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Feb 20, 2008 06:48 AM

Ueno Anagomeshi, Miyajima-guchi, Hiroshima-prefecture

I didn’t realize until recently that anago (sea eel) is one of the “meibutsu” or famous regional foods of the Hiroshima area. It’s especially prominent around the area of Miyajima, and if you go to Miyajima-guchi where you catch the ferry to Miyajima Island, you’ll find several competing shops featuring anago-meshi (sea eel rice), which is the main local specialties. And the most celebrated restaurant is Ueno. Ueno looks like they’ve been around for at least a century. Being inside the old wooden building, it’s difficult to avoid feeling that you’re in for something very classic, made by experts who’ve been at it for generations.

I was on my way further south to Yamaguchi prefecture, so I made it a point to stop off in Miyajima-guchi on the local train to get an anago-meshi bento to eat on the train. Miyajima is a very popular tourist destination in Japan, and tends to be teeming with people during the holidays and most weekends during the warm months. Luckily for me, I was there on a weekday during an unusually cold spell for the area, which made for a quick and easy pit stop to pick up a snack for the train. I ordered the smallest anago-meshi bento at 1050yen.

While this anago-meshi is similar to una-ju or una-don that you find in unagi restaurants, it’s quite different in many ways. First, there is anago cooked into the rice, giving the rice a slightly darkened hue and a boost of seafood aroma and flavor. Then the anago is cooked fresh over charcoal, imparting a good smokiness. There’s no sauce doused over the anago or the rice, as you would find with unagi. There is a bit of a soy-based sauce to flavor the anago while it’s grilled, but nothing thereafter to interfere with the flavor of eel. It’s very simple, yet strikingly good with all the dimensions of anago flavors permeating the dish from the ground up. While I was experiencing this small epiphany on the train with a bento that had already cooled off, I’m sure the experience is improved eating it piping hot off the grill.

If you find yourself around Miyajima, this should be one of the first places you go.

Website about Ueno’s anago-meshi (Japanese only):

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  1. Sounds good, if I'm ever headed that way I'll be sure to stop by and try it.

    1. Made another pilgrimage to Ueno Anagomeshi, and this time I made sure to sit in the restaurant and get it while it's hot. I've been waiting close to 2 years to eat this anagomeshi again, and it didn't disappoint. The main dining room on the main floor is the where the lunch stragglers dine. There's no menu; just 5 blocks on the wall, with prices, and at least three of them are the anagomeshi donburi, just different sizes. The other blocks might be an anago shirayaki and maybe drinks. I don't remember. But everyone gets the anagomeshi there. After you order, you might wait 3-5 minutes before there's a tray with the covered donburi, misoshiru, some tsukemono, and get ready to dig in.

      The sizes are small, large, and large with en extra amount of anago (same amount of rice as the large). Here's a small:
      And here's the large with extra anago:
      and a close-up:

      Ueno also has an upstairs dining area that is more like a ryotei with many private dining rooms or nooks. But that requires some advance planning. They offer some variety of seasonal kaiseki-type course dinners, finishing with the anagomeshi, of course. Ueno represents some of the best of regional Japanese cooking that you probably won't find in the big cities. I'm glad I visited during the winter off-season, since we only had to wait a few minutes for a table. I can't imagine what it would be like during the peak tourist season (which is most of the year in Miyajima). Hope you get a chance to partake.

      7 Replies
      1. re: E Eto

        This looks perty good. Something similar, and possibly is just as delicious, is the anago hakomeshi served at Anago Tamai in Nihonbashi, Tokyo. You can get it steamed, grilled, or half-half. Finish with a chazuke made from leftover rice and anago (from your own hako) and katsuo boshi and anago bone dashi.

        1. re: Uncle Yabai

          Tamai does sound really good. I always enjoy these hitsumabushi style eating, like the Nagoya style unagi. A friend of mine here in NYC who grew up around Tsukiji has always told me, if you're in Tsukiji, you really should be eating anago (Tsukiji dattara anago tte atarimaedesho). It is, after all, one of Tokyo's meibutsu. And Hiroshima's as well.

          And here's the info for Tamai (日本橋玉ゐ):

        2. re: E Eto

          Can you clarify the location? From your original post, I understood the restaurant to be located on the Hiroshima side, but near the ferry to Miyajima Island. From your updated post, I was no longer sure and thought it might be on the island itself. Can you help sort out my confusion?

          One last question: How would English-only speakers cope in this restaurant? We're adventuresome eaters so we'd probably be happy with whatever we ate, but any coping hints to optimize the meal would be appreciated. Thanks!

          1. re: Indy 67

            Not sure why the confusion. It's in Miyajima-guchi, which is the town where you pick up the ferry to Miyajima. You can take the Sanyo Honsen, or the local HIroshima trolley there. Maybe this link will help:

            Not sure about the English situation there. During the lunch hours it's pretty packed with Japanese tourists and locals, since most Japanese know that if you're near Miyajima, you gotta get the anagomeshi.

            1. re: E Eto

              Just realized that the Google Maps data is off by a block.
              Maybe this will help:

              1. re: E Eto

                Thanks for the clarification. My confusion came from the fact that I don't speak Japanese so the word "guchi" was unfamiliar. I didn't know whether it mean town or island or ferry port or whatever. With this additional information, I'm good to go! Again, thanks!

            2. re: E Eto

              Hi E Eto,

              I'm drooling. :) This looks so delicious. Thanks for the great reporting. :)

            3. This is the anago place I was referring to in a previous post as the anago don that was one of the best things I've ever eaten. Looking back, I was starving as my ex had forced me to hike up the mountain in MIyajima and absolutely miserable because of the heat so it is hard to ascertain if it was really that good or it was more about the circumstance. I haven't been back since 2005 to Hiroshima/Miyajima as it is rather far and expensive to get to so I've been checking on reviews online to see if they are still worth a detour and it sounds like it is indeed worth a return visit.

              2 Replies
              1. re: kikisakura

                Does anyone know if they are open on Sundays?

                1. re: davedimes

                  They should be open everyday. Miyajima (and Miyajimaguchi) is, after all, a tourist area and relies on the tourist traffic. This Tabelog link seems to indicate that they don't close any day of the week.

                  Here's another website with a nice little video and info in English.