So Much to Love About Yokogawa
Just outside Hiroshima city center, Yokogawa is a great area to explore. There are lots of interesting shops and places to eat and the town hosts many fun events through the year.
Yokogawa has a great vibe with its sleepy backstreets in the day that turn into buzzing drinking areas in the evening. On a photowalk or wander, I seek out the stunning colorful murals by graffiti artist SUIKO in contrast to the retro signs of Yokogawa Cinema, traditional eateries, interesting shops, and lively bars. A visit to Yokogawa always gives me a sense of a destination doing well to balance its historical heritage with modern appeal.
If you like Japanese sweets, you will love seeking out the retro Fried Cakeshop and talk with the friendly lady who runs the shop and is a loyal Carp baseball fan. This shop has been featured many times in Japanese media over the years as Fried-Cake is a hard to find nostalgic retro treat in Japan. The cakes are filled with Setouchi lemon or the classic sweet Azuki-bean.
If you are looking for noodles and mochi, the exceptional Kofuji-Mochi shop is right along the covered mall near the station. Kofuji-Mochi has tables to eat-in or a window for take-out where you can pick up some delicious handmade pounded rice cake Mochi with various fillings and toppings. Kofuji-mochi popular lunch sets are delicious and great value. The handmade Mochi cakes vary each season and the warm bowl of zenzai is a heavenly roasted mochi and sweet Azuki-bean experience. Most of the traditional sweets are both plant-based vegan and gluten-free.
When looking for something more filling and savory, there are a variety of noodle shops and Izakaya as well as the classic Hiroshima dish Okonomiyaki available at various shops in the town. My personal favorite where you can have a friendly chat with the owner while enjoying the classic Okonomiyaki with jalapenos is Lopez.
A few blocks away on the other side of town is the excellent Pizza Riva whose chefs regularly win pizza competitions in Italy. The Chinese home-cooking at Renka is also a local favorite.
For the day-to-day, I love shopping at the small mom-and-pop fruit stands along the side streets as its a great place to get local fruit and vegetables without excessive plastic packaging. If you bring your own bag, a more sustainable, zero-waste, plastic-free shop experience is actually a possibility as you can go straight from the fruit in the display bowls to your own bag without any unnecessary plastic.
In addition to the nightlife and fun festivals, Yokogawa is also home to Hiroshima SUP-city at Magic Island. The staff here hold regular international SUP races along Hiroshima’s rivers which attract hundreds of people from across the country. The shop also has regular SUP lessons for customers of all levels and ages, and the SUP tours of the city center are fun for locals and visitors alike. The chance to view Peace Park and the station area from the quiet river offers a one-of-a-kind eco-tourism perspective of Hiroshima.
If you are looking for a place to work-out indoors, it’s worth seeking out the small but well-run climbing walls at PB Climbing. PB Climbing is a small, but well-run facility, fun for boulderers of all ages. Rental gear available if you need it and the membership fees, as well as hourly or daily use prices, are very reasonable.
The combination of old and new is ever-present in Yokogawa – you can enjoy shrine lanterns and seasonal colors at the quiet, backstreet Misasa Shrine.
The riverside Ebisu shrine is the location of the Yokogawa Valentine event in February, but the lanterns between the road and river are photogenic anytime. In Autumn the large Ginko tree leaves at this shrine are a stunning bright yellow. If you have time, it’s worth traveling a bit further upstream from Yokogawa to the stunning Mitaki-dera famous for its stone Jizo statues and waterfalls. It is an easy 15 min ride on the local JR train (Kabe) line from Yokogawa station, or easy to access on foot in about 30 min. Be aware that there is a steep, long hill to get up to Mitaki-dera, but it is worth it.
Main Street Yokogawa
Along Yokogawa’s main street across the road from the station, it’s a fun place to explore as there are coffee shops, bars, eateries, unique local shops, art galleries as well as the largest clothing shop I’ve ever seen. This is also where the community hub Guest House En is located which serves food and drinks at night and hosts regular events and activities that create opportunities for locals and visitors to connect.
Events in Yokogawa
One of the best things about Yokogawa which appeals to locals as well as visitors is the many fun, regular events where you can enjoy a traditional festival atmosphere with unique modern, creative touches.
February is the month for lovers and chocolate as you can enjoy the Yokogawa Valentine Event with its marriage proposals, wacky performances, and campfire banana and marshmallow roasting. There are food and drink stands, lots of chocolate and sweets, and the big finale is watching heart-shaped fireworks burst over the river.
April is the time for Yokogawa’s longest-running event, Fushigi-Ichi. This Fushigi-ichi event is a fun event held on the main shopping street across from the station. Enjoy the pedestrianized main street atmosphere with shops and bars spilling out onto the street while people in costumes wander through the crowd.
Most of the costumed clad wander over from a Cosplay event held nearby which builds a fun atmosphere of traditional Japanese festival colors mixed with people in a range of costumes from elegant to scary and cute. Fushigi-Ichi has been held in Yokogawa every April since 1996.
In August, Yokogawa hosts a River Festival to encourage outdoor fun. River festival-goers enjoy SUP and other watersports, picnics and eating at the food and drink stalls. People can be found enjoying the shade under the trees while listening to live music. Magic Island SUP shop owner Nishikawa-san plays a central role in creating appeal for Yokogawa and its watersport fun as well as helping build sustainable tourism appeal for all of Hiroshima.
In September, the Yokogawa Art Project features the work of local artists who have studios and galleries in the neighborhood. In October, the town hosts one of its most popular events when you are encouraged to join the walking dead that can found along the main shopping streets during the town’s annual Halloween lovers event – Zombie Night.
Live Houses + Nightlife
If you are a night-owl you will love Yokogawa as the town promotes itself as “Kampai-Kingdom” due to its many izakayas, bars, live houses, and wine bars. A long-running live-house with a cozy atmosphere and great sound system is Apple Jam where the Beatles tunes and classic Rock’n’Roll never die.
Classic Yokogawa Cinema also sometimes hosts talk-shows and puts on interesting international films alongside a collection of alternative Japanese films. The cinema itself is a part of Yokogawa’s heritage and worth popping in to have a look.
Great Yokogawa Transportation
While it may be difficult to get to and from most small towns around Hiroshima, Yokogawa is blessed with great access for anyone traveling to and from the town. The main Yokogawa station is the central hub with both a streetcar and JR train station.
You can also revisit the town’s transportation past by viewing the 1905 KAYOKO-bus on display in front of the station. It’s possible to see this Kayoko-bus in action at the Fushigi-ichi event in April when it is brought out of its protective box.
Yokogawa has a lot to offer on a daily visit, to shop, eat or enjoy a quiet backstreet photowalk as the sidestreets and shop details and features of the town are very photogenic. If you have a chance to visit during one of their many festivals, you will be most welcome to join in the fun and experience a lively off-the-beaten-path community in full celebration mode.
Follow jjwalsh on twitter for photos and updates on Yokogawa in English, and the official town’s Yokogawa-Tomaton Facebook feeds (Japanese) for more updates about events in Yokogawa.