One of the many famous Japanese dishes that might not have made it abroad yet is the okonomiyaki, a dish whose name translates roughly as “cook it as you like it”. It is basically batter, vegetabels, eggs and anything you like to put on it, mixed and fried as a huge pancake on a hotplate or in a frying pan. The most classic okonomiyaki is the style championed in Osaka and western Japan but there is one big local contender up there: the Hiroshima Style Okonomiyaki. The main differences is the that they fry up a pancake first, then add noodles. In Hiroshima they are also very particular about their sauce, and the most well known classic Hiroshima style sauce is the one made by Mitsuwa Foods.
The Okonomimura is a premier tourist location in Hiroshima visited by almost everyone that comes to Hiroshima. It is a four story building crammed with okonomiyaki restaurants, most seating only between 6-15 people. The origin of the building dedicated to okonomiyaki can be traced back to a street of food vendors that put up their stalls there in 1950, only five years after the atomic bomb blast. It is not very far from the epicenter either. In 1967 the street vendors were moved into a building on the initiative of okonomiyaki entrepenur Mr. Yoshida. The present building dates back to 1992 but it already looks much older.
There are 27 restaurants to chose from inside, and I picked the Kaeruttei (かえるっ亭) on the 4th floor. The name means Frog Palace and the owner explained to me that he was stumped for a good name when he was opening the shop many years ago. In his home he had a large frog statue that he was planning to move to the restaurant and someone suggested they name it after that. The frog statue can still be seen in the shop. The word for frog in Japanese, Kaeru, is also the same as the word “to return”, which in this case might be good for business. I certainly will return the next time I visit Hiroshima!
If you plan on following the the sakura season (the cherry blossoms) as it progresses northwards you are probably thinking about visiting Kakunodate in Akita prefecture, one of the most famous cherry blossom viewing spots in the north of Japan. Kakunodate is famous for its hanami, or cherry blossom viewing along their beautiful river, but they are also famous for their cheap and delicious sakura ice cream ladies, skillfully creating sweets in the shape of flowers in front of the customer. I don’t remember the price but it was very cheap. Kakunodate is easily reached by the shinkansen train, and very popular with both foreign and Japanese tourists. Enjoy!
If you are in Tokyo over the weekend I recommend a visit to the Kuozei, food fair in Hibiya Park. Over 100 booths representing 25 prefectures in Japan showing traditional as well as new food specialities. The biggest participant is Hokkaido, with the majority of booths, crabs, steaks and ramen and much more. The food fair goes on from 10 to 18 today and tomorrow.
One of my favorites was the Unagiimo booth from Shizuoka Prefecture, which was new to me, combining unagipie and sweet potato. The cakes and the pudding was great and I loved their character, Unamo, half eel, half potato. The unagiimo is potatos grown using the fertilizer made from left overs from the massive eel as food processing industry in Shizuoka prefecture. Rather than throwing it away, the left overs are recycled in the potato fields. A worthwhile project, a cute character and some very nice desserts – what is not to like?
More photos from the interior of little Enoshima island off the coast of Kanagawa Prefecture! Having braved the stairs all the way up to the middle of the island there are even more things to see, souvenir shops, the third and final part of the Enoshima Shrine and a few small restaurants serving the “uminoie” food in the form of ramen, noodles, grilled seafood and shaved ice deserts. Usually uminoie are little beach huts or tiny restaurants set up on the beach during summer to serve drinks and light food to tourists but these restaurants are on top of the island. Some of them have fantastic views of the ocean though. There are plenty of vending machines on the way as well, one of which had a couple of mystery servings!
There is also the option of visiting the 60m tall observation tower in the middle of the Samuel Cooking botanical garden if you want even better views of the area. On this visit I was happy enough taking pictures of the tower rather than from the tower. There are combination tickets called “Enopass” for 1000 yen that includes the entrance fee for the garden, the tower, the ocean front caves and the escalators bringing visitors up to the top of the island comfortably (really recommended if you are not into walking or used to the hot summer weather). The Enopass is even more worthwhile if you also plan on visiting the other attractions around Enoshima, like the aquarium, as it gives a discount.
The third portion of Enoshima Shrine is called Okutsunomiya and well worth a quick visit. Do not miss the famous turtle painting in the roof of the prayer structure! There are quite a lot of things to discover in this part of the shrine so I won’t give away all of them. I couldn’t resist sharing a few massive fruits! The sign calls them “oniyuzu” (鬼柚子), or demon yuzu but they are more commonly known as shishiyuzu (獅子柚子) or lion yuzu, due to the resemblance to a lion or demons face. They are not actually related to yuzu at all, but more closely related to the pomelo fruits (a distant relative in the citrus fruit family). A shishiyuzu is about 5-6 times as big as a yuzu (and yuzu are already much larger than oranges). They are not good for eating raw but often used in marmalade or candied. The impressive look of the fruits also means that they are sometimes kept in shops to bring in big luck and they have been known to scare off demons and ghosts. This shopped sold them for only 200 yen each, very cheap but maybe it is because these weren’t very attractive? I would think they would be even more effective against evil spirits though! If you are lucky you can sometimes find these in very good green grocers for 700-1500 yen a piece, from December to February when they are in season.