Skipping Hiroshima’s most famous food brought us to a place that both is and isn’t representative of the city.

When the SoraNews24 team is traveling in Japan (and overseas too), we like to ask our taxi drivers for restaurant recommendations, since we figure they know the area pretty well. Usually, we ask for them to recommend somewhere to eat whatever the local specialty is, so ordinarily we’d be asking the Hiroshima cabbies where to eat okonomiyaki, a savory crepe topped with layers of shredded cabbage, bean sprouts, meats, seafood, a grilled egg, and often yakisoba noodles.

▼ Hiroshima-style okonomiyaki is different from Osaka-style okonomiyaki, and committing the faux pas of calling it “Hiroshima-yaki” is an easy way to get on the locals’ bad side.

But as delicious as Hiroshima-style okonomiyaki is, our Japanese-language reporter P.K. Sanjun was in the mood for something different on his recent trip to Hiroshima. P.K. finds himself in Hiroshima about once a year, usually for only a night or two, and this time he decided to skip the okonomiyaki and try something else, to broaden his knowledge of the local restaurant scene. After all, it’s not like the people of Hiroshima eat okonomiyaki for every single meal, right?

So as P.K. slid into the back seat of his taxi, he asked the driver if he could take him to “a good Hiroshima restaurant that serves something other than okonomiyaki.” Sometimes when we do this sort of thing, the suddenness of the request means it takes a while for the driver to decide on a candidate, but P.K.’s cabbie this time, a man in his 60s who’d grown up in Japan’s central Kansai region before moving to Hiroshima, said it was no problem, and promptly drove him to Musubi Musashi.

▼ むさし = Musashi

“Musashi” is a common Japanese name, and “musubi” is a way of saying “rice ball.” If you’re thinking “Wait a second, I thought ‘onigiri’ was how to say ‘rice ball’ in Japanese,” you’re not wrong, as both words are understandable. In practice, though, the word “onigiri” is used more often in east Japan, and “musubi” more often in the west.

From Musubi Musashi’s name, P.K. expected it to be a rice ball specialty shop, but it’s actually got light fare like udon and soba noodles on the menu too. The local chain has nine branches in Hiroshima Prefecture, including two close to Hiroshima Station, but P.K.’s driver had dropped him at the Ebisu branch in downtown Hiroshima, not too far from the Hondori covered shopping arcade and Peace Memorial Park.

P.K.’s driver had recommended two items, one of which was the tenmusu for 460 yen (US$3.10). “Tenmusu” is a shortened version of “tempura ebi musubi,” and they’re rice balls with a tempura shrimp inside.

Tenmusu are most commonly associated with Nagoya, but Musubi Musashi does a great job with them too, and the sesame seeds along one end are a nice, distinctive touch. The real star, though, was the other recommendation from the cabbie, Musubi Musashi’s 750-yen Genki Udon.

This is Musubi Musashi’s take on ankake udon, which has a thick, starchy soup stock. Genki means “energetic,” especially in a happy, active sort of way, and the Genki Udon is loaded with garlic and black pepper. While ankake udon itself isn’t hard to find in Japan, P.K. had never been to a restaurant that seasoned its like Musubi Musashi does. The Genki Ramen definitely lives up to its name, refilling P.K. body and soul with warmth and vitality.

P.K. was thoroughly satisfied with his meal, and judging from the large number of other customers in the restaurant despite it still being the pre-dinner-rush early evening, it’s safe to say Musubi Musashi is a popular place. So he was a little confused the next day when he met up with some local friends and told them about his meal, only for them to be surprised he’d gone to Musubi Musashi. “You came all the way to Hiroshima and ate there?” one said, while another cooly declared it an ordinary restaurant pick, both in the sense of being common but lacking flair. With okonomiyaki off the table, they said they would have expected the taxi driver to take him to a ramen joint or someplace where P.K. could splurge on oysters, another foo d for which Hiroshima is famous. Musubi Musashi, they told him, was more the sort of place that senior citizens liked to eat at, while younger people are more likely to get one of the restaurant’s to-go bento boxed lunches.

However, none of that makes Musubi Musashi’s food any less tasty in P.K.’s eyes/mouth, and while they may not specialize in the famous foods of Hiroshima, they’re still a Hiroshima-only small chain that’s well-known. It’s not flashy, but it’s delicious, and the atmosphere inside the restaurant was laid-back and relaxing, which, could actually be just what you need after a busy day of sightseeing.

So in the end, you could argue either way about whether or not Musubi Musashi is a very Hiroshima-y place to eat, but it’s definitely a good place to eat, P.K. says.

Restaurant information
Musubi Musashi (Ebisu branch) / むすび むさし(胡店)
Address: Hiroshima-ken, Hiroshima-shi, Naka-ku, Horikawacho 5-19

Photos ©SoraNews24
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