There is no better way to get to know a place in Japan - its past and its present - than through its food. Hiroshima is saddled with a heavy, heavy history that tends to overshadow everything else. However, among Japanese, Hiroshima is also famous for its food: The city is the birthplace of a much-loved dish called Hiroshima Okonomiyaki (a kind of savory pancake; more on that later), which grew out of the scrappy, determined post-WWII years. Hiroshima is also the center of a larger prefecture, of the same name, defined by its long border with the Inland Sea. The coastline is punctuated with fishing villages. All kinds of delicacies are pulled from these waters, including roughly two thirds of the oysters in Japan.
I'd been to Hiroshima ten years ago, as a backpacker, rushing through the sights, as most visitors do. I missed out on some potentially great meals and also a chance to see another side of Hiroshima - its vital side. When Hiroshima prefecture invited me to come sample the local food culture, I couldn't say no. This time, I'd do it right. Bonus: They even let me pick where I wanted to go.