Category Archives: Hiroshima

日本 8.9.13 イレーン

Something was seriously wrong with me on Friday. It was like our slowness the prior day manifested in taking all of my energy away. I was dragging myself along from the minute we started out for the tram. It didn’t help that we were out of breakfast food at home so we didn’t get much to eat until we got to Hiroshima station 30 min later. We got the train there for Miyajimaguchi. The JR train pass also gets you on the island ferry for free and at 9:30 in the morning it was high tide and beautiful coming into the port. We walked up to the torii (best to see it at high and low tide) and waited as the throngs of tourists (and the most foreigners we had seen so far) jostled for a clear photo op. I was not in the mood for all the people and we counted our blessings we had come on a weekday. We left the masses after a quick stop at the post office and walked a quiet woodland trail up to what is considered the most notable temple for the sect of Buddhism referred to as Esoteric Buddism. The temple grounds were really beautiful, a lovely courtyard of bells to welcome guests and an underground cave were folks who cannot complete Shikoku’s temple pilgrimage can pray to all 88 of the temple Buddhas.

We had not prepared well for meals and by lunch time I was so hungry I nearly fell down a walking path. I was also not keen to eat along the main drag with hundreds of other tourists. We stumbled upon a beautiful little tea room in the upper streets that had a lunch set. They also had the place really cooled down and since it was 96 degrees we were dying for a respite from the heat. The lunch set was three dishes plus dessert. A small tofu appetizer, two rice balls with grilled oysters and a soba noodle salad. It was totally delicious and the tiny refreshing dessert was a milk gelato with orange preserves. Heaven.

Dan wanted to see the Torii at low tide (5:30pm) so we moseyed around the town stopping into shops. The island has a special cream/jelly filled cake cookie called Momiji and at lots of shops you can watch them making it. We tried a cream filled fresh one and decided it was all more hype than anything and not worth the souvenir box. We went to the Miyajima Treasure House at the shrine. Were it not for the two incredible sets of armour as you walk in the door it would have been a huge disappointment and not worth the admission.

Dan wanted raw oysters next… This region of Japan has special ones. We were concerned since oysters are not in season in August but found out that they farm them. I was still full from lunch so I had a beer and watched Dan enjoy them. The shop owner brought us his iPhone so that we could watch the summer fireworks display over the Miyajima torii on YouTube!

Before we hopped the ferry back we made it into the Miyajima Traditional Crafts store. I am really glad we didn’t miss it. The place was full of both museum quality pieces and retail wooden carved vessels and utensils. Some of the most gorgeous craft work we had seen. I bought a small incense jar made of black persimmon wood that is too beautiful an object to describe.

We were contemplating going back to Mokumoku for more okonomiyaki for dinner but it seemed silly to repeat a place… And, on the way home Thursday we had discovered what I thought was a tiny take-out dumpling place that seemed worth a try (right near to our place). When we got there it turned out that it was actually a long narrow izakaya and it was jammed. We got counter seats and started up a lively, albeit broken, dialogue.

The shishamo, shishito peppers and steak were good but the dumplings (we had them fried and steamed) were off the charts. I think they might be the best gyoza I have ever had. All the waiters had t-shirts that said dumplings for 50 years, or no dumplings, no life. Awesome end to the week. My best night of sleep so far this trip also!

Photos: oysters in Miyajima, deer trying to steal from Dan, Miyajima Torii at high tide, dumplings right near U-12 tram stop in Hiroshima

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Japan 2013: Fri August 9

Quick (really small) breakfast at home
Streetcar to Hiroshima station
Breakfast supplement pickup in grocery store
Train to Miyajimaguchi
Ferry to Miyajima
Itsukushima shrine (torii at high tide)
Daisho-in temple
Excellent lunch at wa-cafe hayasHiya (sesame tofu, oyster rice balls, cold soba with vegetables, milk gelato with orange jelly)
Torii at low tide
Treasure house
Covered shopping arcade
Oysters & beer
Traditional craft shop
Ferry & train back to Hiroshima, streetcar back to the neighborhood
Dumpling shop
Enormous supermarket

