Friday, September 30, 2011


We have officially survived our first month in Iwakuni, Japan.

Hope this day finds you healthy and happy!

Thursday, September 29, 2011


We decided not to eat dinner on Miyajima Island and wait till we got back to Iwakuni. It is a big tourist area so the prices weren't favorable. Since we weren't staying overnight in the area we decided to go back to Coco Ichibanya in Iwakuni instead... because it is so yummy.

But we did have some snacks. One thing we wanted were fresh momiji. This time Dustin got the sweet bean paste. They were warm and fresh and the centers were still very gooey.

On our way out there were many vendors still selling their goodies. We saw eel and octopus on a stick, popcorn, grilled oysters, and French fries. One stand smelled so good and had these sticks spinning really fast over hot coals. On the sticks was a meat wrapped around. I asked the man what it was and he said "fish." So we opted to try it.

It was SQUID! Eww! 

Also scattered throughout the park were beer vending machines. The drinking age here in twenty, but it doesn't seem to be strictly enforced. 

Miyajima Aquarium

On the other side of the island is the aquarium. It only shows animals/fish from the surrounding area.

Oyster beds
 They had fresh and salt water exhibits. We met three porpoises and many penguins. They also have an extensive touch-tank area to pick up starfish, horseshoe crabs, and other crab species.

 Nemo doesn't translate and it was the one word we could make out from all the locals at this tank. All the children were screaming "Nemo!"

Posing w/ Nemo
It took me a while to get used to the map layouts on all the plaques. Japan is in the center instead of having it be a part of the far east.

This guy was just ugly...


Miyajima Animals

Miyajima is known for it's floating torii gate, but also for the deer. They were wild at one point, but now are so used to people they walk among you looking for food. They tried to get our map a few times.

We watched this deer dig into a stroller looking for snacks. The owner pushed him away forcefully multiple times, but this little deer was pretty persistent. Something was tasty...

Around the beaches were a few hawks that would swoop down and grab at food. We tried getting a picture of them flying, but our camera is not fast enough. It was a little scary at how fast they would come flying down.

During our hiking up the mountain we found some beautiful spider webs. Most of them were very elaborate and would span the entire trail. The spiders on them were HUGE! I know there is nothing to show scale in this picture, but I would estimate they were the side of my hand.

There are many creeks and erosion ditches along the way. On one of the bridges we met this little guy... who looks like he just ate a ham sandwich. He was still pretty fast, but definitely weighed down by something in his belly.

Miyajima is also the permanent home for many people. Behind a gate we found two foxes in a garden. This one was kind enough to pose for a few pictures before scampering away.

Miyajima Island

Another tourist area nearby is Miyajima Island. The island is in the Seto Inland Sea and is considered to be holy land by Japanese followers of shinto.

To get there we walked the two and a half miles to the Iwakuni train station. From there is is a short train ride north. We got off at the Miyajimaguchi Station and walked to the port. To get to the island you have to take a ferry ride for about $20.
Ferry Caption
From the boat could see Miyajima. Doesn't it look like something out of a Jurassic Park movie?

Oyster Flats
Miyajima Island is a big tourist area. Many Japanese come here to pray at one of the many shrines or temples. The torii gate is also the only floating torii. It's not actually floating, but at high tide appears to be. It has only been destroyed seven times in the last 1500 years. The current torii has been "floating" for over 400 years. It is made of wood and is not anchored, but rather supported by its own weight.
Low tide
Once through the torii gate, the Japanese would go to the Itsukushima Shrine. Built with interconnected boardwalks the building appears to be floating during high tide. For a small fee we walked through it although we avoided the praying and fortune-telling areas.
Side building with pogoda
While walking through the shrine we found the steepest bridge I have ever seen. The picture doesn't do it justice. It was blocked off, but I don't think I could walk up it.

The island has muliple parks scattered around the island. On the west side of the island is a rope way that has cable cars to take you up the mountains. Mt. Misen is the tallest mountain on the island and is 1,755 feet above sea level.

We decided to walk through Momijidani park and take the ropeway. Along the way up the foothills we passed many shrines and temples.

Entrance to Shinto Shrine
When we got to the bottom of the ropeway we discovered the line to go up was at least an hour long. So we opted to climb the mountain on foot. Oh, and it was a climb. All stairs...

Climbing the mountain
The hike wasn't very long, but it was straight up. I was actually wishing for switchbacks. At the top the trail splits to go to the ropeway of to continue further up the mountain. Every now and then along the trail we would pass little Buddha statues. Often they had yen sitting on them. They were all different types. One was lifting a dumbbell, another was doing jung fu, one was laughing... they were very comical.
small statues

At the top is another shrine and the eternal flame. The signs read that the flame has been burning constantly since the 1100s. It was used to light the flame in the Peace Memorial Park in Hiroshima.

A shinto shrine
The view from the top was magnificent... and worth all those stairs.


There is a small tower with a snack/ drink shop at the top of Mt. Misen. We shared a bowl of udon noodles with tofu and shaved ice. It was very tasty!
There are three other trails up the mountain that we want to come back and explore. Hopefully next time it won't be all stairs!

High tide

Sunday, September 25, 2011


The Monzen area of base is where we live and it is seperated from the rest of the base by a river. We cross a long bridge to go anywhere, but at the same time we are closer to getting out the back gate and off base. We like it.

All around us though are lotus fields. Haven't really noticed a fragrance yet, but they are pretty to look at. They are not blooming right now, but I imagine in the spring the view is even better.

Through the fence...

Kimono Koozie?

While we were walking off our full bellies from Ganesh we found a window display at a restaurant. They were really busy so we had to be sneaky with our picture taking.

