Hiroshima, located in the southwest of Japan, is one of the main tourist hubs in the country, and is a destination steeped in history, culture, and outstanding natural beauty.
August 6 1945 is a day that changed Hiroshima forever. The atomic bomb completely devastated the city, but Hiroshima is truly a city reborn. It was not only rebuilt; it has retained its traditional Japanese spirit and charm while balancing it seamlessly with the vibrancy and modernity of today's society.
This city is in itself a symbol of peace, rebirth, and culture. See the countless shrines and temples that dot the city, visit the Hiroshima Peace Memorial Park, and indulge in some of the most delicious cuisine Japan has to offer.
The A-Bomb Dome, a former Industrial Promotion Hall, was directly below the atomic bomb blast that ravaged Hiroshima on August 6 1945, but strangely, it didn't collapse. It has since become a symbol of peace and commemoration. The Hiroshima Peace Memorial Park beside this attraction is a large, leafy space featuring memorials and the long, tree-lined Pond of Peace, which leads to the Cenotaph to the A-Bomb Victims.
Itsukushima Shrine is the only shrine in the world with a torii gate and shrine in the middle of the sea. It's also got one of the best views in Japan. Another must-see is the Hiroshima Castle, sometimes known as the Carp Castle, which showcases Hiroshima's history prior to World War II, and also features the wonderful Hiroshima Gokoku Shrine inside.
With so many parks and open spaces, Hiroshima is a riot of colors during spring and fall. Walk under arches of cherry blossom trees in bloom, attend the Maple Festival in Sankeien Garden in the fall, or simply take in the splendor of Shukkeien, the oldest Japanese garden in Hiroshima city.
Hiroshima Kagura Performance holds regular events showcasing ancient music and dancing dedicated to the mythical gods of Japan. Peruse traditional crafts that have 200-year-old history at Miyajima Traditional Product Hall, where you can also make Momiji manju and rice scoops.
Take a trip into the more mountainous areas in the suburbs of the Hiroshima prefecture and discover delightful hot springs like Megahira, Miharashi, and the Yu-no-yama Hot Spring, which was declared the National Recreational Hot Spring Resort of the Ministry of Environment in 1972.
Located in the heart of Hiroshima, the peace memorial park was designed to commemorate those who lost their lives when the atomic bomb was dropped in 1945. A blooming tribute, the park inhabits over 300 cherry trees flourishing alongside the Motoyasu River. Stroll over to the Genbaku Dome (the Hiroshima Peace Memorial) located near the Hypocenter, where the atomic bomb was dropped. You'll be humbled by the sight of the only remaining standing structure that survived after the atomic bomb. Once the Hiroshima Prefectural Industrial Promotional Hall, the Genbanku Dome's architectural skeleton serves as a grim reminder of Mankind's horrific past. However, it also represents hope for humanity's future.
Designed by Tange Kenzo, the grayish, horseshoe-shaped structure is a symbol for those lives lost due to the atomic bomb. Below this beautiful architecture sits a smaller blocked stone engraved with the names of the victims lost in Hiroshima and overseas. Marvel at the adjacent tranquil pool that complements the Cenotaph, allowing for deep reflection. You'll be moved by the eloquent words inscribed on the epitaph that state, "Rest in Peace, for the error shall not be repeated."
Take in the splendor of Miyajima Island, replete with Japanese national treasures. Located on the majestic Seto Inland Sea, Miyajima is the home to the Itsukushima Shrine. Locals worship the shrine to ask the Gods to protect the nation and defend seafarers. Stroll over to Itsukushima and visit its vermilion decorated shrine, a designated UNESCO World Heritage Site. The majestic red sepulcher complements the blue waters of the Prussian sea. Walk over to the East Corridor and examine the beautifully-spaced flat boards that make up the corridor. As you stroll down to the Haraiden (purification hall), gaze out to sea and marvel at the flourishing green trees, mountains, and water that surround the building.
Built in 1620 by Ueda Soko, a renowned tea master of ceremony, this villa garden was originally created for the feudal Lord Asano Nagaakira. Renowned for its plum trees and cherry blossoms, the garden is encompassed by miniature forests, valleys, and mountains centered around a sumptuous pond that drifts out to the Ota River. Stroll over to the rounded bridges that overlook the scenic landscape and marvel at the thatched tea houses resting on several inlets.
Reconstructed after the 1945 atomic bomb, the Hiroshima Castle is surrounded by a moat. The fortress was converted into a museum housing a collection of Hiroshima's antiquities, and the rich history of Hiroshima's castles is housed here. The museum also preserves the history of Japan's other castles. Try on some Japanese military armor worn by a 16th-century Japanese soldier and then go over to the bunker where the first radio broadcast came out of Hiroshima soon after the bomb struck.
Spring time (March - May) heralds the opening of the beautiful cherry blossoms. The days tend to be warm but sometimes showery, and it can get chilly in the evenings. The first week of May is Golden Week, preceded by a collection of national holidays at the end of April: this is the busiest travel season. June is the wettest month and best avoided by those who don't like rain. July and August are hot and humid between 75 - 85 degrees Fahrenheit. Fall (September - November) is still pleasant and perfect to see the colors changing. Winters can see snow and cold temperatures but seldom does it drop below freezing.
