JR West × ABC Cooking Singapore West Japan Bloom Tour: Hiroshima

So recently, ABC Cooking Singapore was running a promotion whereby one lucky member will get to go on a 5D4N trip to West Japan. To participate in this giveaway, the member must either:
A) Top-up/ newly sign up for course
B) Refer a new member to sign up for course

When I learnt about this promotion, I was very keen to win it because it’s Japan and I love visiting Japan. It also features areas of Japan which I’ve never been to before. Towards the end of the participating period, I had a friend interested to sign up so that made me eligible to take part in the draw. Lo and behold – I won!!! I must have wanted it so badly until my wish actually came true! I’d like to emphasize that this was a fair game of lucky draw, and it wasn’t a pre-arranged winner behind the facade of a contest. Like every customer who joined the lucky draw, I counted my lucky stars and hoped to win when I dropped my entry into the lucky draw box.

Being a member of ABC Cooking Singapore really has many side perks and this is one of them – the opportunity to be a Japan trip winner! If you’re interested to know more about it, please check out my previous posts:

https://hungrybird.sg/2017/09/27/abc-cooking-studio/
https://hungrybird.sg/2017/12/03/abc-cooking-studio-part-2/ https://hungrybird.sg/2018/02/21/abc-cooking-studio-part-3/

The trip’s itinerary was planned by ABC Cooking Singapore and JR West and all I had to do was to follow through! I did not have much to prepare myself – I only had to follow. All transport, lodging, attractions and meals were fully paid for! I liked how the activities for this trip was kinda unique, not common tourist traps and everything happened matched my personal interests. I would not get to experience them if I were to figured it out myself, for sure! It was such a valuable opportunity and I’m so thankful to be given this chance.


Day 1

Upon touching down at KIX, the first destination was Hiroshima. Hiroshima is a good 330km away from Osaka, but we made it there in record speed thanks to the Shinkansen. Shinkansens are very expensive to ride on, but as a tourist, we were able to get a 5 day Kansai-Hiroshima pass for ¥13,500. A single Tokaido-Sanyo Shinkansen ride from Shin-Osaka to Hiroshima station would have cost ¥10,640, while the Limited Express Haruka train from KIX to Shin-Osaka would cost ¥3,050 (that makes it ¥13,690). In just the first leg of the whole trip from KIX to Hiroshima, we already used up more value than the cost of the ¥13,500 5 day ticket! And we will get unlimited of such rides throughout all 5 days. Travellers interested in visiting several places spanning from Hiroshima to Osaka should definitely get this pass.

The ride from Shin-Osaka to Hiroshima was 1h 20mins one so I grabbed a beautiful spring themed ekiben to eat on the train. I devoured everything in that box!

The agenda for Day 1 in Hiroshima was to visit the island of Miyajima, a very famous island of Hiroshima prefecture. Famous is an understatement – it was only Wednesday but this place was filled with tourists, both domestic and foreign, even though it wasn’t the most accessible place, requiring a ferry ride across with no bridge.

We took a local JR San-yo line train from Hiroshima station to Miyajima-guchi station, where the ferry terminal was located within a short walking distance. For holders of the Kansai-Hiroshima JR Pass, you can actually use the pass for the ferry ride as well, no extra cost! There are 2 ferry companies operating from the same place so look out for the sign which says “JR西日本宮島フェリー” if you have a JR West pass.

Lots of souvenir shops along this old  shopping street. I regretted not getting those beautiful sakura themed products…

This maple shaped wagashi, Momoji Manju, is a signature food item from Hiroshima. I didn’t try any though (no idea why I didn’t). *Regrets again*. However, I bought one box of Hiroshima special Kit Kat to try.

They have a lots of food along the shopping street. Oysters are a local speciality, while matcha isn’t really but that mountain of warabi mochi was too cute.

P1040659 (900x676)

This was the largest rice scoop ever made!

Local specialities for lunch – Anago and oysters! It was a pity that the famous shop we planned to have lunch at was sold out for the day. We made do with this random eatery that sells a variety of dishes. It was not bad and I definitely hope to try the famous restaurant if I come back on my own!