Yes, that's right. A kimono bottle koozie. At least we think... I'll have to ask a local to clarify.


We really like exploring the city and find ourselves walking off base more evenings then staying home. The walk from our front door, across base, and to downtown Iwakuni us about two and a half miles. It's an easy walk with sidewalks from almost the whole way. Plus then we don't feel guilty about devouring delicious food in town.

Friday is a late night for me so we didn't get started until about 6PM. I had gotten a recommendation to try a noodle shop called G. Labo. I was feeling some Italian food especially something that is said to "put Olive Garden on the Burger King level."

The Japanese are much more formal so I always feel like I'm dressing up when we go out. I'm always the most casual compared to the locals because I can't justify making the long walk in heels. But that's another post...

We found G. Labo after some exploring, but they were closed for a private party. Instead we walked back to the covered mall area and went to Ganesh, an Indian restaurant. Oh, more good food!

Chicken with small salad
 I don't know what seasonings they put on the chicken, but it was fantastic. I think they cook it on skewers. The salad had a light drizzle of dressing. It was spicy and creamy and fit perfectly with the chicken.
Spinach and Potato Curry
 I got the spinach and potato curry at the regular level. It was good, but not great. I should have upped the spiciness level because I felt it was a little bland.

Chicken Egg Curry
 Dustin got the chicken and egg curry at a level one. It was really good and had chunks of hard-boiled eggs in it. Also it had nuts sprinkled in it that made for a good crunch. I had a bite of his and thought it was really good. He must have too because he finished the whole thing.

Paratha and Naan
 Dustin wanted cheese naan, but I wanted paratha. So we got them both. I would come again just for the bread.

Guaba and Mango Lassies
Indian food isn't complete without a lassie. They were very good. I had the mango one and finished it pretty quick. It was a great way to clean off the spicy from our tongues.

Coco Ichibanya

!!!!!!  Excellent food!!!!

Okay, let me start from the beginning. When we learned we were getting orders to Japan all our friends and coworkers started putting in their two cents about housing, driving, restaurants, and culture. The one thing that everyone agreed on was Coco Ichibanya. I'm certain we received more recommendations to try CoCo's then we have fingers and toes combined.

So Wednesday night we walked downtown to have curry. Unfortunately, we were so hungry and the food smelled so good that we forgot to take pictures until we were already stuffing our faces.

Beef Cutlet Curry

Breaded Chicken Cutlet with Cheese

It was the best food we have had so far. They have various levels of hotness. I started with the child level because I've heard it can get pretty spicy. I wasn't sure of the Japanese version of spiciness. Dustin started at a level one of ten. Oh, it was so delicious! We cleaned our plates and then waddled the two and a half miles home.

Coco Ichibanya is a chain curry house and is considered fast food. Even better: English menu.

Wednesday, September 21, 2011

Momiji manju

Another Hiroshima specialty are momiji manju. We searched a couple stores until we found a whole floor in a shopping mall dedicated to sweets. (Best floor ever!)

We finally found a store that had these in the window. We were recommended to have them fresh out of the pan, but this would have to do.

The translation is "cake in maple-leaf shape with filling." They come with a variety of fillings such as custard, cheese, or the traditional sweet bean taste.

We opted to play it safe the first time and get chocolate filling. I would describe the outside as a soft pancake with a thicker cream filling.

It was really tasty! Next time we are going to find some fresh...

Monday, September 19, 2011

Hiroshima Castle

A couple blocks up from the Peace park is Hiroshima Castle. It was destroyed during the a-bomb, but was rebuilt in the 50's.

Outside Wall
 The castle stood for hundreds of years and was the beginnings of a military presence in Hiroshima. We learned about the feudal lords who developed the land, build the moats (three total) and lived in the castle for over 700 years uninterrupted. Once we crossed the entry bridge we found a free tour of the guard wall. Inside they had miniatures of how the area looked over the centuries.

 The castle is considered a special area so we were required to take off our shoes. They have soled booties that you borrow so you aren't barefoot. I think technically we weren't supposed to take them because we had socks on, but we didn't realize till we saw others in the museum.

The first room had real tatami mats and described how they would be laid out for guests and the royalty.

Tatami room
 The rest of the building had rules about photography so we got a picture of the outside. A large drum was at the very end that was used to signal meal times and announce danger. We thought it would be smart to attack at supper because then they would just think it was time for chow.

Castle Wall
 Most of buildings inside the castle wall have not been rebuilt. Many are still ruins left over from the a-bomb. The rest of the area has turned into a park. While walking through it we came across this tree. It is one of very few trees to have survived the nuclear bomb in the whole city. They have pictures of it over the years. Now it seems to be pretty healthy.

My Gloria Gaynor tree
 Another section of the park is the Shinto shrine. The white torii gates designates that it is a Shinto shrine and means we can enter. We are not allowed to enter a Buddhist temple.

Shinto Shrine
 They were setting up for a large outdoor event so much of the area was closed off to the public. We did snap a picture of the water fountains. We have seen them around in other Shinto shrines, but this one was photo-worthy. You take the bamboo cup and pour the water into your hand to drink.

Water Fountain

Moat #1
 Finally after a winding trail we made it up to the castle. The inside has been turned into a museum and for a small fee you can climb to the top. This was the most interesting museum I have been in so far. It has exhibits that show you how samurai lived. It showed the comparison between samurai and the merchant class. There were sets of clothes that you could try on to see how heavy the samurai getup was during the time. It is definitely geared towards children. Unfortunately you can't take any pictures inside.

Hiroshima Castle
The view from the top is breathtaking. I understand why the feudal lords decided to select the area. You can see the whole city of Hiroshima. Add in protection of three moats and the natural barrier of the river and I understand why it stood for so long. Definitely a fun trip!