Although Hiroshima is famous for its oysters throughout the year, it is during winter, in the coldest month of February that they’re at their best. Sure you can go to a famous restaurant or oyster bar in Hiroshima to enjoy them, but for something more fun (and certainly cheaper!), why not brave the cold and head to one of the many oyster festivals held along the coast. Perhaps the biggest and most well-known of these is the Miyajima Oyster Festival, held on the second weekend of February every year.
Oysters have been farmed in the Seto Inland Sea around for centuries, with the large, succulent shellfish prized as far away as Osaka. So it’s no surprise the festival draws crowds. The stalls are just beyond the Miyajima Ferry Terminal, so you’re already more or less in the thick of things when you exit the building. The lines move fairly quickly, but they can be long, so if waiting isn’t your idea of fun (and you can face the idea of oysters for breakfast) you might want to arrive early; the festival begins at 10 am.
Or alternatively, you could just look for the shortest line. Grilled or fried oysters are usually the most popular, but there are many other choices available. If okonomiyaki, the soul food of Hiroshima is your thing, try the oyster version or keep warm and toasty with dote nabe, a type of hotspot stew with oysters cooked in a thick miso broth. Delicious! Whatever you choose, you can be guaranteed of eating some of the freshest oysters around. You can even buy a sack of raw oysters to take home and prepare however you like. And if you aren’t averse to a drop of alcohol, sake (hot or room temperature) and beer are available as well. It probably goes without saying that the glow of a sake or two can cast things in an entirely different light, and as the day wears on you’ll find plenty of company.
Most of the oyster dishes are only about 200 yen, and if you or someone you’re with really just can’t handle them, there are some other things on sale as well, both at the festival and immediately adjacent. The takoyaki and fried potato chip stalls, for instance, remain open year-round, and you’ll always be able to find a steaming bowl of udon. And of course, there are Miyajima’s famous Momiji manju as well. You’re only a two-minute walk from Miyatoyo, on the corner just before you turn into the shopping arcade. A warm sackful of their almond chocolate manju will make a better person out of almost anyone.
At any festival worthy of the name you’ll find entertainment, and the Miyajima Oyster Festival is no exception. On Sunday, the popular and lively local style of Kagura takes center stage, along with taiko drumming. If you have children, keep that in mind; Sunday will probably be more entertaining for the younger set unless you’re blessed with a toddler who’s especially passionate about shellfish. And of course, you have the rest of the island to explore when you’ve had your fill. All in all, it’s a great weekend for the whole family and an oyster lover’s delight. Best of all, it’s a free event so you’ll only pay for what you eat and drink. Bundle up and head for Miyajima this February and enjoy some of the island’s justly famous ‘jewels of the sea.”
Dates: February 8-9, 2020
Open: 10:00 – 15:00
Price: Free admission
Location: In front of the ferry terminal in Miyajima, Hatsukaichi-shi, Hiroshima Prefecture (map link)
Official Website (English): www.miyajima.or.jp/english/event/event_kaki.html
Photo by Daderot [Public domain], via Wikimedia Commons