The relatively small Hiroshima Airport (HIJ) is located 31 miles east of the city and runs regular flights to and from Tokyo, Sapporo, Sendai, Okinawa, as well as China, Taiwan, and South Korea. Visitors from further afield will need a connecting flight to Hiroshima from one of these locations. The Limousine Bus from the airport to Hiroshima Station takes about 45 minutes and will cost you ¥1,340.
The infamous Japanese bullet trains, known as Shinkansen, are run by Japan Rail, the largest train operator in the country. Shinkansen will get you from Tokyo to Hiroshima in four hours, and from Osaka in a mere two hours. It's a very scenic route winding along Japan's southern shore to western Honshu. Hiroshima Station is located at 1 Matsubarachō in the Minami-ku district.
It is possible to drive to Hiroshima from other big cities in Japan, however, it will take longer than the Shinkansen bullet trains. You'll need to follow Sanyo Expressway along the southern coast, in much the same direction as the trains as trains from Osaka, Kobe, and Okayama.
Willer Express run regular highway buses to Hiroshima from popular cities such as Kyoto, Osaka, and Tokyo. These include night bus services from Kyoto, Kobe, and Osaka. Bus is a cheap way to travel but be prepared for a long journey; for example, from Tokyo, the journey will take around 12 hours. Buses leave from either Hiroshima Station or Hiroshima Bus Center, located at 6-27 Motomachi, in the central Naka-ku district.
Those on a budget will find many affordable hotels, such as the Hotel Active Hiroshima, to meet all of your basic needs. The Urbain Hiroshima Executive is a popular choice near the main station, and Sansui Ryokan Hiroshima is for those seeking a more traditional Japanese experience. For a touch of luxury, the Grand Prince Hotel Hiroshima has a range of premium rooms, seven delicious restaurants, and exceptional views.
Naka-ku - Naka Ward, as it's known in English, is the heart of Hiroshima. It's home to many of the major attractions, such as Hiroshima Castle, the A-Bomb Dome, Hiroshima Peace Memorial Park, and the Hondori shopping arcade. This area is also full of restaurants that serve Hiroshima's most famous dish, okonomiyaki.
Hatsukaichi - this is an area of outstanding beauty, with mountains and waterfalls. The impressive Itsukushima Shrine on the island of Miyajima can also be found here, and it is just a short 10-minute ferry ride away.
Nishi-ku - this southwestern area is home to great mountains but also borders the ocean. Visit the exquisite Buddhist temples Mitaki-dera and Seiganji, as well as the Fish Market in Hiroshima Bay.
There are two bus companies that service the inner-city area, the green Hiroden bus and red Hiroshima bus. Other bus companies take care of the routes from the center of the city to the suburbs. Alternatively, you can use "Hiroden" (streetcars) in Hiroshima city. There are eight routes in Hiroshima city and only the Miyajima line goes out of city. A day ticket will cost you ¥600. Astramline trains run from the center of Hiroshima city to the suburbs too. There are some nice sightseeing places like temples, museums, and the Hiroshima Big Arch Stadium on this route. The Visit Hiroshima Tourist Pass is recommended for visitors as it offers you unlimited rides on expressway buses, all trains, the Hiroden streetcars, and ferries to Miyajima. The "Small Area" ticket will set you back ¥1,000 and ¥3,000 for the "Wide Area" pass.
You'll easily find lots of taxis cruising around Hiroshima. Fares vary depending on the size of car, time, and distance traveled, but the base fare is usually between ¥580 - ¥640.
With a sound public transport infrastructure in the city, a car would only make sense for those traveling further afield. Car rental companies like Nippon Rent-A-Car can be found at the airport. A mid-sized car will cost you around ¥8,000 for 24 hours, but prices can vary so it's best to compare rental companies.
Hondori is a huge, covered shopping street with an abundance of shops and cafes downtown: go down one of the small side streets to discover a host of boutiques. The Fuji Grand Hiroshima is a popular shopping mall with a mix of smaller shops and big brand names as well as lots of dining options. Those seeking a vintage twist should head to Moto Ujina Guchi Flea Market; with 100-150 stalls you'll find a treasure trove of traditional Japanese wares, vinyl records, clothes, and jewelry.
There is a variety of small family-run grocers, convenience stores, as well as a few larger supermarkets, such as MaxValu, dotted throughout town. A dozen eggs should cost you around ¥269 and a quart of milk around ¥363.
No trip to Hiroshima is complete without visiting Okonomi-mura for okonomiyaki, a local delicacy. Translated it means 'what you like', typically made of batter, cabbage, pork, and optional items such as squid, octopus, and cheese. Enjoy a cozy meal of Shabu Shabu at Yakumo Nagarekawa or if you're a fish lover, head to Guttsuri-an for some of the best oysters Hiroshima has to offer. A two-three course dinner in a mid-range restaurant should cost you somewhere in the region of ¥3,000.