Pizza oven unites Hiroshima island residents

The Yomiuri Shimbun
Yuika Nakazono makes a pizza in an oven that she built on Sagishima island in Mihara, Hiroshima Prefecture.

MIHARA, Hiroshima — Residents of Sagishima in Mihara, Hiroshima Prefecture, made a pizza oven using soil and seashells from the island. Set up on the coast overlooking the Seto Inland Sea, the oven has created opportunities for local residents to get together.

“I want to make pizzas topped with local specialties like tangerines and lemons, and I hope people from outside the island can also enjoy them,” said an islander involved in activities to promote local businesses.

Yuika Nakazono, a 25-year-old member of the city’s community revitalization team, played a central role in building the pizza oven. A native of Osaka Prefecture, Nakazono first visited the island two years ago, where the beautiful scenery and warmth of the islanders sparked her desire to live there.

She moved to the island as a member of the revitalization team in August 2021. Nakazono graduated from a culinary and confectionery school in Osaka Prefecture and had experience working at a baking company.

When she started building the oven, residents of the island began offering her a helping hand.

The dome-shaped oven, which is about 1 meter in diameter, was hardened with the island’s red soil, into which seashells found on the nearby beach were kneaded. A local construction company provided Nakazono the oven’s concrete foundation, at 1.4 meters long, 1.2 meters wide and 80 centimeters high. She made use of driftwood and leftover wood from a lemon grove to make a roof, which is supported by four pillars and placed above the pizza oven.

After the oven was completed in late October, Nakazono held a social event featuring it the following month. Local residents, including elementary school students, turned up and Nakazono taught them how to make dough, and they enjoyed freshly made pizzas.

“I hope people will become attached to the pizza oven, which will create opportunities for residents and visitors to the island to connect,” Nakazono said.

The population of the island has fallen year by year due to an exodus of young people. Among efforts to bring back the liveliness of the island, some residents have developed new products, such as citrus jam using locally harvested tangerines and lemons.

“I hope people from inside and outside the island, including those who stay here, can freely use the pizza oven,” said Katsuko Shirasu, the 67-year-old owner of Sagitei, a lodging facility renovated from a vacant house.

Tazuko Hiraki, 66, who has lived on the island for 43 years, said, “If we hold regular events using the pizza oven, the island will become more lively.”