Saturday April 20, 2013
On our first visit to Kyoto we only had three days in the city so it was challenging to fit in all the attractions on this trip. Fushimi Inari shrine is famolus for it’s striking bright redish/orange toriis, over 10,000 spread throughout the grounds. Fushimi Inari shrine and Kiyomizu-dera are both open early in the morning, so we decided to visit them before our day trip to Hiroshima. For a mere $4,000 you could have your name inscribed on one of the torii gates, the rates increase to $10,000 for the larger gates. The shrine also makes for a great jogging route.
Kiyomizu-dera temple is known for it’s panoramic views of the city with visitors taking the obligatory photo of the main hall branching out from the surrounding forest. It almost seems like it’s been there for years.
(Train from Kyoto to Hiroshima, Japan)
Prior to 1945 Hiroshima wasn’t a household name. At 8:15am on August 6, 1945 all that changed. The United States made a decision during World War II that would alter the history of Japan, change the definition of war and shatter the city of Hiroshima. The U.S. became the first nation to use a nuclear weapon on another country.
The atomic bomb nicknamed “Little Boy” was dropped by the Enola Gay, a B-29 bomber, currently on display at the National Air and Space Museum in Washington DC.
The inital impact of the bomb killed an estimated 80,000 people. The bomb was detinated some 600 yards above the ground. The heat generated on impact was estimated to be 3,000 degrees celcius and destroyed 70% of the city. Sixty perecent of the deaths were burn related and those people typically died within one second of impact. Thirty percent died from falling debris. After the inital bomb, radiation and other related illnesses took the deathtoll to over 150,000.
HIroshima and Kyoto were on the final list of targets. It is rumored that Kyoto was eliminated becuase it was the honeymoon site of Secretary of War Henry L. Stimson. Five days after the Hiroshima bombing U.S. dropped another atomic bomb on Nagasaki killing another 80,000. On August 15, 1946 Japan surrendered effectively ending World War II.
Today Hiroshima stands as a worldwide symbol of peace, holding international conferences on the matter and it’s memorials serve as a reminder of a history the world should not repeat.
Our plan was to take a day trip to Hiroshima and Miyajima. Hiroshima is one and a half hours south of Kyoto on the JR train. Once in Hiroshima you have access to the streetcar system, which covers most of the big attractions in the city. For $6 you can get an unlimited day pass. Just hop on the streecar and you will be at Peace Memorial Park in 15 minutes, stay on for another 30 minutes and get off at the Rakurakuen stop for a quick lunch, then take the streetcar another 15 minutes to the ferry transfer that will take you to the Island of Miyajima and the Itsukushima Shrine.
(Busy streetcar in Hiroshima, Japan)
The A-Bomb dome is located 500 feet from the hypocenter. Due to the bomb being detonated in the air, in close proximity of the dome, it is largely responsible for the buildings survival. It stands today renamed the Hiroshima peace memorial. A constant reminder to the world, the devastation that was caused by one of history’s darkest days.
Akira eight 八昌 五日市店
Saeki-ku ITSUKAICHI central 1-3-33
Okonomiyaki is a savory pancake with ingredients running the gamet from cabbage, pork, seafood, bean sprouts, okonomi sauce (which is similar to tonkatsu sauce), mayonnaise, dried bonito flakes, green onion, dried seaweed powder, and tempura crumbs. Two areas speacializing in this dish are Osaka and Hiroshima. Today we are trying Hiroshima’s version. The differences between the two vary in the batter, the proportions of each ingredient and the preference for different toppings. We discovered Akira eight, which is how Google translated the Japanese name, on Tabelog. It was in the top five and open while we were coming through town.
Earlier in the week we tried takoyaki near Nezu shrine and the dish was terribly disappointing. Seeing that there were some similarities in appearance and ingredients we were worried heading to the restuarant. But for some reason the okonomiyaki comes together better than the takoyaki. Although it was good I think the best parts of the dish was getting to try the Japanese version of mayonnaise, which is a step above what we are use to in the U.S.
(Preparing Okonomiyaki at Akira eight 八昌 Grill in Hiroshima, Japan)
(Ferry to Miyajima, Japan to see Itsukushima Shinto Shrine)
Now we took the train back to Kyoto, which gave us a chance to relax and try some Japan’s great snacks:
Kitcho Arashiyama Honten
58 Susukinobabacho, Sagatenryuji, Ukyo-ku
Time for our second and final Kaiseki meal in Kyoto. Next to Mizai, which was booked six months out, Kitcho Arashiyama Honten was our first choice. A Life Worth Eating said it was his best meal in 2012. Chef Kunio Tokuoka, grandson of the founder, has maintained his 3 Michelin stars since 2010. Andy Hayler gave it a 9/10 after his visit. It’s located on the outskirts of Kyoto in Arashiyama. The location is literally in the same spot the taxi dropped us off for our short walk to Shoraian. There is little drizzle on out way to the restaurant. Before we could make our way inside, an usher at the front door had a Japanese style umbrella ready at the door to ensure that not a drop lands on Jen. It’s like a romatic scene out of Casablanca, or as it’s known in Japan Le Shiro. The grounds are beautiful as was our dinning room. Art adorned the walls and there was a tranquil view of the garden slowly disappearing into the night.
The meal starts off better than we expect. We ordered a plum wine, light and fruity, it was something we wouldn’t normally get at home. We were then presented with a glass of warm water with cherry blossoms from last year’s season. Here we could appreciate the significance of the ceramony, preserving the delicate flower from last year’s season. Food wise the first two dishes noticably better than Nakamura. The meal transitioned with some highlights, but all the dishes were above par. The best dishes of the night were the sashimi course of fatty tuna and squid, the assortment of seasonal dishes, the grilled bamboo shoot with bonito flakes, once again the Japanese beef was a standout. This time we were servied local Kyoto style beef. As expected the seasonal fruit was perfectly ripe and the sweet custard was addictive.
Kitcho delievered and was definitely better than Nakamura, but I’m not sure I have a great amount of respect for the Kaiseki meal. In my world, the food taste is number one and everything else, the ambiance, historical significance and difficulty in the preperation comes second.
(Jen endlessly texting her sisters at Kitcho Arashiyama Honten in Kyoto, Japan)