Pictures, all Miyajima: Indian lilac bonsai; Elaine and her Daihatsu truck; Nice car; Torii at low tide

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日本 8.8.13 イレーン

Today was the day where it sets in… All the running around, especially with the addition of the heat, wore us out. After the last of our at home granola breakfast we passed out and slept until nearly 10:00. No getting started early today. It was a nice morning to be lazy… Weather was calling for temps of 91+.

For lunch we walked up the street to Tanaka-san’s favorite okonomiyaki place. He said this 72 year old lady made the best and we were dying to try it. Okonomiyaki is big here because there is a country wide rivalry between the kind made in Osaka and the Hiroshima style. We had the Osaka version last trip to Japan at a little local joint so this seemed like the appropriate test. There were 9 seats around the 6×6′ griddle she was working at and 10 seats at the back of the place. There were 9 people eating when we arrived. The rest, I can’t say enough and wish we had it all on video, was pure entertainment.

This lady was completely on the ball. First, she put two Tupperware tubs of raw squid and shrimp in front of us to see if we were ok with seafood. Yes, of course we were… although at the time we had not yet figured out that this was the “special” and would be 400¥ more. Wielding two large spatulas and working multiple meals at once it goes like this:

She pours a thin pancake mixture like a crepe… Sprinkles it with spices… Tops it with cabbage and panko… Puts on some pieces of dried squid cake she has pre-made. All the while that is cooking she has individual piles of cooked soba noodle on the other side of the griddle. Back to the main attraction she adds the seafood (squid, shrimp, scallops) and tops with strips of raw bacon… Then she flips the entire pile over so that the bacon is now on the bottom… That cooks for a while. She the slides that pile onto the soba pile… Cracks an egg and spreads it like a crepe… Slides in onto the egg pancake and flips the whole thing again (pancake is back on the bottom)… Paints the egg top with sauce (texture of hoisin), sprinkles it all with herbs and pickle and slides it over for you to eat. Everyone gets a small spatula to cut and serve with… Some folks ate right off it. She made 7 of these all at once while we sat there all the while telling her husband what to do and chatting up the locals. Genius entertainment and totally delicious. We had great fun and were stuffed. Dan already wants to go back.

Even the end of the meal proved entertaining. When we went to pay the 1800¥ we gave her a 2000¥ note. This currency denomination is no longer made and they are rare in Japan, similar to the $2.00 bill in the US I think. So we had gotten a bunch of them with our exchange in NY and they have been eliciting all kinds of responses here. Well, one of the customers wanted it, so she traded two 1000¥ notes for it. Dan pulled out another one and joked that she could have it for 4000¥ … Hearty laughs all around!

We took the tram up to Hiroshima station and walked over to the Peace Memorial Museum. It is difficult really to speak much of the afternoon. We were there for hours and it is hard to get through emotionally. But the people of Hiroshima convey a strong and beautiful message to all of mankind that we need to love and respect one another. Peace should prevail.

At the end of the afternoon we wanted only to have a quiet meal and turn in early. So we walked to near the station, took an escalator to the 6th floor of the Pacela building and rested over a meal of Vietnamese food at Miss Hoa.

Photos: Hiroshima manhole cover, okonomiyaki chef at Mokumoku, okonomiyaki instructions
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Japan 2013: Thurs August 8

Hiroshima
Sleep late
okonomiyaki lunch at Mokumoku
Streetcar into downtown
Peace Memorial Park
Flame of Peace
Memorial Cenotaph for A-Bomb Victims
Peace Memorial Museum
Atomic Bomb Dome
Coffee at Doutour, postcard writing
Vietnamese dinner at Miss Hoa
Streetcar back

Pictures: okonomiyaki at Mokumoku; Memorial Cenotaph; Atomic Bomb Dome

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日本 8.7.13 イレーン

We packed up our bags at Kyoko’s place and left everything home while we walked a few blocks down to Ritsurinkoen. This was one of Japan’s great gardens and we had heard that it was worth the trip. We did the 60 minute walking tour through the south end of the garden then hit the shop for another gelato treat. By 11:00 am it was already oppressive heat and humidity. We left through the north gate which ended up being the highlight… Their huge pond of Lotus (taller than me!) were in bloom and totally gorgeous.

