Remember these meals have big portions.





Seibu-Numazu

1 07 2007

Seibu – Numazu

Seibu department store is part of a national chain that provides brand name goods. Although I like to generally buy from the little guy or gal there is no denying that Seibu encompasses a certain level of convenience.

Numazu’s Seibu is little different. On the basement floor a small grocery store featuring often decent quality fruit and veg with some sashimi quality fish (of course you are better off hitting the fish markets for freshness) and a small butchers in the corner.

Inside3 Seibu Numazu

On the first floor (ground floor) and second floors, various merchants offer a variety of different goods. Of note is, the salad deli, Lady Godiva Chocolate, high end bento’s, a bakery, various japanese sweets and boutique confectionary, dried foods and Cafe no Bar (roasted coffee bean merchant).

The ascending floors feature a large range of brand name clothing and formal wear. This is carried across the road to the south in Seibu’s adjoining building.

If you are in a hurry and can’t afford the time to browse what other shopping Numazu has to off then this is the place for you. That being said, Seibu does offer some quality good, particularly their gourmet food.

Seibu Numazu Japan

Location: Seibu is directly across the south enterence of the south side of the station.MyMaps at MapBuilder.net

Cheers

Scott Garbie.