We hop the train from Onomichi to Kurashiki and get in around sunset. We take our increasing baggage needs to a nearby taxi and he blasts us down to the old town area where we’ve secured a hostel for the night called Cuore.
Walk into the hostel and can instantly tell the place is rad AF. We go down a few steps to a large basement seating area with several lounge sections, restaurant seating and a bar. There’s a glass ceiling that looks up through the middle of the hostel to the roof and lots of artsy murals. Great location right in the middle of the historic Bikan area too, this place is a major score.
There’s a lounge area to the side with lots of books and manga.
Note to future drunk me: Don’t steal this awesome Japanese version of The Killing Joke
We get checked in. Inquire about a room for the next 2 nights but they’re completely booked. Damn, but I guess we knew that already. We drop our bags in the room. Very cool spot, we take a minute to get situated and gear up for a Kurashiki walkabout.
The stairway is done up like you’re walking through a forest. I foresee a Narcopiggy and Tangerino mural on this chalkboard later.
We get out to the street and stroll around. The whole area is traditional 17th century wooden architecture. White houses with black tiles surrounding a central canal that’s framed with weeping willows. It’s picturesque. Things are quiet, not really a soul around as we peacefully take in this amazing scene as we get our bearings.
We zigzag through the alleys looking for the right restaurant. There are a number of izakayas, cafes and souvenir shops. Odd that there’s no one around because this place has a great old school vibe to it. We read that Udon is the dish to get. They have a variety of it here called Bukkake Udon (I’m not making this up) that is apparently uber oishi. Named bukkake because the broth is splashed onto the cold noodles at the end.
We pass an izakaya w Kirin lanterns and Owl curtains that looks legit. No customers though, let’s check some others. We spot a bumping izakya down another alley. Sit down at the bar. There are a number of ceramic bowls filled with ingredients in front of us. Clams, oysters, octopus, salmon…. Hmmmm all fish? Looks awesome though. We inquire with the google translate of my allergy. So sorry, all fish. No worries, we make our way back, other patrons looking confused as we immediately leave.
Ok, back to owl place. We go in and it’s completely empty. Got the place all to ourselves!
It’s just the chef behind the bar. He’s listening to a sporting event or something on the radio in Japanese. He doesn’t speak English and has no English menus. He’s very polite and a little quiet but he wants to help. I show him the google translate and he nods his head. It’s mostly fish but he brings over a bowl of raw chicken wings with a beckoning glance. Thumbs up!
He tosses the wings in some spices and starts sizzling them on the stove. Smells great. He brings over some salads and a bowl of tofu soup while we wait for it to cook. He also shows us some potatoes that are dressed with green onion and some kind of sauce. Sure!
Without even asking for it, he puts two sake glasses on the bar and starts to fill them to the absolute brim with sake. It’s a master pour. We nod and thank him. I spill some into my saucer when I take a sip.
The wings are great. A dry spice to them I can’t quite place, salt, pepper and zesty. The tofu soup is a real stand out though. Very simple, but the broth is perfect.
The chef, again without asking, quietly pours my spilled sake from the saucer back into the cup and then doubles down on the master pour. A quick, efficient pour that somehow stays in the cup. This is the most sake you can get in a cup without spilling, surface tension barely keeping it in. Impossible to pick up without spilling, I just bow my head and slurp. He chuckles in approval. I declare this unnamed man the sake pour master of Japan.
I’m really liking this silent chef just listening to the game, trying to make whatever he can for us.
An interesting, mostly quiet dining experience with this older gentleman has been another unique tally we didn’t know we’d get. We offer to pay and he walks us out. I don’t think he even charged for the sake. He points to the phone and we oblige with a selfie shot of the master. Thumbs up. I wish I knew who he was. Thanks Sake Master!
We get back to Cuore and chill with Ted and another giant teddy bear in the lounge section with a beer. Not many people milling about.
Ted has given up movies and is now a travel photographer
After another cocktail we decide to post up at the bar and see what kind of grub they have here. Sake Master mostly served us apps and there’s still some space to be filled in.
A cute Japanese girl that works at Cuore sits next to us and introduces herself as Mowy. “Mow-eee?”, “M.O.E. Moe haha”. She’s a sweetie with excellent English. She used to live in the OC for a while so we swap California experiences for a bit.
We tell her we’re really interested in the omurice on the menu. We’d heard about it but only tried the one from Honey Honey Maid Cafe that the maid girl dressed up like a bunny back in Akiba (which seems like ages ago now). This one looks a little more authentic. Moe says she loves it, and the pizza here is really awesome too. Sounds good to me!
When Queenie pulls out Narcopiggy for the pic, Moe loses her mind. “Oh my gawd, how cute! Where did you get it?”, “I made it. I take it travelling with me”, “You made it? It’s so shitty haha”, “Yeah, I’m not good at stitching”, “I love it!”. Queenie describes how Snoodles are based off of all our friends and shows her some pics from the instagram account (@Narcopiggy). “This is so cool. Oh these ones are pretty good”, “Yeah, Queenie stitched those ones”, “I want one!”, “Sure!”, But I want you to stitch one for me”, “You want a shitty one? haha”, “Totally!”. So we get Moe’s address and promise her a shitty travel Snoodle.
We ask Moe, with a bit of a giggle, where the best bukkake udon is in town. I know, I know, it’s really good though! She gets a map and marks a couple of places for us to scout out tomorrow. We’re on the case…
The bartender and chef are hanging out with us and Moe now. They’re winding things down, we’re the only ones around at this point. They ask about our trip and we tell them what we’ve done so far, “Whoa, that’s a lot! You’ve only been here 2 weeks!”, “Two and a half, just a few days left.” They agree that Naoshima is a total must see and also tell us that the museum in town here is kinda cool. We thank them and pay up. Time for bed.
It was great meeting Moe, we’ll have to make the shittiest Snoodle on Earth and mail it to her. Got a whole city to explore tomorrow. Better get silky and rest up!