Two months in Hiroshima
Written by Nick
First things first, I used to live in Japan for about two years. From Okinawa to Hiroshima, and many places in between. Earlier this year while I was hanging out with some friends, they mentioned that a friend of theirs was living and working in South Korea and had this opportunity through a program called Workaway. So I had to check it out for myself as I was longing to return to the country in which I spent a significant time of my life learning, growing, and having innumerable adventures. I made up my mind that I was going to stay for two-months and then was faced with an extremely difficult decision: where would I stay? Okinawa is a fantastic tropical island chain south of Japan. It has a hot humid climate and many things to do and experience. Fukuoka has such a great feeling to it and is especially famous for the mouth-watering Tonkotsu Ramen. The thought crossed my mind that maybe I should try and go somewhere else that I had never been before. While I was deliberating my mind always returned to Hiroshima and all the wonderful experiences I had here, the people I met, the food I ate, and the sights I saw. “That`s it! I`m going back to Hiroshima!” I decided.
I have now been here from October 3rd and returning home this December. I`ve had so many wonderful times in these short two months and want to share some things about my home away from home: Hiroshima.
1- HIROSHIMA OKONOMIYAKI
Japan has so many foods that are specific to each region. Such as the aforementioned Tonkotsu ramen, or Osaka Takoyaki. None of these, however, compare to the delicacy and splendor that is Hiroshima style Okonomiyaki. Typical Okonomiyaki is made up of a mixture of cabbage, pork, egg, and a variety of other ingredients, that are then mixed together in a pancake like batter and grilled on a Tenpan. The name `Okonomiyaki` quite literally translates to `Things you like, grilled` So matter what is added, it is ok. Where Hiroshima style Okonomiyaki differs is in the ingredients as well as the way it is made. Instead of mixing the ingredients in one batter, the batter is cooked on the Tenpan first and then cabbage is placed, followed by pork strips. The next big difference is that you can either add Soba noodles or Udon noodles. After this you put all of these delicious layers on a layer of egg and then drench it with Okonomiyaki sauce and then it is ready to be devoured! My favorite variant is mochi and cheese Okonomiyaki. Because Okonomiyaki is so famous in Hiroshima, you can find shops on nearly every street. My advice would be to have as much as you can as it is difficult to make and replicate the taste. (trust me, I have tried)
2- MIYAJIMA (ITSKUSHIMA)
About half and hour south of Hiroshima by train is a beautiful Island called Miyajima. This was a huge deciding factor in me coming back to Hiroshima. (as well as Okonomiyaki. Lol) If you`ve been to Japan before, you know that there is no shortage of Temples and shrines to visit. Miyajima doesn’t change this but there is just something about the Island that makes it special. You can see one of the most famous sights in Japan, the Floating Gate of Itsukushima. Built out in the bay of Hiroshima when the tide recedes you can walk up to the shrine and take pictures to your hearts content. However, during the high-tide the gate appears as though it is floating in the ocean. It truly is a beautiful sight and is made even more breathtaking at night when lights are pointed towards the gate and its bright vermillion colors soak up the light in contrast with the deep blue shades of the sea and the starry sky. You can also climb to the highest peak on Miyajima called Mt. Misen. It takes about two hours to reach the top but the view and the sights along the way are well worth the steep and stair(y) climb. There are many, many treats to be had along the main street of Miyajima such as Hiroshima Kaki, (oysters) Momijji Manju,(Maple leaf shaped sweat dumpling) and many more grilled and fried treats!
3- ATOMIC BOMB DOME/PEACE MEMORIAL PARK
Located in central Hiroshima is where the world`s first Atomic bomb was used. It is incredible to me that despite the devastation that occurred some 80 years ago that Hiroshima is a thriving, prosperous, and beautiful city. The museum contains many powerful pictures taken of the devastation as well as replicas of how it affected the people. It is appropriate that in the area directly north of the museum that there is a beautiful and vibrant park. I would, perhaps be best to visit the museum and park upon arriving so one can better understand how quickly Hiroshima has healed.
4- HONDORI SHOTENGAI (COVERED MALL)
If you are in the mood for shopping then Hondori street is the place for you. Stretching from the Peace Memorial Park all the way to Hatchobori, Hondori is bustling with shops and arcades of all types. Located at the eastern end of Hondori is Okonomimura, which is a building on which each of four floors contains Okonomiyaki shops, 26 in total! Hondori also boasts Hiroshima`s only Ichiran Ramen. ( Fukuoka`s famous Tonkatsu ramen ) Open 24/7 you can intersperse your Okonomiyaki trips with another one of Japan`s famous cuisines!
Hiroshima as a whole just has a warm and inviting feeling to it that can be over looked by people who come and visit. In speaking about Hiroshima with non-natives they will say that the people of Hiroshima are especially kind and proud of the city they inhabit. This couldn`t be more true. Hiroshima doesn’t have all the glitz and glam as Tokyo, or all of the history and famous sights as Kyoto, but what it lacks in sights and Skyscrapers, it makes up for in being a genuine, fresh, and beautiful city.