Something has done a number on my desire to write. It might be the long days at work, but I’m inclined to blame the book I’ve been reading recently – bad literature makes me fearful that I might find myself unintentionally emulating the author. Ugly Americans: The True Story of the Ivy League Cowboys Who Raided the Asian Markets for Millions is the “true story” of a Princeton grad who escapes a grueling life on Wall Street by accepting a nebulous job offer in Japan. There, he joins a community of other elite Western ex-patriots, experiences the backstreets of Kabuki-cho, hooks up with a hot Yakuza boss’s daughter, learns one or two words of Japanese… and presumably goes home fabulously rich. I’m in no position to critique the accuracy with which the author describes the financial world (you can check the reviews on Amazon for that), but as for the way he captures Japan “from a foreigner’s perspective,” I can say that I find the book depressing. I hope that readers wishing to know more about Japan and its citizens will look elsewhere.
This ends the book review section of our program. Up next: Food.
Last weekend we took a drive down to Hakusan – specifically to Yahata-cho, home of Mokuyuurin (もく遊りん), a restaurant I had been eying ever since an acquaintance (who runs a café himself) posted a photo of it on Facebook a couple of weeks ago. Even in the grainy photo, the openness of the all-wood architecture was extremely inviting. Some investigation yielded a webpage, headed with the caption, “Natural pizza and Italian in an open space surrounded by nature. Fill your stomach and your heart.”
My stomach and my heart? Sold.
Since it was lunchtime on a weekend when we arrived, we put our names on the waiting list and took a seat at a low table near the cash register, where wooden toys and collections of nature photography were laid out to entertain children and adults alike.
After twenty minutes or so we were lead through the curtain into the dining room – though “room” does not effectively convey the layout of the restaurant. It spans two stories, but the majority of the seating is arranged on the stairway, which sweeps expansively along a wall of glass overlooking the forest. A narrow walkway with counter seating runs through the center of the room, and looks down at the opposite wall (also mostly glass) and the brick pizza ovens. The posts that support this second story are made of entire treated tree trunks, their branches still intact. Most of the lighting comes from the extensive exterior windows, or from small lamps on individual tables. Though slightly dimmer than I’m used to in a restaurant, the atmosphere was very relaxing.
The menu (which can be found here – Japanese only) is mainly pizza (tomato, pesto, or cheese based) and pasta. In addition to set menu items, they offer a few daily specials using seasonal ingredients – so seasonal, in fact, that the same local okra and green peppers used on my pesto pizza were also for sale, farmer’s market style, near the cash register. Single dishes range from 800 to 1300 yen, though there are also sets available (daily pasta/pizza with salad, dessert and a drink) for 1380 yen.
From the restaurant, head up the wooden walkway to the left and into the store. Most of the products for sale are wood. They run the gamut, from children’s toys and ornate jewelry to furniture, and even unworked slabs of chestnut and cedar with beautiful grain and impressive price tags. They also sell little pieces of fragrant wood in bulk. I took some home to make sachets to keep my drawers smelling lovely.
While you’re in the area, don’t forget to stop by the World Shishi Museum (世界獅子館). It’s free, and actually has a very impressive collection of shishi masks from all over Asia.
Mokuyuurin Shokukoubou（もく遊ぶりん 食工房）
April~December, 11:00~22:00 (last order 21:00)
January~March, 11:00~21:00 (last order 20:00)
Closed Tuesdays, and from 15:00 to 17:00 on other weekdays