Two cities we read (and studied) in our history textbooks, both Hiroshima and Nagasaki were in my list of 1,001 places to visit before I … and was glad to make the solo trip to both last year. More famous for being the only 2 cities in the world which have experienced the atrocities of the atomic bomb, little did we know they also played a significant role in our food cultures too.
While we are more familiar with the Okonomiyaki from the Kansai region, Hiroshima’s interpretation of this dish will make you drooling for more. Further, a surprising fact, Hiroshima actually supplies two-thirds of all Japanese oysters! On the other hand, being one of the southern-most city of Japan, Nagasaki food culture has strong influence from around the world. Some of the popular eats in the city includes Castella, a sponge cake influenced from the Portuguese, and the Champon and Saraudon, noodles inspired from the Chinese (which bares significant similarities to the sheng mian in Singapore!).
Below are some of the must visit and must eat places in both the cities.
Must Visit: Tenth largest city in Japan, this is probably amongst the most well-known Japanese city in the world, but yet we know so little of. The obvious spot to visit in Hiroshima is their Peace Park. Stretching more than 300 meters, the peace park starts with the Hiroshima Peace Memorial Museum at the south and the Hiroshima Peace Memorial (more popularly known as the A-bomb Dome) at the eastern side of the park. Another must visit site is the Miyajima Island, where you can find the famous Itsukushima Shrine’s torii gate. Just make very sure to plan the visit well, best if you can visit here during both high and low tides, where the gate can appear floating in the water or you get the chance to walk out to the gate and see this up close!
Must Eat: Here in Singapore, we are more than familiar with Okonomiyaki from the Kansai region, where the ingredients are mixed before being grilled on hot tables. At Hiroshima, the ingredients are layered rather than mixed, giving a very different texture. If you cannot decide which okonomiyaki restaurant to head to in Hiroshima, just visit the popular Okonomi-mura, a 3-storey 25 restaurants village; with all the restaurants dishing out a different rendition of this traditional Japanese pancake. There’s one I would implore you to visit though, Nagata-Ya is just a 3 minutes walk from the A-bomb Dome. Order the Original (¥1,350), have all the fillings from pork slices, squid, prawn, green onion, udon or soba and complete with a egg – this is the one meal you will not forget. For sweets, head over to the any of the bakeries opened by the Andersen Group for some Danish-inspired bakes.
Must Visit: A small city located at the north-western coast of the Kyushu island, just a 2 hours train ride away from Fukuoka. I cannot imagine a more important place to visit in Nagasaki other than the Nagasaki Peace Park. Covering an area larger than Hiroshima’s, and definitely less touristy, the Peace Park starts with the Peace Statue at the north, with Hypocenter Cenotaph at the south and the Nagasaki Atomic Bomb Museum to the right of the Cenotaph. Frankly, I found the memorial grounds of Nagasaki more intense, with a ceremony conducted every morning at 11:02am when the bomb exploded 500 meters above where the Cenotaph stands today. During my visit, I found families and locals gathering solemnly during the ceremony, in a stark reminder that war may have ceased, but the memories of those who have lost will never.
Must Eat: With Nagasaki almost completely destroyed by the bomb, little remains of the old city and therefore the food and cultures as well. Having said that, Nagasaki always played an important role as a trading hub for Japan, with its close proximity to China and South Korea. Another restaurant just minutes walk away from the Peace Park, the Horaiken Bekkan is a Japanese-Chinese restaurant serving many of the dishes inspired from Chinese cuisine and completed using Japanese ingredients. Try both the Champon (¥800) and Saraudon (¥800) here, with the former being the soup version of the Sheng Mian inspired from the Fujian province in China and the latter being similar to the all-familiar crispy Sheng Mian we have here in Singapore as well. For sweets, visit Little Angels with French and English inspired bakes, located in the Nagasaki downtown area.
Ranted by the Rantee