My Cool Spot: Yufuin Local Beer Hall and Spanish Restaurant IBIZA

by Mie

In a refreshing autumn Saturday afternoon, I visited my favorite town "Yufuin." As I drive up along Oita river to the town, the leaves of the tree gradually change the color from green to yellow. Small rice paddies in small open field in the valley are already harvested. The narrow winding road leads me up to Yufuin through the hills and valleys along which a local railroad runs up as well. Soon, a broad valley opened out below my sight. Twin peaked Mt. Yufu is soaring high over the valley on the background of the cloudless blue sky. The mountain gently embraces the small spa Yufuin with its elegantly flowing slopes that look like kimono sleeves.

Today, I visited here along with my husband to see Mr. Masafumi Ono, the chairman of Sansuikan Hotel, who is one of the prominent leaders of Yufuin town. He had been kindly kept viewing "USA Travel Record" in my home page. He was interested in the pages on Camel and Monterey, USA CA, in particular and sent me an E-mail all the way. He said that he got the first hint at Carmel to construct the first local brewery. We have been interested in hearing his story in detail.

Yufuin is always crowded with tourists and cars on every weekend. Mr. Ono was kindly waiting for us on the roadside to keep a parking space for us. We soon visited the Beer hall, but it was already full and people are still making a long line. I just took some pictures here and moved to the main lobby of the hotel.

Carmel in north California, US, is famous for it ex-mayor Clint Eastwood, an actor. The town is a beautiful resort with full of all-year-round-blooming flowers, facing Monterey that prides itself with clean natural coast. Mr. Ono first the information on the town by chance and was dying to visit there by alone. The town answered his expectation with smart shopping mall, pleasant art galleries, and nice restaurants. Not only tourists but also the residents looked like to enjoy the beautiful resort.

"This is it! I want to build such a place in Yufuin!" He is a man-of-quick-action. He persuaded major members of Yufuin Sightseeing Association and took them to the places for further investigation. All members agreed. Mr. Ono's dream finally materialized when his hotel was remodeled. Today, local residents frequently flock to the Beer Hall to enjoy pleasant time by drinking just brewed local beer with boiled green soybeans snack.

We have at last given up to take lunch at the still crowded Beer Hall and visited "Ibiza" restaurant. White plastered thick wall of the building creates an unusual corner under refreshing cobalt sky. Many loaves of bread just come out of the big ovens. A young baker with headband opened the oven door and put hot loaves into a big basket, releasing savory smell around the corner. The oven was constructed exactly the same design as Mr. Ono saw in Spain. The fuel is, of course, natural firewood piled up high on the wall of the building. The baker opened the hearth door and showed me glaring flame of the firewood. My mouth has already become wet.

IBIZA, this strange name has been attracting my attention for a long time. Today, I could hear directly from Mr. Ono about the origin of the name.

He told me a long, and a little bit sad history: Ibiza Island was once a kind of refuge of European aristocrats who were born weak and took good care of them in the island. They spent their elegant days making preserved foods like ham or sausage using boat-carried raw materials. They also discussed about art and culture, creating unique mixed ones from the fragments of their native legacies on this small island in Spain.

Mr. Ono was completely fascinated with the atmosphere of the island. He visited the island many times and collected antiques such as old tiles and cooking tools, and dishes from all around the small island. The special souvenirs he brought back now decorate the restaurant, making a pleasant corner here in Yufuin.

After listening his interesting story, I looked around the interior of the restaurant anew. It is nice and something mysterious, the entrance, hall, semi-basement wine cellar, and gallery, each of them play an important role respectively. What is prominent among them is an extruding open kitchen surrounded with a massive horseshoe-shaped wooden counter table.

The chef with a white round tie around his neck look into a huge paella pan under big lamps of pork ham hanging down from the high ceiling. A big frying pan is also hooked down. On the wall is a much larger paella pan that cooks for 150 dishes at a time. Mr. Ono found this pan in countryside of Ibiza Island and was fascinated at the first glance. He struggled with the monster to carry up to Holland anyway, but it was too big to carry into the aircraft cabin. It was finally sent to Japan by surface. "I still feel very pity that I couldn't bring it back with me," he laments and winks at me.

Wow, the time is too late to take a lunch; I want to take a paella dish cooked by this giant pan anyway. I sat and waited on a cozy seat caved in the thick plaster wall. A gentle autumn sunlight comes through a small window above. I first enjoyed a mug of the famed Yufuin local beer, how sweet it was!

Many wonderful dishes followed it; refreshing tomato soup, crispy fresh salad, sauteed chicken with pineapple sauce, and today's main dish of paella beautifully colored in green, red, and yellow. This appetizing dish is the very one that can compete with deep blue sky. Delicious flavor spreading in my mouth makes me imagine Mr. Ono who was dragging a huge paella pan on the ground of Ibiza Island, and makes me feel tastier.

What is more impressive, however, is to feel the passion of Mr. Ono and enjoy appetizing dishes in a good atmosphere.

Yufuin Sansuikan Hotel Group: P.O.879-51 Yufuin, Oita, Japan: phone 0977-84-2101