The Ultimate One Day Guide to the Best of Hiroshima City Travel
Today, Hiroshima City is a vibrant and modern cosmopolitan metropolis. Hiroshima was formerly a castle town and a centre for military activity during its imperial era. The city played significant roles in multiple wars but it is most remembered as one of the two Japanese cities targeted by an atomic bomb during the Second World War.
It was August 6, 1945 at 8:15 a.m. Hiroshima City was devastated by the world’s first atomic bomb. The explosion killed over 80,000 people immediately, and tens of thousands died later following exposure to radiation.
A second atomic bomb was dropped over the Japanese city of Nagasaki, three days later. An estimated 40,000 people died immediately in Nagasaki with thousands later following exposure to radiation.
Every year, on August 6, Hiroshima marks the 1945 nuclear attack by a Remembrance Ceremony — a minute’s silence, dove release, lantern ceremony and speeches.
In this guide on the best of Hiroshima City travel, you shall find all the information on what else a visitor can do in the city. I share my experiences along with tips needed to plan your trip, to discover the best places that you could visit and how to maximise your experiences in this historical City.
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Basics for Hiroshima City Travel
For your convenience, I have compiled the following links to hotels, tours and other services to support your travel to Hiroshima.
1 | Where to Stay
2 | Best Tours to Maximise Your Experiences in Hiroshima
1 | Discover Hiroshima in 6.5 hours by joining a bus tour of the World Heritage Sites and other highlights of the city. This tour includes lunch and an audio guide.
2 | Enjoy the traditions of Japanese culture of the tea ceremony or a calligraphy while wearing a kimono on the island of Miyajima.
3 | Hiroshima is well-known for its Sake, Japanese rice wine and a visit to one of the region’s premier sake breweries is an essential experience. Join this best selling visit to a brewery founded in 1873 and enjoy a delicious sake hotpot for lunch.
4 | Explore Hiroshima and Miyajima with a local guide and see all the sites that are deeply rooted in the city’s history. Learn about the life and resilience of the people of Hiroshima.
5 | Taste Hiroshima’s best food and drink in a bar hopping food tour.
3 | Other Essential Services for Hiroshima Travel
1 | Travel Insurance (with Covid cover)
2 | Check easily for Visa requirements and Apply for Visa to visit Japan
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6 | Kyoto City Guide
ABOUT HIROSHIMA CITY (広島市)
Hiroshima is a vibrant modern city, having risen from its ashes of the past. It is the capital of Hiroshima Prefecture, located in the southwest of Japan’s Honshu Island. Hiroshima’s natural beauty can be seen in its impressive Chugoku Mountains to the north and the clear waters of the Seto Inland Sea in the south.
Every year, thousands of tourists make their way to Hiroshima mainly for the Hiroshima Peace Memorial Park which is a grim reminder of the Second World War and a focus for prayers for world peace. Whilst this should be a “must do” itinerary for any visitor, one should also make time to take in the natural beauty of historical Miyajima Island which is a short ferry ride away and is easily accessible.
Hiroshima City and UNESCO World Heritage Sites
The Atomic Bomb Dome is an iconic structure as it was only a few meters away from the epicentre of the atomic bomb blast. Today, it is symbolic as the beacon for world peace and an end to nuclear weapons.
The Miyajima Island is also special. The locals regard the island as sacred, a place where the people and the gods live together. The island is home to the only floating Torii gate in the world along with the infamous Mount Misen which is associated with a legend of miracle — that a fire lit by a Buddhist monk, Kobo Daishi. have been burning for almost 1200 years.
BEST TIME TO VISIT HIROSHIMA
Spring and autumn are the best months to visit Hiroshima. Temperatures are comfortable during this time with a beautiful spectacle of cherry blossoms in spring and warm colours in autumn. For a complete guide to weather and when to visit Hiroshima go to the Hiroshima guide. If you are also planning to visit other regions in Japan, navigate to the complete guide on the best time to visit Japan.
This beautiful city and the people of Hiroshima have so much to offer every traveller. If you have the time, try and spend 3 to 4 days. Enjoy travel on the slow side, watch the sunset over the floating torii and savour on the fresh oysters caught each day. Visit the mountains that surround this amazing city. With so many choices on accommodation, I assure you, you will have plenty to do.
HIROSHIMA PEACE MEMORIAL PARK
Hiroshima Peace Memorial Park is the ultimate destination for all visitors to this City. The Memorial Park is home to the various designated symbols of Hiroshima City and this is where I began my morning. I spent the afternoon exploring the City centre.
Here is an itinerary for one day in Hiroshima City which you could adapt to suit.
