Exploring the Town of Mihara, Hiroshima Like a Samurai
In February I had the chance to take part in a monitor tour to the town of Mihara in Hiroshima prefecture. As I had never heard of this town before and I would like to share my experience to increase publicity of Mihara as a tourist spot.
The tour had the theme "Life of the Samurai" and included a dinner prepared the same way as in the Sengoku Period (1477 – 1573) and staying overnight at a temple like the samurai used to when traveling to Edo.
Mihara is a rather small town, that is not very well known even among Japanese tourists. By visiting Mihara you can enjoy a part of Japan that is not crowded with tourists or locals. I was very surprised to see almost nobody walking the streets and several shops on the main shopping street being closed when I arrived on a Sunday afternoon.
If you plan to visit Mihara I can recommend visiting during the time of Hinamatsuri as a lot of temples and shrines will have unique Hinamatsuri Dolls on display.
Eating Like a Samurai
One highlight of the tour was the dinner on the first day. It was the Sengoku Period-style meal I mentioned earlier. A samurai specialty dish called Gozen. At that time, soy sauce had not yet been invented and sugar was hard to find so it was prepared completely without soy sauce or sugar. The recipes were selected by a Hiroshima University research group and the meal was prepared by a local restaurant.
The meal consisted of two plates that came with various side dishes which were arranged very nicely. In the Sengoku Period, samurai used to eat 10 or more of such plates during dinner parties that lasted until morning.
As you might expect, the flavor of the food was rather light due to the limitation on spices. But it was a nice, refreshing taste compared to regular Japanese food and you had the reassuring feeling that you are eating something healthy.
Sleeping Like a Samurai
After dinner, the tour included an overnight stay at a Japanese temple, which included prayer performances of the Buddhist monks who run the temple.
This was a very unique experience that I can recommend for anyone interested in Buddhism.
Sleeping at the temple was not the most pleasant experience as it was rather cold, and the futon provided was not of the best quality. However, these aspects will probably be improved if the tour becomes more popular.
For breakfast, we had a freshly prepared Japanese style meal.
After breakfast, participants of the tour had the chance to take part in Sutra-writing. The copying of Buddhist sutras is a devotional practice, that comprises worship, literature, and calligraphy.
Later we visited a Daruma museum that is close to the temple. There you can see Daruma dolls from all over Japan. It was interesting to see what different Daruma dolls from different prefectures look like.
The tour is not yet available for the public. But once it does, I can recommend if for travelers that have already seen the major tourist spots and would like to explore parts of Japan that are lesser known.