Monday, September 27, 2004

Japan Land #4 - Hiroshima #2

I thought Hiroshima was a pretty cool city, typhoons and all. (I guess they don't really name them over there though). Upon arriving at the station, I was taken aback at a series of toys in one of the many stores.

Store in Hiroshima Station



After staring for about a minute at the merchandise, my buddy informed me that the Hiroshima Carps are a sister city team of sorts for the Cincinnati Reds (my hometown team). I loved the little Carps guy so much that I picked one up for Mr.Kendall. If you can read Japanese, you can check out their other stuff here:

After we checked into our hotel, we wandered over to the huge (for a city that isn't Tokyo or Seoul) shopping strip in the city.

A street in Hiroshima, wet with the rains from the oncoming typhoon.

It probably comes as no surprise that I was particularly interested in the toy store and arcade.

Sign for the toy store.

To look at the toy store, one would think the three things that Japanese kids love most are Legos (?), Disney stuff (primarily Pooh), and flying mecha doodads. The Legos left me particularly puzzled; if a toy store had nothing else, it had Pooh stuff and Legos.
Also at the toy store were the following items I seemed to see with some frequency:

A flying model of a Zero. I wonder what kids in Japan imagine they're shooting while they're playing with this...

They seem to enjoy fairly realistic (for a toy) cap guns over there. There's no bright orange markers, and the gun on the left shoots out a projectile when the cap is fired. Also on display were model kits that one could use to build realistic models of different automatic weapons.

After the toy store, we (I) hit the arcade. Again, the various passions of Japanese society were on display here. The first floor was half claw machines and half instant photo booths (!?). The next two or so floors were various gambling machines (pachinko, slots, and even an auto roulette wheel). A similar analogy from the toys can be written about the arcades, if an arcade had nothing but one 'game' it would be an instant photo booth. The top floor, though, was where the magic was: a whole floor of classic arcade games. It warmed my heart to see so many great games still being maintained (though if I had to guess, I'd say they were running on emulators, but the idea is still the same). Being a gaijin(foreigner) walking through the arcade with several cameras hanging off of me attracted more than a few stares; needless to say, I didn't take any photos in there. (As a side note, I went through the whole country without seeing a DDR game, what's up with that?)

After that, it was lunch time! The target for our meal was a concoction known as okonomiyaki. I'll apologize ahead of time if I bore anyone familiar with the dish to tears describing it, but it was one of my favorite meals of the trip (Was it swimmin' in BBQ sauce? You know it!). Okonomiyaki is described alternatively as a Japanese pancake or Japanese pizza. Complicating factors is that there are two methods to making okonomiyaki. The first is the 'Osaka' method where all the ingredients are mixed with the batter and then it is cooked (kind'a like a pancake). The other method is the clearly superior Hiroshima method where the batter is poured on the griddle and the ingredients (cabbage, shrimp, pork, squid, etc.) are added to the top. Although the end result is referred to as a 'pizza' of sorts, I thought it had more in common with a soft shelled tostada. Additionally with Hiroshima style, noodles are often added as an additional ingredient. On either variant, the okonomiyaki sauce (a type of BBQ sauce) is pored (very generously in my case) over the end product. On the down side, the Hiroshima style is probably quite difficult to eat without chopsticks, and would be nearly impossible to make without a huge flat cooking griddle.

Making Okonomiyaki.


This site will tell you more than you care to know on how to cook Hiroshima style okonomiyaki.

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