So plans changed a bit as they often do, and often everyday when traveling. When we first started this journey we were very excited and we really thought it could be something great. Now we are thoroughly elated and are convinced this project will blossom into something great. And this is very much all thanks to the abundant support we continue to receive, so Thank you, everyone, even just for reading this, it’s hard to describe–especially through such an interface–but we are very thankful to have every bit of help and support. And though you have by no means heard the last of this appreciative oration, I’ll continue onto to the nuts and bolts.
We traveled to Wakayama city, the largest city in the Wakayama prefecture located to the South of Osaka. After checking into Rico, a lovely guesthouse with a particular love for Portland OR, we headed off to Nest, a local beer bar run by Majime-san a good friend of Yasuhito. The spot is awesome and a definite recommendation to everyone. It’s located in what was the ticketing room on the bottom floor of a old movie theater. Lots of wood, and walls covered in amazing original artwork by a wildly incredible Nara-based artist we actually more recently got the pleasure to meet. (Whos name I will have to find later). And besides the amazing art along all the walls and counter, all the wood and the four taps of local joy, the attached once movie theater was renovated into an indoor rock gym. Pretty Cool. We met the local staff and some local patrons and gave Yasuhito a special bottle we had brought, which he, in spendid fasion, wanted to open immediately with everyone–shout out to Plough Mondays, we love your Breaky Porter http://ploughmonday.com/ Drink thier beer, its organic and delicious, out of Veneta OR.
Though quite tired from travel, with all our luggage, we could not refuse having a second round as the company and environment was just too stellar. This quickly turned into getting some Takoyaki at a local spot, another friend of Yasuhito’s. The place is called Eight and it consists of a single bar stretching maybe 14 seats and darn is it good. Not sure if you reading this have ever had takoyaki, but essentially it’s a savory ball pancake with a peice of octopus in the middle. Might not sound that appetizing to many westerners, but it’s well worth trying–just please be careful because takoyaki more than any other Japanese food has a tendency to burn the tiddlywinks out of your mouth. As it was late at this point I recall having a few alcohol induced conversations, most of which climaxing at the point of both Elijah and I being わかいーな[wakai]（so young). Of course I suppose this is true, and boy did it blow people away when we pulled out our multilingual card and proclaimed we were making a documentary. =) Oh the joy of life in Japan.
Heading back to Rico we found ourselves heading to the roof to check the scene of wonderful Wakayama. If you ever get a chance it is a wonderful town with kind people, excellent ramen, good beer, and an cool castle in the center! Soon there after we got hit the hay. Tomorrow was early up as we were going to travel quite a ways to Kamikatsu’s Rise and Win Brewery.
Yasuhito, our ever-present and benevolent guide on the way to Kamikatsu.
The next morning came without hesitation. Elijah and I, most likely out of excitement, were quite on time, even after having to organize all our luggage and equipment before embarking. To our surprise though, we had to wait a few minutes and I was able to once again bound to the roof and catch the morning mist as it caressed the warmly lit buildings of Wakayama. Yasuhito and Majimesan picked us up and we headed for the ferry. It was a two hour trip from Wakayama city harbor to Tokushima on Shikoku island which is the island to the south of Honshu (Japans main island), and to the west of Osaka. The ferry was a nice opportunity to relax and regain a bit of sleep lost the night before. Interestingly enough, but not surprising, the ferry had its own pair of two young anime characters which showed up around the boat, like in the bathroom, cafeteria and even on the hull itself. I also remember commenting on how most westerners would probably not know what to do in the lounge because the majority of the hang out area was essentially just flat carpet space where people would take off their shoes. It even took me a minute to figure out what exactly the space was used for.
Driving out to the country-side always makes me personally feel a bit nostalgic and it’s a nice buffer time relax into a more rural feeling, from the quite fast paced cities of Japan. Rise and Win brewery is just beautiful.
