Thursday, September 11, 2008

Hiroshima City

Hiroshima is what may be considered a typical sea-side town with a much more relaxed atmosphere than Tokyo. Oh before I forget, the residents speak with a slightly different accent than in Tokyo, so don't be surprised by the way they end their sentences ;)

P9060035 The town has just one big shopping street (but it IS big) called "Hondori" which goes for three or four blocks and the top is covered to keep the shoppers from the rain or the sun. There are shops of all kinds here - from Benetton to small Japanese clothing stores to pachinko parlors. In fact this place is so popular that usually friends run into each other on the weekends since young people frequent the area quite a bit. The prices seemed lower than Tokyo to me but then I am really not the right person to ask about prices of anything other than electronics.

P9060037 One of the most famous dishes from the region is Okonomiyaki (お好み焼き) and we went to a small but famous Okonomiyaki restaurant close to Hondori. Okonomiyaki actually exists outside Hiroshima as well and there are two main versions - Osaka style and Hiroshima style t he difference being the inclusion of noodles in the Hiroshima version. The dish basically consists of lettuce, seafood, and optionally bacon (which I skipped) sandwiched between two "pancakes", cooked all-together on a hot plate. In most restaurants the patrons do their own cooking but the one we went to actually had cooks preparing the dishes. Let me tell you one thing about this dish - it is pretty tasty but SOOOO difficult to eat as well!

P9060062 Another famous part of the city is the Nagarekawa Street (流川通り). While there are lots of little streets of its kind, this is easily the biggest one. This street comes alive at night with restaurants, bars, and pachinko parlors, as well as "Gentlemen Clubs" with young women serving drinks to the patrons. The doors of these clubs are usually decorated with the pictures of women working there and they all kind of look like each other - unnaturally curly hair and looking not a day older than 20 at most. There are even stores that are there to provide guidance for which one of these clubs to go to. I am guessing they have sort of a list with pros and cons of each...

P9070070 Of course no discussion of Hiroshima would be complete without mentioning the trams/streetcars. Apparently after the war there was an effort to build a subway system in Hiroshima as well, just like in other Japanese cities, but the amount of sand in the soil made this prohibitively expensive in the day. So instead, the city embraced its trams and unlike Tokyo which lost most of its trams (I believe one or two lines remain around Ginza), trams in Hiroshima thrived. They are definitely slower than the subway or the JR (which is available by the way, connecting some parts of the city and you can use SUICA which cannot be used on the trams). There is something nostalgic about trams I think. Even if they are modernizing them and some of the newer trams look almost like bullet rains...

P9070081 Hiroshima is home to a very pretty, albeit kind of small castle called, well, Hiroshima Castle. It is not nearly as big as Osaka Castle but still, it is a sight to behold. Apparently the original castle was one of the casualties of the atomic bomb though and they built a replica. Inside can get extremely hot in the summer even though they have A/C and fans inside. I guess one of the prerequisites of a castle is good ventilation and that does not work well with ventilation. Thankfully they let you borrow a fan (the kind you use in your hand) which actually helps and the climb to the top is fun if not to see some real Samurai swords but to take in the view.  Well, you tell me if you like it...

Panorama view from Hiroshima Castle

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