Fukuyama Pub Crawl
When I go on trips, I feel a unique flow of time in each town. Wanting to get in synch with this flow means following the lead of the locals.
The sight of them opening doors with practiced hands then saying “I’ll take the usual” without even cracking open the menu as they plant themselves in what seems to be their usual spot is just so cool. Ah, I’d like to say that myself one day.
Home to both renowned establishments with deep roots in region since times of old as well as casual standing bars, Fukuyama is easy place to find oneself in the midst of a pub crawl.
While some may ask, “Isn’t it hard for travelers to go to places frequented by regulars only?” that is not the case at all. Spots where the locals gather are the perfect places to see what a town is like when it lets its hair down. Throw yourself in there and drink shoulder-shoulder with the rest of the crowd. If you aren’t sure, just duck through the noren (shop curtain) and grab a beer.
① Jiyuuken (Motomachi)
“Jiyuuken” is an eatery offering Western cuisine and oden located in Motomachi. Apparently, the previous owner was a Western-style cook who opened up this establishment in 1951.
It’s quite frequent to find the counter seats pretty much full even early in the evening upon opening the sliding door. At these times, a cheery hostess comes out and keeps the place in order with a “Wait a little bit and a spot will open up shortly! ”
The big U-shaped counter that wraps through the interior is lined people of all ages, both young and old. I start off with some beer and oden. When the staff shout my order toward the kitchen in back, the hostess repeats it in an even louder voice to confirm.
The hostess places the oden in a dish, drain the broth, and then applies some miso-based sauce. The salty-sweet sauce is a perfect fit.
On the TV is a Carps game (the Hiroshima baseball team). It’s fun to see everyone on the edge of their seats as they look up at the screen. The way hearing their idle chatter makes me feel as if I’ve become part of the local flow makes me happy.
Though tempted by the omelet rice that is a surefire bet among regulars, if I’m on a crawl, then I need to leave with a little room left in my stomach (but please don’t hold back if you’re a big eater).
Jiyuuken: 6-3 Motomachi, Fukuyama-shi, Hiroshima-ken
11:30 to 22:00, Closed Tuesdays
② Izakaya Ono (Nobuhiro-cho)
“Izakaya Ono” in Nobuhiro-cho came highly recommended by the locals to the tune of “Do you like sake? Then go check out Ono”.
“We have everything we like to drink,” says the owner across the counter as I am awed by the rarely-seen breadth of their selection. It’s a great place to sample Fukuyama specialties like small fried fish, gasu-ten (tempura made with minced fish and burdock root), and chiichii squid while comparing sake.
I spent a blissful time sipping away as I listened to the owner explain each brand of spirits.
Izakaya Ono: 2-18 Nobuhiro-cho, Fukuyama-shi, Hiroshima-ken
17:00 to 25:00, Closed Sundays
“Inadaya” is an eatery by day that becomes one of the locals’ favorite drinking spots at night. It still feels like the days of Showa (1926-1989) within the interior filled by weathered wooden tables and stools.
I started with some of their “Kanton-ni” (a local variety of oden). This skewer of innards cooked up sweet n’ salty with soy sauce and granulated sugar goes down amazingly with beer. Colon is called “white”, while lungs are called “black”, with people living in the area apparently even coming around with their own pots to buy some.
Upon hearing that the local style is eat it covered with separately-ordered chopped spring onions and a bit of Ichimi pepper on top, I had to give it try for myself, of course.
Inadaya: 1-18 Funamchi, Fukuyama-shi, Hiroshima-ken
11:00 to 15:00, 16:00 to 20:00, Closed Thursdays
④ Kushiage Sakkuru (Fushimicho)
My final stop was “Kushiage Sakkuru” at the Fushimicho entrance in front of Fukuyama Station. It has a casual atmosphere that makes it very easy to pop in for a bite.
The wall is decorated with a map of the area around Fukuyama Station back in 1936 that is fun to look at, and if you’re lucky, you can listen in on some of the locals speaking of their memories of the town while you drink. You might find that Fukuyama looks a bit different upon stepping outside after munching on a few of Sakkuru’s piping hot skewers smothered in homemade sauce.
Kushiage Sakkuru: 1-1 Fushimicho, Fukuyama-shi, Hiroshima-ken
Following the locals around to good spots is great fun. It’s a dazzling pub crawl trip one can make on every visit in at Fukuyama.
Translation: Luke Baker