Miyajima is also known for their wild deers, but I personally do not find them cute. They are rather aggressive and rude, and not docile like those in Nara. One of them even stole my food when I put it aside while taking photos! This giant poodle was so much cuter in my opinion.

The torii gate of Itsukushima Shrine is probably the most iconic thing of Miyajima. Just look at the amount of people around it! It was unfortunately low tide while I was here, so instead of the sea of water, we get sea of humans. It would be really beautiful of it was surrounded with water. When you arrive at Miyajima-guchi train station they’ll actually have a sign to indicate what time the tides change, just in case you wanted to know before physically walking there to find out.

Itsukushima Shrine itself is an attraction of Miyajima too, with entrance fee of ¥300 for adults. The picture on the ticket shows what it looks like with high tide. The whole shrine will be surrounded by water and the reflection of shrine in the water is what makes it beautiful and special.

I chanced upon this coffee cafe selling Hattendo custard cream buns! We have this in Singapore too, but since it’s from Hiroshima, so I MUST have it here! For Miyajima they have a special packaging with deer and torii gate motifs. The bun itself was delicious.

It was a warm day so I had sweet potato soft serve from this stall which also sells freshly roasted chestnuts. This was also the very cup of ice cream that was stolen by a wild deer while I was taking pictures! Thankfully I finished most of it before it got stolen.

Goodbye Miyajima! I hope to be back soon, for famous Anago next time!

The hotel for the night was Hotel Granvia Hiroshima. This hotel is directly linked to Hiroshima Station. You do not need to walk on any roads – you can even find direction signs within the station for this hotel! The Hotel Granvia chain is part of the JR Hotel Group, affiliated to Japan Railways. These hotels are going to be the most convenient hotels you can ever find in Japan if you’re travelling by train!

For typical business hotel standards, Hotel Granvia Hiroshima exceeded my expectations and I enjoyed my room a lot. I also like how they had space for this artistic chair and coffee table in the room. The bed was very comfortable and not placed against the wall. The room was very new and the features were luxurious. They even had 2 pillows – Tempur memory foam pillow and down feather pillow to choose from.

Hotel Granvia Hiroshima
1-5 Matsubaracho, Minami Ward, Hiroshima, Hiroshima Prefecture 732-0822, Japan

Dinner for the evening was at Steakhouse Jinseki within the hotel. It was Teppanyaki with a view.

Appetizer and salad

Seafood

Garlic rice

Beef sirloin from Kumamoto

We only asked the staff about the source of beef after we started eating. I ordered sirloin and it was from Kumamoto while the others who had tenderloin had beef from Kagoshima.

Kumamoto wagyu is typically from Japanese Brown cattle (赤牛 aka ushi) – a relatively rarer species. 90% of wagyu is from actually Japanese Black cattle including the famous brands like Kobe, Matsusaka and Omi Beef. I found that this beef wasn’t really what I preferred. Had I known earlier, I would have gone for tenderloin! Kagoshima wagyu is from Japanese black cattle.

Sakura mochi and matcha

While it was not the best Teppanyaki meal and Japanese beef I’ve had in Japan, it was definitely better than most things we get out of Japan so I am not complaining. I loved the sakura mochi as dessert! This course cost ¥14,000.


Day 2

Hotel Granvia Hiroshima offers two choices for breakfast – Western buffet or Japanese set breakfast. I was running short of time so I opted for the buffet option. The spread was of super good quality and the omelette was so good! It was a pity that we had only one night here.

The activity for today was still within Hiroshima prefecture though – we were bound for an island called Oosaki-kamijima 大崎上島. Don’t worry if you’ve never heard of it because me neither! This place is a rural island and probably very few tourist would set foot on it. It’s very different from the famous Miyajima we visited the previous day.