Sitting on a hill, you are confronted with a beautiful red building, one face of which is made entirely of windows of different sizes and shapes. The entire building actually is made of 100% recycled materials and this definitely comes through into the character of the building. It sits on top of a hill overlooking the small town of Kamikatsu, which itself is nestled into a small valley at the base of 3 converging mountains. The scenery is stunning. The brewing portion and the shop portion are separated by a covered entryway. Both entries are made of full glass allowing viewing into both the shop and the brewery. Entering the shop, you see a magnificent wine bottle chandelier. They were cleaning this day and it was beautiful seeing the contrast of the windows and the man with his pole scrubber washing them. We met various employees of the brewery and were given a full tour. After taking some B roll, we headed up the road to have some lunch and learn more about the town. After a wonderful traditional lunch, consisting of many small dishes with rice, we stopped at a recycle center and and began to learn more. Turns out this town was once known for its trash.
Kamikatsu like many small towns had a bit of a trash problem. There was no trash service this far out and so most people burned their trash and reused what recyclables they could. But Kamikatsu did one worse and all the people burned their trash together; everything, in one place. And other surrounding towns took to this and started using Kamikatsu as a dump. This obviously led to a great deal of burning trash and to the point where the fire would burn 24/7. We learned all this from a good friend Eisuke, who had lived there his whole life. He said it was this very spot where people would bring their trash, throwing it off the edge onto the ever burning fire. “Hell, we used to call it” he said. And if you can imagine at all, trash burning 24/7 for months, even years in one location you an imagine this place. Of course however the townspeople soon realized they could not do this forever, and were inspired to clean it all up and begin their movement. This town today is known for being the zero waste town.
On the same location now sits a recycle center with a whomping 47 different categories of trash recycle. As of last year it recycled or composted 80 percent of its waste and the goal is by 2020 to be 100 percent zero waste. And the brewery fully embraces its towns model and it was because of this movement the location was even decided. The brewery is known by many to be the zero waste brewery. As said before their entire brewery is made of recycled materials. They compost all their used materials and even use ingredients creatively in their beer that would otherwise just be disposed of–like yuzu peel, a type of Japanese citrus.
Nakamura-san (aka Yoda) showing us artwork on the second floor of his home.
As if this wasn’t amazing enough. After seeing this we then went to visit a legendary character everyone kept referring to as Yoda–which lets be honest thats a hard name to live up to. But good lord this guy. So we drove up the ravine between the mountains further and further until we were climbing the mountain and just about 200 feet from the top we stopped and tucked the cars into a small driveway. Rounding a bend in the path we come to a house that looks like it came from the 1700s–not that it was old looking, on the contrary it seemed very well unkept. The style was quite old tho. There was a woodshed with a water tank on top and a two story wood home. I will post a video because the place was stunning. All the technology was old. Wood heated home, fire cooking, and only one small light we saw. And then Nakamurasan, himself, the legend. Beaming with a smile not dissimilar to the Dahli Lama himself, he greeted us and welcomed us into his home. He talked to us about how he lives and things he needs, which weren’t much. Simply put it is very inspiring to actually meet these people walking the walk. Of course its great to live in the woods and separate ourselves, from all the distractions of modern living–all the conveniences that really only distance us from things that really are quite important in life: food, our home, family, friends etc. This guy if I could only explain was amazing. It is an experience that I honestly have a hard time putting into words–spending time with this man. He had traveled for 15 years by himself studying in Tibetan monasteries and learning calligraphy and woodblock skills. He told us of his travels and showed us all homemade journals and books filled with his beautiful art. It is a day I will not be forgetting soon.
Take a look at Nakamura-san house HERE
Leaving his home, truly feeling as if our heads were in the clouds over the prophetic man we had just spent time with we left Kamikatsu and headed for Kamiyama, (God Mountain). In Kamiyama we took part in a Future conference with Yasuhito. The conference centered on positive solutions for a changing country. Specifically discussing ways to revitalize communities where many of the young people have moved to big cities. We’ll talk more about our experience in our next blog update!
That night, before going to sleep, the moon was bright and stars were out in full for us to capture the skyline.