Header image courtesy of Kaki-ya
Miyajima (宮島) is a small island less than an hour away from the city of Hiroshima. Home to the Itsukushima Shrine as well as the iconic floating Great Torii gate, Miyajima is regarded as one of the most scenic spots in Japan. In addition to being a UNESCO World Heritage Site, the tiny island is also home to equally venerable and historic restaurants and cafés serving delicacies unique to Miyajima.
Hiroshima is famous for its oysters. On the ferry to Miyajima island, try to spot the beds of oysters on the ocean floor. Oysters can be found in almost every restaurant in Miyajima. You can have them raw, grilled, steamed, or deep-fried, plus in hot pot and soup dishes.
Kakiya (牡蠣屋) is the only Michelin-recommended restaurant on the island, and one of the most popular food spots in Miyajima specialising in the prized shellfish. Their Kakiya Set features grilled oysters in their shells, deep-fried oysters, preserved oysters, steamed oysters on rice, oyster miso soup, as well as their house salad with Japanese pickles. The grilled variety is exceptionally delicious—fat, juicy, and flavourful. Only top-quality local oysters are selected to be charbroiled over a flaming fire pit. If you still can’t get enough of delicious molluscs, order a few raw ones the size of your palm for dessert.
Kakiya is open from 10 am until all oysters are sold out. English menus are available, and English-speaking staff are on hand to help as well.
Kakiya, 539 Miyajimacho Hatsukaichi-shi Hiroshima (広島県 廿日市市 宮島町 539)
As you walk around the island, savour the tantalising scents wafting from food stands that serve grilled and skewered oysters with various toppings and sauces. Oysters are available all-year-round in Miyajima, but true connoisseurs say winter is the best season to enjoy them.
Hiroshima is responsible for over half of all lemons produced in Japan, more than any other region. The lemons are known for their high acidity and are grown without the use of pesticides. They are used in a variety of baked goods, the most famous being the lemon cake.
Coffee & Bakery Shima (喫茶しま) is a café located on Omotesando Shopping Street, known amongst locals as Kissa Shima. Shima’s lemon cakes are handmade with natural honey from Miyajima and lemons from Setouchi (瀬戸内). The lemon cakes are dense, flavourful, and refreshing; you can taste a mild sweetness from the honey and sugar icing on top. They go exceptionally well with Miyajima coffee, another signature item served in this well-known spot.
The cafe is open from 8.30 am to 5 pm, and closed on Wednesdays. It’s a great breakfast spot in the middle of the busy shopping street.
Coffee & Bakery Shima, 588 Miyajimacho, Hatsukaichi, Hiroshima (広島県 廿日市市 宮島町 北之町浜588)
Anago (conger eel) is always being mixed up with the widely popular unagi (river eel). Unlike the rich and fatty unagi, anago is leaner, lighter, and less oily. Back in the old days, anago was a peasant’s dish. Now, anago-meshi (conger eel with rice) is considered a local speciality.
Ueno (うえの) first opened during the reign of Emperor Meiji, over 130 years ago. The founder, Ueno Tanukichi, first created anago-meshi as an affordable take-out bento box for pilgrims travelling between the newly opened Miyajimaguchi train station and the ferry pier of Miyajima. Over a century later, Ueno still serves its anago-meshi the same way it did to the pilgrims—grilled to perfection and at its original location, no less.
Ueno’s legendary anago-meshi (grilled conger eel on rice) is the restaurant’s signature, and the only dish served there. The anago is deboned by hand, brushed with their sweet and savoury soy-mirin glaze sauce, and broiled over a charcoal fire. The cooked eel is then layered on top of fluffy Japanese rice cooked with dashi (fish stock) broth derived from the bones of anago. The donburi (rice bowl) also comes with a bowl of hearty miso soup and crunchy tsukemono (Japanese pickles).
The restaurant’s antique wooden facade and interior is also part of the charm. The cosy ambience completes the experience of feasting upon a simple yet delicious bowl of anago-meshi. Ueno is open Thursday to Tuesday from 11.00 am to 7.00 pm, and Wednesdays for take-out only.
Ueno, Miyajima-guchi 1-5-11, Hatsukaichi-shi, Hiroshima Prefecture (広島県 廿日市市 宮島口 1-5-11)
You can get to Miyajima from Hiroshima by train or car. The train departs from Hiroshima station every 15 minutes, reaching Miyajimaguchi station (on the JR Sanyo Line) in just 30 minutes. From there, it’s a 10-minute ferry ride to the island of Miyajima. There are two ferry services available, JR and Matsudai. The JR Ferry is free for those with the Japan Rail Pass, while a round trip adult ticket for the Matsudai ferry costs ¥360.