If you are looking for a great Bento packed lunch to take with you on your day, Nitaya onigiri, bento and Japanese sweets shop is a great option. Nitaya boasts delicious rice from nearby Shimane, all foods are cultivated and made using "pure Chugoku mountain spring water" and the seaweed used in all the bento boxes and wrapped around the rice-balls is from Fukuyama.
Nitaya is easy to find in Hiroshima's city center, it is a new, modern style cafe and shop located on the corner on the opposite side of the Peace boulevard (Heiwa Odori) from the Sun Route hotel. It is adjacent to the NHK building (where Starbucks is on the 2nd floor).
Nitaya is an easy shop to pop into and pick up a meal to take-out or sit in and enjoy in the little cafe, they have an English menu and occasionally have English speaking staff at the counter as well.
If you are traveling around Japan, you soon become familiar with Japanese bento boxes as they are an important aspect of daily Japanese cuisine.
Bento and rice balls are sold everywhere- on train platforms, on the shinkansen bullet train, at any sightseeing location, and at all convenience stores and supermarkets across the country. Special seasonal varieties appear when the weather changes and each region boasts their own local specialties.
A typical rice ball has pickled plum (ume) or seasoned seaweed in a savory sauce (kombu) or fish, meat in the middle surrounded by rice and wrapped in a thin layer of black seaweed. A typical bento lunch box has a bed of rice surrounded by small servings of pickles, meat, vegetables and a portion of meat or fish. Cheaper versions (in convenience stores) are said to be made with cheaper ingredients and often with imported rice. Whereas, more expensive gourmet versions (like on offer at Nitaya) are made with the highest quality rice, seaweed and other ingredients.
Nitaya's bento and rice-ball offerings are certainly a class above the normal offerings. It is also unique to see that while Nitaya's bentos and rice-balls are certainly gourmet, they feature fish and gourmet vegetables instead of the usual meats found in bento: hot-dog, fried chicken (karage) and other popular items- there is an emphasis on more traditional Japanese bento ingredients- it is quite impressive.
I treated myself to the matsutake mushroom bento which was just under ¥1,000. Matsutake mushrooms are Autumn favorites, famous for not only their flavor but unique, pungent aroma which should be savored while eating them. They are as coveted as any truffle, and the bento featuring them did not disappoint. Other Nitaya bento boxes on offer feature grilled local fish like Saba or grilled Eel when in season.
Eat-in Cafe: Lunch sets on offer from 11:30-1:30 have a main dish with noodles, served with rice and pickles on the side for under 800 yen. There is also a range of traditional Japanese sweets like dango (pounded rice), Japanese style cakes as well as puddings, fruit desserts and waffles.