Osaka can really get you down. The drudgery of everyday life, the rat race, the grind, the hustle; it can all really make you yearn for simpler times, simpler pleasures. Luckily, the weekend warrior can find his or her arena just a short train ride outside the city in a small town called Minoo. Go for the waterfall, stay for the beer!
To be perfectly upfront, my wife and I went to Minoo for the brewery. We wanted to get the beer from the sources. It’s always interesting to see where these operations call home and how the flagship pub or tasting room runs. Luckily, the Mrs. found that there was a nice hike not too far from the Minoh Beer Warehouse that lead up to Minoo Falls. We have been known to take small day trips to see waterfalls in other parts of Japan, so why not here? There’s something very therapeutic about rushing waters crashing in on itself or unfortunate rocks below.
The hike itself starts with small gift shops lining the way, selling local favorites like yuzu (Japanese citrus fruit) and mimiji (deep fried maple leafs). Once you pass the bags of leafs and plastic toys, you find a little bug museum. Since it was summer when we went, there were many amateur bug catchers out and about, plastic carrying cases and nets at the ready to finally snag that unicorn known as the horned beetle. There’s also a small temple on the way up, which looked like standard temple fare, so we passed on that and went onward.
The path has some ups and downs but for the most part you won’t find yourself tested too terribly much. There were plenty of small children and sprightly old women in groups shuffling their way through the foliage. The winding path offers some really impressive views of the valley: trees for days glowing in the morning sun greeted our as we trekked forth.
The waterfall itself was a nice oasis at the end of the path. It’s small and simple; grander than Gojo Falls but not as massive as the falls in Nikko. The most impressive feature of the falls is entirely man-made: They have a flat paved area dotted with benches, arranged in such a way as to make the waterfall and the small collection it pays tribute to center stage. The entire area encourages you to slow down, take a load off, and enjoy the water. People would take their pictures and shuffle to the benches and take five. The greatest part is that there weren’t many people lining up for photographs, unlike most other places we’ve hiked in Japan. It was nice to just sit and enjoy the cascading water. This could just be a chill Osaka thing; I’m not entirely sure.
Minoh Beer Warehouse
One stop up the train line is Minoh Beer Warehouse, the original commercial outpost for Minoh Beer. It’s a pretty popular commercial brand, found in most supermarkets around Honshu and definitely in most craft beer bars. I recall reading somewhere that hops are muscle relaxants, so when people say they want to drink a beer to relax, they are technically relaxing on a very physical level by imbibing. The alcohol, unfortunately, negates a lot of the positive effects from the hops, which is why some runners drink non-alcoholic beer after a run to help their recover. Bless those pioneers of physical health!
The warehouse is neat and cozy, with a few counter seats along the window on the first floor and more dining room seating upstairs. Speaking of dining, the food here is top-notch. I had a sandwich, the Mrs. a pizza, and for the price, you get a nice portion and it is packed with tasty flavor. The beer left us a bit more divided; I was not a big drinker of Minoh, so I took this as my chance to really explore their offerings. Most of their seasonals were sold out, which bummed us out, as that’s one of the main reasons you would go to a brewpub or taphouse with a specific brewery. Overall, all of their beers tasted very sweet to me; I couldn’t get over how much I tasted the sweetness of the malts in each beer. The one saving grace, the one winner with its balanced flavor, was the Hoppy Weizen, which I really enjoyed.
With that, our leisurely hike and tasty lunch was done. We hopped back on the train to Osaka, feeling refreshed from the physical activity, delicious eats, and muscle-relaxing properties of hops. If you’re visiting Osaka and want a bit of beauty and beer, Minoo would be my recommendation.