Kitahiroshima is a town north of Hiroshima, a place full of tradition. Exploring the Japanese countryside reveals sprawling rice paddies, serene mountains, and a peaceful atmosphere, but what really makes Kitahiroshima unique is its food culture. This area celebrates every part of the process, from planting to eating. Finding fresh, local food is incredibly easy. Buying locally has become trendy in many other parts of the world, but here, using local food has been around for a while. It's reminiscent of an older Japan centered on small communities, and the rich culture and history of the area is part of their dedication to keeping their food as local as possible.
For a short day trip, start at Chiyoda Bus Station where you can find the Michino-eki Mai Road IC Chiyoda Information center, part of Kitahiroshima's tourist association. The staff are friendly and helpful and they have English brochures and information available.
For lunch, go to Michi-no Eki, a building adjacent to the station. This place will have food lovers drooling. Half of the building is made of a market with plenty of choices for local food and handmade goods. The other half of the building is made of the restaurant, Hibiki. This is a perfect combination of price and quality. For 1350 yen, you have access to an amazing buffet with fresh, local ingredients. Each day you have access to about 100 different dishes, with both Japanese traditional food and Western fare. The menu rotates through over 500 dishes based on the season and available ingredients.
The tantalizing array has selections for both the picky and adventurous. Try a salad, yakisoba, rice balls, tempura, cheesy potato soup, desserts, or the most buttery, delicious popcorn you've ever tasted. Every dish has vibrant flavors that join together to create a memorable experience. You can even try tamago kake gohan which is rice with a raw egg and soy sauce added on top then mixed together. The staff are quick and helpful and be quick yourself as many of the platters are emptied by hungry customers soon after being brought out.
If you have a car or are willing to take a taxi, travel to the Donguri village nearby. Here you will find a famous soba dojo, Toyohira soba doujo, known for producing many soba masters. While there, you can have the unique opportunity of trying soba uchi, literally translated as "soba beating." You will be given a card that is stamped each time you come to show your level, and if you go enough you can achieve mastery yourself! One table, which can accommodate up to five people, is 3,400 yen. You, along with any friends brave enough to try, can go through the hour long process of making soba. You then get to enjoy your handmade soba in the restaurant area of the dojo!
After your lesson in the art of soba, head back towards Chiyoda Bus Station. If you go on Sunday, you might be able to catch a kagura (Japanese traditional theater) show at Hibiki. They have free shows once a month, and they often post the schedule on their website. If you stick around after the show, you can take pictures with various characters, and even try on a kagura costume!
This trip is a fun way to spend time with friends and is pretty simple so basic Japanese should be enough. If you like getting out of the city to see an authentic Japanese atmosphere, Kitahiroshima should definitely be on your list!