“So, what should we do for dinner?”
“Let’s go to Hiroshima for some okonomiyaki!”
This is a conversation I wish I could have everyday. Unfortunately, it would normally be about a six hour drive or more, a little long of a trek for dinner. Fortunately, Iwakuni is less than an hour from Hiroshima by car, so this conversation happened in real life, and was followed up by real Hiroshima okonomiyaki action!
We came to Iwakuni in Yamaguchi prefecture to visit a friend during Golden Week. After spending an afternoon exploring Iwakuni’s famous bridge and slightly less famous castle, we met up with our friend and headed to Hiroshima for the evening. Our American friend had somehow managed to not yet see Hiroshima’s Peace Memorial Park, despite being less than an hour away for several weeks already. We had been there once before, so being the socially conscious global citizens we are (or try to be), we took him for a pre-dinner tour through the park on the way to Okonomimura.
After Peace Park we made our way to Okonomimura, “Okonomi Village.” Okonomimura is four floors high, each floor filled with dozens of individual okonomiyaki restaurant stalls. The chefs cook your order up right in front of you, on the giant metal grill that doubles as your table, and usually banter back and forth with you while they’re at it. At the particular stall we chose, the owner told us about his favourite English band, the Carpenters, popped on the music video, and started singing along. We half expected him to break out the microphones and get his karaoke on.
Okonomiyaki literally means “what you like, fried,” and as such it can be basically anything, but it usually takes the form of a savoury pancake of sorts. It is one of the things Hiroshima is famous for, and while other areas such as Osaka are also known for Okonomiyaki, Hiroshima does it a little differently. The cooking process starts with a thin layer of pancake batter on the bottom. Then piles of meat, seafood, vegetables, soba or udon noodles, and whatever else you like (such as cheese) are added along the way. At the end it’s topped with a layer of egg, a pile of green onions and fish flakes, and a healthy slather of sauce. Many people add mayonnaise as well, though I am not one of them. Overall it is quite the creative and delicious concoction!
Finally, we returned to Iwakuni satisfied, ready for a good night’s sleep after a long day of driving and exploring, and a grand caving adventure to look forward to the next morning.