The moment I announced that I was going to Japan, friends from near and far looked me in the eye and said "whatever you do, you MUST try okonomiyaki". This Japanese savory pancake had been an entirely foreign concept to me. I had no idea what went in it, what it looked like or just where it could be bought from. All I knew was that after seeing the expressions on the faces of my over-enthusiastic friends as they talked about this food sent down from the heavens - I needed to try it.
Okonomiyaki can be found all over Japan, with different regions bringing their own ingredients, flavors and techniques to the table. Hiroshima has long been renowned throughout Japan for its take on the delicious dish. In Hiroshima, noodles (either soba or udon) are used as one of the layers of the okonomiyaki. Hiroshima's unique twist on the dish has been met with open arms and open mouths by both locals and visitors alike. The popularity of okonomiyaki in Hiroshima is reflected in the huge number of places dedicated to selling it, and Okonomimiura is the embodiment of this.
Located in central Hiroshima, just behind the PARCO shopping centre, lies Okonomimura. This four story building decorated with lanterns and banners, houses over 25 different stalls each offering their own unique rendition of okonomiyaki. I suggest taking the stairs (not only to work up an appetite) but so you can take a peek through the doors and assess the scene before you're spotted. The general food rule applies here: lots of people = delicious okonomiyaki which will be worth the wait.
If you're like me and have no grasp of the Japanese language - do not be afraid! Whilst it can indeed be a little intimidating walking into a crowded place which is booming with noise and erupting with tantalizing smells, doing so will not disappoint. Chefs will more than likely go out of their way to make you feel right at home. Many pride themselves on having an English menu on hand and will even gladly help you make tough life decisions like whether to choose the soba or udon noodles in your okonomiyaki.
I pulled up a little red stool, sat myself down in front of the grill and watched as the batter, cabbage, egg, udon and sauce were layered, flipped and cooked into my very own famed okonomiyaki. Nothing beats watching your meal be cooked right before you. It feels as though you have some sort of connection with your food before you even eat it, simply because you have had the chance to watch its story unfold before your very eyes.
Places like Okonomimura are perfect for these all round experiences. Whilst it has been condemned as being a little too touristy for locals, if you're new to Japan and find yourself in Hiroshima, Okonomimura is a great place to become acquainted with okonomiyaki - you get the loud and vibrant atmosphere coupled with good wholesome food.