A miniature Japan with diverse topography and industries
YHiroshima Prefecture is located near the center of the Chugoku region and is the 11th largest prefecture in Japan, spanning an area of approximately 8479 square meters.
The Chugoku Mountains cross northern Hiroshima with a series of 1,000-meter-high mountains. This area has heavy precipitation, and its winters are cold and snowy. Central Hiroshima is home to the Sera and Kamo plateaus. Its climate is slightly cool, cultivating rice, vegetables, and fruits. Meanwhile, southern Hiroshima has a mild climate with little rain and snow, which is distinctive of the Seto Inland Sea. There, the Hiroshima Plain spreads far and wide, with deltas developed near the mouths of the rivers. The Seto Inland Sea is lined with numerous islands of diverse sizes and is often called the "Aegean Sea of the East" for its distinctive and beautiful scenery.
Footage obtained in cooperation with the Hiroshima Prefecture Council of Dietary Improvement Promoters
As described above, Hiroshima's staircase-like topography descends from the northern mountains to the highlands and into the southern lowlands. Each region has different climates and landscapes and, in turn, its own industries and cultures.
A wide variety of seafood is landed along the coast of the Seto Inland Sea, along with oysters, which are particularly safe, tasty, and famous throughout Japan. Among its agricultural products, Hiroshima's citruses are especially well-known, with lemons boasting the nation's largest harvest. Lemons grown mainly on the slopes of the island regions are called "Hiroshima lemons," which boast zero preservatives, allowing them to be safely eaten any season, all the way down to the peel.
As for its industry, Hiroshima has well-developed shipbuilding and steel industries due to the presence of former Japanese military bases in Hiroshima City and Kure City. It also has a flourishing petrochemical and automobile industry. Hiroshima is a manufacturing prefecture with many companies making unique, one-of-a-kind products and plenty of leading companies boasting top market shares in the world.
Hiroshima's diverse climate and industry led to it being called a "miniature Japan."
Food culture born from the richness of the Seto Inland Sea
Seafood is a major factor in Hiroshima's culinary culture.
The Seto Inland Sea is home to numerous islands and inlets of various sizes, creating a rich fishing ground with varied tidal currents. Aside from being one of Japan's leading oyster farms, the Seto inland Sea is an abundant fishing ground. Eastern Hiroshima offers sea bream and octopus, while the western and central regions offer Japanese Spanish mackerel, Japanese anchovy, black porgy, and largehead hairtail. Being an inland sea also means there are diverse fishes throughout the year. Hiroshima also offers seafood eaten in areas far from the sea: a shark called wani. Back when Hiroshima's transportation was undeveloped, people in the mountainous areas began to eat sharks brought in from the Sea of Japan as a valuable seafood alternative to fresh fish, which was hard to come by.
It is said that there is no part of Hiroshima where fish cannot be eaten. Since long ago, Hiroshima residents have eaten fish abundantly caught and prepared in various ways, including boiled, grilled, fried, or served as sashimi or tempura. Its diverse cuisine gave birth to many local seafood dishes, including the kaki no dotenabe (oyster hot pot), anago meshi (conger rice), tai-men/tai-somen (sea bream noodles), tako meshi (octopus rice), igisu tofu (seaweed tofu), uzumi (soup and seafood rice), nebuto no karaage (deep-fried cardinalfish), and many more.
Here are the food cultures and the geographical features that nurtured them, divided into four regions: Geihoku, Bihoku, Bingo, and Aki.
< Geihoku >
A flourishing rice farming region rich in cultural assets
The Geihoku area is the northern part of western Hiroshima, home to the towns of Akiota and Kitahiroshima and the city of Akitakata.
The northern regions are at a higher elevation, with plenty of ski resorts and heavy snowfall. Geihoku offers many natural attractions, including the 16-km long Sandan-kyo Ravine, the Yawata Marsh, the southern limit of the marshland distribution in Japan, and the Geihoku Kagura, a folkloric dance tradition passed down through the generations.
The area is also famous for the Mibu no Hana Taue, a folk event in which cows are decorated with gorgeous flower saddles and dressed-up Saotome (young female rice planters) plant seedlings to the sound of drums and flutes. It is registered as a national Important Intangible Folk Cultural Property and a UNESCO Intangible Cultural Heritage and continues to be passed on today.
The kinako-musubi is served at the Mibu no Hana Taue. These rice balls were made in a round shape and sprinkled with soybean flour to make them easier to eat and are said to be filled with wishes for the rice's full harvest. Along with the event, the kinako-musubi continues to be passed on with great care today.
< Bihoku >
Wani cuisine, the legacy of a land of trade
The Bihoku area is centered on Shobara City and Miyoshi City in the northern part of eastern Hiroshima. The northern area consists of steep terrain with a series of 1,200-meter mountains, such as Mount Hiba and Mount Dogo, and is home to the Hiba-Dogo-Taishaku Quasi-National Park. The Miyoshi Basin was created between the Chugoku Mountains and the Kibi Plateau by the confluence of several tributaries of the Gonokawa River. Blessed with this special topography, Miyoshi City is sometimes covered in deep fog from early spring to autumn, producing beautiful scenery seen from the mountains, often called the Sea of Fog.
