Iwakuni City located in southeastern Yamaguchi Prefecture, is perhaps best known for its unique Kintai Bridge. Constructed in 1673, the bridge consists of five wooden arches, which span the Nishiki River. The bridge was declared a National Treasure in 1922 and is a very popular tourist destination particularly during the blossoming of the sakura trees and the changing colors of the Japanese maples in autumn.
Kikkou Park, another popular tourist attraction in Iwakuni, which encompasses the bridge and Iwakuni Castle has recently become known for one other popular item, soft serve ice cream! Several different ice cream shops line the front of the park but the most interesting is the Sasaki Kojiro and Musashi ice cream shops, which both claim to serve the best ice cream in Japan. For those that are unfamiliar, Sasaki Kojiro was a prominent swordsman most remembered for his death while battling Miyamoto Musashi in 1612. Legend states that Musashi fought over 60 battles and was undefeated. Kojiro was regarded as his most formidable opponent.
The ice cream shop competition is fierce and stems around which shop offers the greatest variety of soft-serve ice cream flavors. The shops were featured on popular Japanese variety shows such as The Sekai Gyoten News and offer such unusual flavors as wasabi, curry, ramen, garlic, soy sauce, tomato and habanero to name a few. Customers can also combine flavors to achieve their own unique creation. The Kojiro shop offers 50 flavors of soft-serve ice cream while Musashi lists 100 unique flavors. It is rumored that the Musashi shop kept adding to its menu in order to outdo the Kojiro shop.
There is even a ranking of ice cream flavors based on women’s and men’s preferences. For women it is: (1) Cleopatra’s tears (2) Acerola Berry (3) Golden Kiwi (4) Chestnut and (5) Tiramasu. For men, the list includes: (1) Hokkaido Vanilla (2) Hokkaido Vanilla-Chocolate Swirl (3) Banana Cocoa (4) Cleopatra’s Tears and (5) Iwakuni Renkon (Lotus), which happens to be a local specialty.
Iwakuni is easily accessible by the JR Sanyo Shinkansen from Hiroshima. The 15 minute trip will cost ¥1,620 for a non-reserved seat. Alternatively, the city can be reached by local train on the JR Sanyo Main Line via Hiroshima. The trip takes 50 minutes and costs ¥760. Most travelers will combine a trip to Hiroshima, Miyajima and Iwakuni.