To get there:
Hiroshima Station -> Mihara Station (Tokaido Sanyo Shinkansen)
Mihara Station-> Takehara Station (Local JR Kure Line)
Takehara Station -> Takehara Ferry Terminal (Taxi or bus)
Takehara Ferry Terminal -> Oosaki-kamijima (Ferry)

However, we had a hiccup at Takehara station because we thought the ferry terminal was within walk-able distance. Turns out it was at least 1.4km away so we detoured back to the train station after walking about 10mins so we could get a taxi (note to all potential visitors: take taxi right from the train station!). Takehara itself is pretty rural and you won’t find taxis along the streets. As a result, we missed the intended ferry and with the next one only coming an hour later, we had an early lunch at the ferry terminal’s restaurant, Blue Harbor, instead. This turned out to be a really good mistake because this humble unknown restaurant on the 3F of the ferry terminal turned out to serve pretty good food!

Just look at that roast beef! I’ve never had Roast Beef so good before. I was under the impression that roast beef is meant to be dry and usually brown – you know those which are carved from buffet spreads? But this one was so soft, juicy and of the perfect medium doneness. It even came with a perfect onsen egg! They served this in 3 sizes, 80g (¥1080) being the smallest one. Even now, I still regret not getting 200g (¥2000) instead. The largest 400g size (¥3776) should be good for sharing between 2 pax. Every main course for lunch comes with one free potato salad as well. Very good value I must say!

ブルーハーバー Blue Harbor
4-2-24 Minatomachi Station Takehara Ferry Station 3F, Takehara, Hiroshima

Once we arrived on Oosaki-kamijima, we had a car come pick us up to head to Iwasaki farm for some lemon muffin & jam making session. This island is probably the most rural part of Japan that I’ve seen so far, which is not surprising since it quite far away from the mainland.

The lemon jam & muffin baking session at Iwasaki Farm 岩崎農園 has to be booked beforehand. What’s so special about lemons you may ask? Well in this part of Japan, there’s an area called Setouchi and they are famous for lemons like how Aomori is famous for apples. The best lemons in Japan are produced in this area of West Japan. You probably won’t believe it until you’ve smelt it, but these lemons are crazily fragrant!

I’ve always been a fan of Japanese fruits after trying their musk melon, strawberries, apple, pear, grapes etc – they were all different from the usual fruit we get for cheap in Singapore, which I was never a fan of (I do not have the habit of nor enjoy eating fruits). I could taste the difference when having Japanese produce and I know Japanese fruits are usually better, but never did I imagine that lemons from Japan could be different as well! I mean, it’s just lemons right? So wrong. Simply by smelling it, you can tell that these are a whole new level of fragrant, it puts air freshener and dish washing liquid to shame. It’s the unreal kind of fragrance we’re talking about.

Having keen interest in baking (and cooking), I was really excited when I saw baking in the itinerary. This trip is truly tailored for fans of ABC Cooking, since we all like being in the kitchen! The recipe was really simple, and the muffins turned out to be delicious all thanks to having great lemons to begin with. The flavour was perfect.

We got to pick out jars of various shapes and sizes and designed our own labels as well. That wasn’t something I was expecting to do so it’s a bonus! The jam is made only from Setouchi lemons and granulated sugar – no other additives. If you are interested in this experience, do give them a call.

Iwasaki Farm 岩崎農園
広島県豊田郡大崎上島上島町中野4093-1

TEL: 0846-64-5353

We were later brought to visit a lemon house where they grow lemons in a temperature controlled environment.

The kind owner even suggest this mountain top location for us to have a citrus themed picnic! We had fresh Japanese mikan orange, lemon muffins and hot lemon water. The citrus themed table cloth was custom made. This is truly a one of a kind experience!

Spotted some sakura lookalike on the way!

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Ekiben

After a long day in Oosaki-kamijima, off we go to Okayama Prefecture via the Shinkansen. There’s always room for some ekiben! Mihara is famous for octopus and you can find it featured in this ekiben.

That’s all for Hiroshima this trip! I didn’t get to explore most of the tourists attractions like the Peace Memorial, Hiroshima Castle (which is a remake of the original since it was entirely destroyed from the war) or even the downtown Hondori shopping area, which was a distance away from Hiroshima station. However, that gives me a good reason to return again and hopefully I will get to try the famous Anago restaurant as well as other local delicacies unique to Hiroshima.

Next up: Okayama…

 

 

 

 

 

 

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