1 | The Atomic Bomb Dome in Hiroshima City — A Focus for World Peace
The Atomic Bomb Dome is a symbol of Hiroshima and a designated UNESCO World Heritage Site since 1996.
The skeletal remains of what used to be the Hiroshima Prefectural Industrial Promotion Hall stands in contrast to the surrounding beauty of River Aioi and the Peace Memorial Park. The building shows the ferocity of the explosion and heat that came almost directly from overhead when at 8:15 on the morning of August 6th 1945, the first atomic bomb in human history was dropped on Hiroshima.
The interior of the building was destroyed by fire and all the people inside the building at the time died instantly. However, the steel dome and the thick outer walls withstood destruction, and this began to be referred to as the “Atomic Bomb Dome”. The building and the exposed steel dome had been preserved as a reminder of war and the untold suffering caused by the bomb, while it also symbolises the need to rid the world of nuclear weapons and a focus for world peace. The Dome is visible just as one exits the tram.
Dedicate some time to read the plaque and to observe the structure from the perimeter.
This was my first stop before visiting any other sites on the Park. Nearing this structure, a sense of somber feeling overcame me and I began to appreciate the powerful explosion and the sufferings the people endured. I took some time to read the plaque and observed the structure.
From the Atomic Bomb Dome. walk along the River, to the Cenotaph for the Atomic Bomb Victims, the Children’s Peace Monument and the Hiroshima Peace Memorial Museum to get a deeper understanding of what this part of Hiroshima represents.
2 | Cenotaph for Atomic Bomb Victims in Hiroshima City
The official name for the Cenotaph is “Memorial Monument for Hiroshima, City of Peace”.
The cenotaph is a large concrete in the shape of a saddle. The central stone vault holds about 290,000 names of those who lost their lives to the bomb regardless of nationality. New names are added to the list each year as they are discovered.
The design of the cenotaph is simple and is done well. It was designed by Kenzo Tange, a Pritzker Prize winner.
From the cenotaph, a walk along the River leads to the Flame of Peace and the Children’s Peace Monument.
3 | Flame of Peace in Hiroshima City
The pedestal that houses the Flame of Peace is designed in the image of two hands pressed together with the palms facing the sky.
The Flame was lit on 1st August 1964, for a world without nuclear weapons, and will continue to burn until all nuclear weapons are abolished worldwide. This is the same flame that continues to burn in the temple on Mount Misen.
4 | Children’s Peace Monument in Hiroshima City
The Children’s Peace Monument was built and dedicated on Children’s Day, 1958. It was constructed in memory of Sadako Sasaki, who was exposed to the radiation of the bomb at the age of 2. She died of leukaemia about ten years later. This monument also serves as a memorial to the many thousands of young lives who died as a result of the atomic bomb in Hiroshima.
4.1 | The meaning of the Children’s Peace Monument
Standing on the top of the three-legged dome pedestal of this nine-meter high bronze statue is the bronze figure of a girl holding up a gold-coloured folded paper crane. The pedestal is suspended by a boy and a girl figure, symbolising a bright future and hope. Underneath the pedestal, there is an inscription which reads:
“This is our cry. This is our prayer. For building peace in this world”.
Inside the tower, a gold crane is hung, which rings like a wind chime, and a bell modelled after an ancient bronze bell. You can view the original bell and gold crane in the first floor lobby of the East Building of the Hiroshima Peace Memorial Museum. The monument was designed by Kazuo Kikuchi.
4.2 | Tower of a Thousand Cranes
Sadako Sasaki continued to fold paper cranes throughout her short life and paper cranes continues to symbolise the pursuit of peace. This Monument has often been referred as the “Tower of a Thousand Cranes” because the memorial used to be decorated with origami. However, these paper cranes have now been moved into little kiosks and placed nearby.
From the Children’s Peace Monument, the next destination is the Hiroshima Peace Memorial Museum and the Hiroshima National Peace Memorial Hall.
5 | Hiroshima Peace Memorial Museum
The Museum was built in the pursuit of world peace and a world without nuclear weapons. It was opened in 1955 and conveys the realities of the atomic bomb.
5.1 | Exhibits at the Hiroshima Peace Memorial Museum
The building is divided into two sections, the East Building and the Main Building.
Exhibits illustrate the horrors of the atomic bomb. Possessions from the victims were exhibited with information alongside them. Among the exhibits were blood-stained clothes, a wrist watch that stopped at precisely 8:15, notebooks and some children’s toys such as a tricycle. Accounts of people’s experiences, photographs and other pieces of documentation were also exhibited. There were information explaining the circumstances in Hiroshima and elsewhere that led to the bombing and detailed narrative of the bombing itself. The Museum also had an interactive board depicting what people did on the morning when the atomic bomb was dropped.
