Iwaukuniís most famous local dish goes by a number of names. Called Iwakuni-zushi, oshizushi, and even tonosamazushi (lord's sushi), the dish is well worth seeking out if you visit Kintaikyo. According to locals, Kikkawa Hiroie, builder of the original Iwakuni castle, is said to have ordered his men to invent a food that could be easily transported and preserved during periods of warfare. The result was, oddly enough, Iwakuni-zushi.
The dish is best known for the unique way itís prepared. First, a large volume of rice is cooked and flavored with vinegar. Renkon (lotus root), eggs and chrysanthemum petals are mixed into the rice. Next, sawara (Spanish mackerel) and aji (horse mackerel) are pickled, stripped from the bone, and added to the mixture. This mixture is then spread over more vinegared rice, which has been packed into a large wooden box mold. A lid is laid directly on the rice, and the Iwakuni-zushi is then pressed 3 to 5 times, traditionally by the chef stepping onto the lid to compact it with his own bodyweight. Finally, the sushi is cut into large, rectangular blocks to be either eaten or carried into battle, depending on your circumstances at the moment. Which raises the real question for visitors: would you really want this to be your last meal on earth?
Maybe not. But if youíre planning to live until morning, the dish is interesting and worth a try, especially since itís a local specialty. Several places near the bridge offer Iwakuni-zushi. Try asking at the information booth near the east end of the bridge, or in one of the nearby antique shops.