If you've taken the expressway anywhere, you've probably experienced a Japanese service area. They're pretty amazing. They're clean. They have food. They're clean.
The Japanese people enjoy checking out different rest areas so much that there are magazines about rest areas. You can only buy certain things at certain rest areas. It could be a particular food item, or it could be merchandise. There are some rest areas that have showers, and there are some that have dog runs. There are people who plan out their road trips based on service areas. Yes. Really. I have to admit, I'm kind of like that too. There are certain service areas I get super excited about.
Whenever I go to Hiroshima Airport to pick someone up, I have to stop at the Kodani Service Area. It is the last service area before the airport exit (about 5 kilometers away). It is one of my favorite service areas. Why? Because Kodani is completely operated by Andersen Bakery. If you have never been to Andersen's, I don't even know what to say. Andersen's is only the best bakery in the whole world. We have a small one in Iwakuni, but I absolutely love the one in Hiroshima. It's three floors of goodness.
If you haven't been.....you need to go. At least check out the one here in Iwakuni. It is very small, but the bread is yummy.
Okay. Back to the Kodani service area. There is a bakery, gift shop, restaurant, and cafe. They are all operated by Andersen. I did take a couple of pictures inside.
Another service area I like is the Miyajima service area on the way back to Iwakuni. It cracks me up that the same service areas don't have the same things. The Miyajima service area on the northbound side of the expressway does not have a Starbucks, but the one on the southbound side does. So I usually stop on my way back to Iwakuni and treat myself to something from Starbucks and then I walk to the Torii and check out the view. On a clear day, the view is amazing.
The next time you are on a road trip, check out the service areas. I usually pick the ones that have the gas station symbols because those are usually the big ones. Not always, but most of the time. Even if you're not on a road trip and you are just making that trek to the Hiroshima Airport. Leave a little early and check out the Kodani service area. They aren't open at 0600 though. I tried when I took my dad to the airport, and nothing was really open yet so we bought coffee out of the vending machine and sat inside for a little while. If you do the early trek, you can always stop at the Miyajima service area on the way back for a Starbucks and a nice view.
I hope you are all getting out and enjoying this beautiful country.