We picked up our packs and headed to the bus stop. Kyoko’s apartment was a great place to crash for this first part of our trip and we will miss Takamatsu.

We caught the 12:40 train to Okayama and decided we would again treat the city as our lunch spot. Thanks to a blog post about food in the city we hit up a ramen shop that specialized in local ingredients (even their own Hishio -unfiltered soy sauce boiled with olives). We both had the Tonosho ramen and for the benefit of my New York friends… Ippudo needs to step aside. This thin broth was light, with a distinctive flavor (thanks to the local sardines they use), the pork was absolutely delicious… It just melted in your mouth. And they shave thin strips of Yuzu into the soup which is a stunning refreshing moment in the salty broth. I would not hesitate to go back. The best part? Dan was still hungry so he ordered the Kaemeshi bowl which was a generous bowl of rice with pulled pork, seaweed and scallions for only 100¥ ($1.00)… To pour the end of his broth in!!!

Off on the tram after lunch for another famous garden… Okayama’s own Korakuen. We had left our packs in coin lockers at the station so we could get around easily. Our garden walk was spectacular because it started to rain and their vast green fields, forests and terraces were beautiful in the rain. This rain, by the way, did not have any effect on the weather except to make it even hotter and more humid when the sun returned! Ritsurinkoen was lovely but Korakuen was truly worth the detour. They have a pen of cranes on the premises as well.. incredibly elegant birds.

We took the bus back to Okayama station, got our reservations for Sunday’s Shinkansen trip worked out and boarded the train for Hiroshima. We were due to meet up with Tanaka-san for his apartment that evening and still needed to eat. Tanaka-san’s flat is his grandmother’s place and it is a traditional Japanese apartment: tatami rooms with separate and partially outdoor shower and toilet. Such a cute place and in a neighborhood off the beaten path. We cleaned up and headed out to a sushi place he recommended just down the street… Much to our surprise and entertainment it was a conveyor belt sushi palace (we have heard about these but had never been). The place was enormous and we had counter seats. I was really impressed with Dan because he seemed to have the entire system worked out for keeping track of what we picked off the belt… That is, until they said last call. I then asked the waiter to calculate our bill (which Dan had been painstakingly writing up as the food went flying by) until Dan realized that the waiter thought we meant we wanted all 12 of those dishes and had specially asked the sushi chef to sneak in our “order”! BTW we were already full so if he had not caught that we would have been stuck with dinner number 2!!! I wish I had the entire episode on video, it was hilarious and our neighbors at the counter got a real show…. We were the only non-Japanese in the place and clearly didn’t know what we were doing. I did get a few videos on Vine if you want to follow us.

Photos: Lotus at Korakuen, Tonosho ramen at Shodoshima Hishio, sushi conveyor belt at Onmaku

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Japan 2013: Wed August 7

Breakfast at home
Ritsurin-koen garden
Leave Kyoko’s apartment
Train to Okayama, coin lockers for bags
Ramen lunch
Tram and walk to Korakuen, thunderstorm
Bus to Okayama Eki, shinkansen reservations for Sunday 8/11
Train to Hiroshima
Streetcar to Tanaka-san’s apartment
Sushi restaurant with conveyor belt

Pictures: what’s in bloom, Ritsurin-koen; Elaine with lotus, Ritsurin-koen; view from Yuishinzan Hill, Korakuen; paths and streams at Korakuen

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