Saijo, Hiroshima, More Than Just Sake

When I visit Saijo, I go for one main reason, sake.  Saijo is well known for its sake and rightfully so.  It is great to drink Saijo sake and I will promote it as much as I can.  Saijo isn’t just about sake as there is a lot about Saijo that I never knew about.  While I don’t really care much for things other than sake when visiting Saijo, I did take the time to try to get to know more about Saijo that is beyond sake itself.  There are a couple of temples and shrines in the area and there is a unique architectural style in the area too.  It isn’t a lot to go on but there is always something to learn as long as you are willing to look for it.

Sakagura Yokocho at Night

Sakagura Yokocho at Night

It is impossible to talk about Saijo without mentioning sake.  Walking in the east side of town where most of the breweries are will allow you to see some very old architecture.  Compared to other sake breweries that I had visited, Saijo has some of the most unique buildings I had seen.  They are all pretty old and they are also fairly standard.  Most of them are white washed with red roofs.  The roofs are unique to the Saijo region as the kawara, aka roof tiles, is earthy red.  Regular kawara are generally grey or silver-grey, but in Saijo they are a distinct earthy red with a shine.  While the new buildings take on a modern look, Saijo has a lot of old buildings that continue to keep the red kawara which look great.

Kawara (Roof Tile) at Kyozenji, Saijo

Kawara (Roof Tile) at Kyozenji, Saijo

There are several temples and shrines all around Saijo.  With 4 temples and 1 shrine, there are plenty of religious places to visit.  Personally, I didn’t find them to be particularly interesting but going to local temples and shrines provides a special peacefulness that you can’t get in Tokyo.  Being inside a temple by oneself, albeit outside the buildings, is a lot of fun.  Shinkoji is a small temple located across from Kamoki that is interesting due to its large statue of a monk and somewhat large bell.  It doesn’t take long to visit, especially if you have been drinking.  It isn’t hard to just take a few minutes to find your inner peace before heading to the next sake brewery.  The more interesting place to visit is Mitate Jingu.  Mitate Jingu is located on the north side of the station and is adjacent to Kyozenji.  Kyozenji is visible from the station but Mitate Jingu has a lot of interesting buildings.  Mitate Jingu is a cramped shrine as they have several buildings in a small area.  They even have the local mascot ready to listen to your prayers.  I couldn’t find anyone to explain things to me but it was nice to see.

Mitate Shrine

Mitate Shrine

While not technically part of the station area, Hiroshima University has a campus near Saijo Station.  The Higashi Hiroshima campus is not small but unfortunately due to the limited amount of time I had, I only had a chance to see the area around my friend’s apartment.  My friend was kind enough to let me stay at his place for a night before I headed to Hiroshima.  The campus area is a typical modern small town.  Lots of low rise apartments, big box shopping, and not much else.  Having a car is highly recommended but not necessary and getting around quickly is not easy.  Walking to the bus stop took forever in the heat with a hand carry suitcase full of sake; let’s just say that I was surprised I wasn’t sweating even more, but it was a nice walk in the fresh morning air.

Modern House in Saijo

Modern House in Saijo

Saijo is a great place and as you can see they have a lot to offer even if you don’t like sake.  I doubt I would recommend it to someone who doesn’t like alcohol as there really isn’t too much that is unique to Saijo only but I do think there is enough in Saijo that you can enjoy it if you live in Hiroshima and have exhausted your other options.  If you just need to get away and go somewhere quiet, Saijo is a nice place to do so, and they also have free water.  Being a sake brewery area, there are a lot of public wells next to the breweries that have clean water for you to enjoy.  Bring a few bottles and bring them home as you are sure to enjoy it.

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