For the longest while now, the city of Iwakuni has been on my radar. Though located a mere stone’s throw away from the sacred isle of Miyajima over in the neighboring prefecture, circumstances just never conspired to allow for a visit. Recently, I was finally able to cross Iwakuni off my bucket list as part of a trip for Tokyo Creative’s #HostTownRelay project. In retrospect, I am a bit ashamed that it took me this long to get my behind down to this amazing hidden gem. Whether as a side trip from Miyajima, or a two-day adventure, Iwakuni is a local jaunt that deserves far more attention than it presently draws.
For the record, I first encountered Iwakuni and its iconic Kintai Bridge while doing my initial sweep of Japan for off the beaten path attractions that I wanted to feature. Thereafter, my intrigue was further piqued when I discovered that the famous swordsman, Sasaki Kojiro, originally hailed from Iwakuni. This early Edo period (1603–1868) badass was one of a handful of warriors who could remotely hold a candle to the legendary duelist, Miyamoto Musashi. The entire saga is artfully chronicled by the amazing Yoshikawa Eiji in the epic “Musashi.” While the novel is nearly 1,000 pages long, I can’t more highly recommend giving this story a read.
In addition to Iwakuni’s ties to Sasaki Kojiro, the city also shares a strong bond with my now-abandoned home country of America. Iwakuni holds the potential of serving as a host town for some of the American teams in 2021. Iwakuni is also home to one of our military bases known as Marine Corps Air Station Iwakuni (or MCAS Iwakuni). The base site can be found on the southern outskirts of the city’s central sections. Thanks to this, Iwakuni retains much of its Japanese vibe and is not overly westernized like the area surrounding Kanagawa Prefecture’s Commander Fleet Activities Yokosuka base.
If you’re planning on visiting Miyajima and Hiroshima, and are hankering for a historical add-on to the region, I highly recommend you explore the Iwakuni area. Due to the city being conveniently located around the Kintai Bridge, you can easily knock off many of the main allures in under half a day. What’s more, a visit to Iwakuni need not greatly alter the overall arch of your time in Japan. While you’ll need to…