5.2 | Visit to Hiroshima by for President Barack Obama
On the lower floor of the Museum is the theatre and a schedule is available for screening times. Here too, directly opposite to the entrance of the theatre, you will find, on display messages from the former President Barack Obama and former First Lady, Michelle Obama.
Some of the information and exhibits were difficult to look at. It was a moving experience for me, even now as I reflect upon the exhibits. I did not take any pictures of these exhibits because I did not feel right ‘violating’ the memories of these victims. The Museum is definitely an important place to visit and it is a time to slow down and reflect on a sad period in human history.
The final stop on this part of Hiroshima was the Hiroshima National Peace Memorial Hall.
6 | Hiroshima National Peace Memorial Hall
This Memorial structure looks modest from the outside but has a strong presence. It is a building dedicated to mourning the victims of the atomic bomb and to focus on prayers for world peace.
The Hiroshima National Peace Memorial Hall structure is designed in the shape of a clock and the roof designed to reflect 8:15 a.m., the time when the atomic bomb was dropped.
To enter this building, walk down the steps on the side and you will enter a big chamber of information filled with names of people who died, memoirs from survivors and portraits of the victims.
This is a uniquely designed chamber that echo at the slightest sound! So, you got to be extremely quiet.
7 | Aioi Bridge in Hiroshima City
The Aioi Bridge was originally constructed in 1932. It is a 3-way bridge in an unusual T-shape. Because of its unique shape, the bridge was easily recognisable from the air and became the target point for the atomic bomb in 1945.
The Aioi Bridge stretches across the point where the Ota River and the Motoyasu River branch off, and it connects the Atomic Bomb Dome to the Peace Park. The Bridge was reconstructed after the War but deteriorated over time. A new bridge was built in 1983. There are old pillars bearing the marks of the bombing still preserved at the foot of the bridge.
8 | Take a boat trip on the Motoyasu River
One way to explore this thriving and vibrant city is to hop on to a water-taxi and cruise along the Motoyasu River. The boat trip will pass the A-Bomb Dome and the many high-rises situated along the banks of the river. Hiroshima’s skyline viewed from the river is truly remarkable. The banks of Motoyasu River are lined with cherry trees and it is spectacular in spring with cherry blossoms.
9 | Explore Hiroshima City centre
So, after spending most of the day visiting the Memorial Park, exploring downtown was the next activity. It was time for lunch. I was not getting any souvenirs, but it was good to walk along the City’s shops to get a feel of the town and its people. Hiroshima Hondori is the main shopping area in Hiroshima. It is a covered area with all sorts of shops, fashion, restaurants and souvenir shops.
Lunch was a quick bowl of ramen. I was more interested in making my way to Miyajima Island on a ferry across Hiroshima Bay, returning later in the evening to experience Hiroshima’s food and drink.
10 | Visit Hiroshima Castle
The present Hiroshima Castle, sometimes called Carp Castle is relatively new, built in 1958. Hiroshima Castle was built to replace the original one that was constructed in 1589 for a feudal warlord, Mori Terumoto. Hiroshima Castle was an important seat of power in western Japan. The castle was destroyed by the atomic bomb in 1945.
Unlike many castles in Japan that are built on a hilltop or a mountaintop, Hiroshima Castle is built on a plain in the centre of the city. Rebuilt thirteen years later following its destruction, Hiroshima Castle was constructed in reinforced concrete with an attractive partial wooden exterior. The castle’s main keep is a five-storey tower and is home to an informative museum on Hiroshima and the history of Hiroshima Castle along with the history of castles generally. The top floor of the castle offers exceptional panoramic views of the city.
Hiroshima Castle is set amidst a tranquil park and has a moat around it. Within the castle grounds are a shrine, some ruins and a few reconstructed Ninomaru (second circle of defense). The park blooms with cherry blossoms in spring and warm hues of maple leaves in autumn.
Hiroshima Castle is worth a visit.
Where: 21-1 Motomachi, Naka Ward, Hiroshima, 730-0011, Japan
Admission to the castle grounds is free.
The main keep is 370 Yen.
11 | Go for a Stroll around Shukkei-en
Shukkei-en is a landscaped historic garden located within a short walking distance of Hiroshima Castle. Its name means ‘shrunken scenic garden’ and was created in 1620 for a samurai. Believed to be modelled on the lake in Hangzhou, China, Shukkei-en has paths that wind around the lake, filled with carp and turtles and rocks that represent mountains, and islands in the Seto Inland Sea.
