This week’s Guest Traveller, Hugo, spent 10 days in Japan with his wife, and sister. In this article, he shares highlights from his time in Hiroshima, including ‘Japanese soul food’ made with what you like… including cheese!
Food: Okonomi (‘what you like’) yaki (‘grill’)
Termed ‘Japanese soul food’ by foodies, the mighty okonomiyaki is a pancake stuffed with cabbage, bacon, noodles and ‘what you like’! This may include seafood, eggs, special sauce and cheese – that’s right, cheese! – and it is DELISH!
In Hiroshima, you are spoilt with endless choices all located within this palace: Okonomi-mura. It is literally heaven on Earth for okonomiyaki. There are four levels of eateries to choose from, each with its own specialty ingredients and amazing chef sauces.
When you enter, your nose will be on overdrive, so embrace and follow it! Like a bloodhound, you will zone in on your balance of savoury and sweet. Sit down, order a plum wine (umeshu) and have a conversation (albeit gesturing) with the chef about the perfect pancake for you.
Watch the theatrical preparation as these skilled chefs deliver a culinary delight a la plancha [grilled on a metal plate] right in front of you! Definitely a cultural must!
If you crave escaping the hustle and bustle and want to find some inner peace, this is the place to visit.
Miyajima is a day trip from Hiroshima and if you have the JR rail pass, both the train and ferry rides are complimentary. On approach to the island, you are greeted with the red floating torii (shrine). It is serene and majestic. This shinto shrine is a dedication of purity to the Japanese and also pays a tribute to a few Nature deities.
Miyajima is UNSECO World Heritage-listed and is home to many flora and fauna. Many hiking enthusiasts get their fix by ascending the mountain on a weekly basis. These trails are well worn and can be a little steep at times, but the crisp mountain air and views up top are spectacular and well worth the effort. Never fear, there is a gondola that takes you up and down, if you so feel inclined. We met a few groups of elderly Japanese hikers, whom had packed obento [a single-portion take-out or home-packed meal] and thermos filled with miso soups, at the summit enjoying lunch and having a yarn after their morning exercise.
Along the way, there are various shrines, temples, animal reserves and rest stops to recharge. Definitely the best way to reconnect with Nature!
Hiroshima has several memorials representing the resilience of the Japanese, post-war. All these sites can incite many emotions and may be at times overwhelming.
The A-Bomb Dome is within the Hiroshima Peace Memorial and is metres away from the epicentre of the blast. It shows the extent of destruction and is the only structure left standing. Pay respects, say a prayer and leave a paper crane.
The Hiroshima Peace Memorial Museum is a must for historical reference. It is well curated and follows the events logically. It is sobering to learn about the evil that has caused so much pain and suffering, yet it also symbolises the human ability to endure and change. Definitely worth visiting.