The individuality of the local cuisine in Iwakuni has stood out since the time of the former Iwakuni Domain
Due to its location at the confluence of these rivers, Miyoshi has long flourished as a trading center connecting the San'in and Sanyo regions. The local dish that preserves this history is wani. Although it means "crocodile" in Japanese, it actually refers to sharks. Sharks can be eaten as sashimi for as long as half a month because of their high ammonia content and long shelf life, giving them value back when transportation was still inconvenient. Wani was eaten at autumn festivals, New Year holidays, celebrations, and other festive occasions. Even today, Miyoshi City's old saying of hospitality, "Go ahead and stuff your bellies with wani to your heart's content," continues to survive. Wani can be enjoyed in a variety of ways, including simmered, fried, jellied, or as sashimi, tempura, yubiki (scalded), kabayaki (sweet glazed), suimono (clear broth soup), nanbanzuke (marinated), or wani meshi (wani rice).
< Bingo >
Food culture and history fostered by the warm climate
The Bingo region is located in the south of eastern Hiroshima. The northern part of the region is a highland where flowers, fruits, and agriculture strive. The southern part faces the Seto Inland Sea, with little precipitation and mild winters. The area widely cultivates citrus, wakegi (tree onions), kuwai (edible tubers), and seafood, including octopus, sea bream, and shrimp. It also boasts the largest production of kuwai in Japan. It is said that its cultivation started when it was brought to the moat of Fukuyama Castle from its original swamp habitat. The kuwai of Fukuyama is of excellent quality and is highly acclaimed, having been registered under the Ministry of Agriculture, Forestry and Fisheries' Geographical Indication (GI) protection system. Although kuwai is rather uncommon in Japan except in traditional Japanese New Year food, locals enjoy kuwai in sweetened soy sauce, salads, or deep-fried without breading or batter.
< Aki >
An economic center with diverse food culture
The Aki region is located in the south of western Hiroshima. It is the economic center of the Chugoku region, with Hiroshima City, the prefectural capital, and Kure City, a thriving center of heavy industry. It is also home to various cultural elements from the past to the present, including the two World Heritage Sites (the Atomic Bomb Dome and Itsukushima Shrine) and the old sake brewing town of Saijo.
As for its food culture, Hiroshima has long had a custom of eating oysters. Shells excavated from shell heaps have revealed that people ate natural oysters during the Jomon and Yayoi periods, and it is believed that aquaculture began around the year 1500 to 1600. It currently has the highest oyster production in Japan, accounting for over half of the nation's total ("Fishery and Aquaculture Production Statistics" by the Ministry of Agriculture, Forestry and Fisheries in 2020). The bays in this area are perfect for growing oysters. The oysters produced are large and rich in flavor, making them popular throughout Japan. Locals eat these oysters in various ways, such as enjoying them fried or as kaki meshi (oyster rice), kaki no dotenabe (oyster hot pot), kaki zoni (New Year's oyster soup dish), and kaki no karayaki (baked oyster shell).
Miyajima is home to the World Heritage Site Itsukushima Shrine. People have been catching and eating sea eels around the area as far back as the Edo period. It is even mentioned in some Edo period documents. Anago meshi (grilled sea eel on rice) first appeared as a boxed lunch during the Meiji period, later becoming popular as a bus bento for sightseeing buses in the 1950s. Even today, many restaurants on Miyajima serve anago meshi. It is now an indispensable specialty one should not miss when touring Miyajima.
The next featured dish is from Saijo, the town known as the Sake Capital. Saijo is a renowned sake brewing town in Higashihiroshima City, often grouped with famous brewing areas like Nada in Hyogo and Fushimi in Kyoto. It is a beautiful town having tasteful streets lined with red chimneys and white-walled sake breweries. Bishu nabe was born in this town as a meal for the toji (master brewer). Bishu nabe is made from simmering chicken, pork, Chinese cabbage, and other ingredients in a pot with seasonings such as salt and pepper. Its simple flavor is from the toji's ingenious idea for the dish to avoid affecting the sake tasting. Its name originated from "bisho (soaked)," a nickname for brewers whose clothes are often soaked since they frequently work with water. In recent years, its name evolved from bisho nabe to bishu (top-grade sake) nabe. It is now served in the annual Saijo Sake Matsuri festival and has become a local specialty.
Hiroshima is a prefecture of great depth with lush nature in its mountains and rich blessings along the coast of the Seto Inland Sea. It is also the bearer of important cultures deserving to be passed down through the generations. We hope you will fully enjoy its blessings and culture along with Hiroshima's local cuisine.