Stroll through herb gardens, plum orchard, bamboo, maple and gingko trees. The trees are illuminated at night and the stone lanterns are lit also, making this park absolutely beautiful in the dark.
Where: 2-11 Kaminoboricho, Naka Ward, Hiroshima, 730-0014, Japan
12 | Hiroshima’s Food and Drink in Best of Hiroshima City travel
There is no better way to get to know a culture than through its food. Despite Hiroshima’s sad history, the region is popular for its sake and Okonomiyaki.
12.1 | Okonomiyaki in Hiroshima
Okonomiyaki, regarded as Hiroshima’s Soul Food, is a savoury pancake filled with vegetables and seafood. This dish is a must-try for any visitor to this City. What better than some sake to go with it!
12.2 | Yaki-gaki
Hiroshima’s border with the Inland Sea means that its coastline is home to many fishing villages. Oysters have been cultivated in Hiroshima Bay for over 400 years. It is estimated that about two-thirds of the oysters in Japan come from these waters. One of the best places to try freshly caught oysters, yaki-gaki is in Miyajima Island, which is a quick ten-minute ferry ride.
12.3 | Sake in Hiroshima
Hiroshima Prefecture is home to over fifty sake breweries and is one of the three sake brewing areas in Japan, along with Fushimi in Kyoto and Kobe’s Nada. Hiroshima is popularly known as “Sake Town”. It is said that Hiroshima’s sake is highly popular even among the Japanese because of its distinctive rich flavour crafted from the area’s natural surroundings.
13 | ADD TO YOUR ITINERARY WHEN VISITING HIROSHIMA CITY
If time is afforded, you may like to add the following activities to your itinerary in Hiroshima city.
13.1 | Climb Mount Futaba
Located behind Hiroshima station is a 10 kilometre Futabanosato Historical Walking Trail that connects 16 shrines and temples. It takes a good half a day to complete the trail but the hike up to the mid-section where most of the shrines and temples are just a few kilometres and takes a couple of hours.
You may want to follow the trail that leads to Toshogu shrine on Mount Futaba. Toshogu Shrine is a popular Shinto shrine established in 1648 and is dedicated to Tokugawa Shogunate Ieyasu. The shrine is accessed by steep stone steps and a tunnel of torii gates. From here, you could continue on to Peace Pagoda, built in 1966 by monks.
13.2 | Day trip to Sandankyo Gorge
If you are a nature lover, this is one place you should not miss! The beautiful gorge runs through the mountains in the northwest of Hiroshima City. Sandankyo Gorge is one of Japan’s top five valleys of special beauty. It is a favourite destination for those seeking an escape from the city, to bathe in the natural surroundings and do some hiking. Trekking the trails can take anything from 2 to 5 hours and you are treated to waterfalls and natural pools.
Take the express bus from Hiroshima Bus Centre that leaves 8:15 a.m. The journey takes 80 minutes. The return bus leaves Sandankyo Gorge at 3:00 p.m.
13.3 | Miyajima Island
Miyajima Island, aka ‘Island of Gods’ is van easy day trip from Hiroshima and can be reached in under an hour by ferry. Miyajima Island offers a plethora of things to do, from kayaking to trekking and jaw-dropping views, along with temples, shrines and a great selection of food.
Read the Complete Guide to Miyajima Island and add this trip to your itinerary.
Final say on 1 day guide to the Best of Hiroshima City Travel
After my visit to the National Peace Memorial Hall which was the final place in the Memorial Park, it was a good place to slow down and really reflect. The beauty of the Hiroshima Peace Memorial Park that is filled with memorial statues and flowers is in stark contrast to the remains of the Dome, but it somehow projected a sense of serene beauty and calmness. It was an extremely somber moment and I left feeling very humbled indeed.
A walk in the City gave me an idea of what the Hiroshima City was like — basically like any other cities in Japan, everyone went about their own chores and thoughts. The people here were welcoming of tourists and kind.
If you are yet to visit Japan, then I would strongly encourage you to add Hiroshima to your list.
My sincere wish is that this guide has been valuable in your search for the best of Hiroshima City travel and what you could do in one day at the historic city. If so, use the links embedded in this article to book your travels, place to stay or activities you intend to do. TTS earns a commission from qualified bookings or purchases at zero cost to you. Alternatively, you may wish to buy us a coffee. As always, your support is highly appreciated to keep this blog going.
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Ultimate 1—Day Guide to the best of Hiroshima City Travel first published at timelesstravelsteps.com
Regularly edited and updated. Last update: August 8, 2022
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