“Chikara” [力 / ちから] means ‘strong’ in Japanese which has been a good fit for this popular Hiroshima chain that first opened it’s doors in 1935 and survived the destruction and rebuilding of Hiroshima. Add to this surviving the economic ups and downs of the last few decades; to still maintain 33 shops in the Hiroshima and Kure city areas, this is quite impressive.
Although there is little English on the menu, the staff are very pleasant in this shop and it is a very user-friendly establishment. There is food on display in the front window and the menu has great color pictures of the dishes. All the noodles are freshly made and cooked-up hot and fresh when ordered. Rice donburi dishes are also available with toppings such as fried tempura, beef and egg. Most of the Chikara shops concentrate on Udon and Soba, but recently some stores also offer Ramen noodles too.
The musubi rice balls in the front display are a popular choice to accompany hot noodles or for a snack at any time of day. They come with different fillings: ume: sour plum, konbu: seasoned seaweed, sake: salmon, and sometimes tuna. There are also inari-zushi sweet bean curd covered rice balls and sekihan- rice with red azuki beans mixed in. Special maki-zushi is rice and vegetables wrapped into a cylinder shape with black nori seaweed sheets. It is sold around new year’s and in the beginning of February in celebration of the Setsubun festivities (“Devil” out, good luck in).
For dessert, try the sweet bean zenzai soup or one of their specialty balls of sweetened bean blends called ohagi. Most shops serve draught beers, there is also complimentary cold water and hot tea available.
The front window is very popular for people heading out to picnics on nice days, back to the office for lunch, or busy parents heading home to prepare dinner for the family. The udon and soba noodle sets are especially handy for people wanting a heat-up-and-serve dinner option. They come with the noodles, chopped spring onion, dashi soup and other parts of the meal in organized little packets. Our favorite take-home meal is the kitsune udon pack which comes with a sweetened tofu bean curd to put on the top of the noodles. Having a Chikara on my route home has been handy for me as a busy mom that doesn’t want to resort to junk food when I’m too busy to shop for and prepare a meal from scratch.
Each shop has its own opening times, but most are open everyday between 10am and 7pm. It is a great option if you are looking for a filling, inexpensive meal at anytime of day.
Child-friendly: most shops are non-smoking and provide kids bowls, forks and spoons. Some shops also have high-chairs.