Hiroshima, Japan

Hiroshima City (広島市)-Top places to visit

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 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. From ancient times, every tree, rock and sand in the island was worshipped as god. It is an island often regarded by the locals as where the people and the gods live together.  It is home to the only floating Torii gate in the world, and 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.  Read more about Miyajima Island and what you can do here.

There are two UNESCO World Heritage Sites in Hiroshima. One is the Atomic Bomb Dome in the Hiroshima Peace Memorial Park and the other is the Itsukushima Shrine in Miyajima Island. The Atomic Bomb Dome is an iconic structure as it was only a few meters away from the atomic bomb blast. It is symbolic as the beacon for world peace and an end to nuclear weapons.

I spent 2 days at Hiroshima and wished that I had spent more as this beautiful city has so much more to offer. If you have the time, try and spend 3 to 4 days. with so many choices on accommodation, I assure you, you will have plenty to do!

My top picks for a visit in Hiroshima City are:

Hiroshima City

  1. The Atomic Bomb Dome & Hiroshima Peace Memorial Park
  • The Atomic Bomb Dome

The Atomic Bomb Dome is a symbol of Hiroshima and a designated UNESCO World Heritage Site since 1996.

Atomic Bomb Dome
Atomic Bomb Dome

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 you exit, the tram. Make this your first stop before visiting any other sites on the Park. As you near this structure, a sense of somber feeling overcomes you and you begin to appreciate the powerful explosion and the sufferings the people endured. Take some time to read the plaque and observe the structure. From here, 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.

  • Cenotaph for Atomic Bomb Victims

The official name for the Cenotaph is the “Memorial Monument for Hiroshima, City of Peace”. It 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.

Memorial Monument for Hiroshima, City of Peace
Memorial Monument for Hiroshima, City of Peace

The design of the Cenotaph is simple and is done well. It was designed by Kenzo Tange, a Pritzker Prize winner.

From the Cenotaph, make your way to the Flame of Peace and the Children’s Peace Monument.

  • Flame of Peace

The pedestal that houses the Flame of Peace is designed in the image of two hands pressed together with the palms facing the sky.

Flame of Peace
Flame of Peace

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.

  • Children’s Peace Monument

The Children’s Peace Monument was built and dedicated on Children’s Day, 1958, 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.

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.

Children's Peace Museum
Children’s Peace Museum
Inside the tower, a gold crane is hung, which rings like a wind chime, and a bell modelled after an ancient bronze bell.
Inside the tower, a gold crane is hung, which rings like a wind chime, and a bell modelled after an ancient bronze bell.

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 here, make your way to the Hiroshima Peace Memorial Museum and the Hiroshima National Peace Memorial Hall.

  • 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.

The building is divided into two sections, the East Building and the Main Building. There are exhibits that illustrates the horrors of the atomic bomb such as possessions from the victims for example clothes worn by victims. There was a wrist watch that stopped at precisely 8:15. There were some children’s toys also such as a tricycle. There were accounts of people’s experiences, photographs and other pieces of documentation. 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.

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.

Former President Obama in Hiroshima
Former President Obama in Hiroshima

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 for a personal gain. The Museum is definitely an important place to visit and it is a time to slow down and reflect on a bad period in human history.

My final stop was the Hiroshima National Peace Memorial Hall.

  • 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. It’s structure is designed to reflect 8:15 a.m., the time when the atomic bomb was dropped.

Hiroshima National Peace Memorial Hall-note the roof designed in the shape of 8:15
Hiroshima National Peace Memorial Hall-note the roof designed in the shape of 8:15

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 echos at the slightest sound! So, you got to be extremely quiet.

Chamber of information
Chamber of information

 

As this was the final place in the Memorial Park, it was a good place to slow down and really reflect. The beauty of the 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.

  • Aioi Bridge
View of the Aioi Bridge and the Atomic Bomb Dome from the Memorial Park
View of the Aioi Bridge and the Atomic Bomb Dome from the Memorial Park

Last but not least, is the Aioi Bridge which was originally constructed in 1932. It is a 3-way bridge in an unusual T-shape which 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.

 

Late afternoon

So, after spending most of the day visiting the Memorial Park, exploring downtown was the next activity during the latter part of the afternoon. 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. I was more interested in getting back to the hotel to refresh and for a short rest before heading out for dinner.

Hiroshima Hondori
Hiroshima Hondori

 

2. Hiroshima’s Food & Drink 

There is no better way to get to know a culture than through its food. Despite Hiroshima’s sad history, it is popular for its sake and Okonomiyaki  (click the link and check out my blog) and Yaki-gaki.

  • Sake

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. I did not visit a sake brewery in Hiroshima as I had already visited the brewery in Fushimi, Kyoto but it is on my list for my next visit to Hiroshima. If you would like to visit a local sake brewer in Hiroshima and experience the world of sake, please find the official website here: http://visithiroshima.net/special/welcome_to_hiroshima_sake_world.html

  • Sake + Okonomiyaki

Okonomiyaki, regarded as Hiroshima’s Soul Food, is a savoury pancake filled with vegetables and seafood. Couple of weeks ago, I dedicated a blog on Okonomiyaki and it is a quick two-minute read which you can access here. Okonomiyaki is a must-try for any visitor to this City. What better than some sake to go with it!

  • 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. Miyajima was on my Day Two itinerary.

 

Other places to visit:

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 and it is only a 15-minute journey by public transport.

Access: Take the City train Nos: 1, or 2 or 5 (150 Yen). Exit at Kamiyacho Higashi stop and it is just 5 minutes walk from here.

Access:

From Hiroshima City Station, take the tram from the front of the South Exit. Take tram #2 or #6 and exit at Genbaku-dome-mae (Atomic Bomb Dome). Journey is about 13 minutes and 160 Yen.

Getting to Hiroshima from:

Osaka

Shinkansen – Shin-Osaka Station to Hiroshima Station

                       Mizuho or Nozomi (not covered by Japan Rail Pass)

                       9,710 Yen

                       Journey Time – 1hr 25 minutes

                       With Japan Rail Pass

                        Sakura – 1 hour 32 minutes

                        Hikari – 2 hours 13 minutes

Bus transportion – Daytime and Overnight service

                          All buses depart from Osaka Station’s JR Express Bus Terminal

                          Daytime journey is about 5 hours

                          Overnight journey: 2 services

  1. Departs at 23:00 arriving Hiroshima at 06:21
  2. Departs at 23:30 arriving Hiroshima at 05:55

For up-to-date information and fares and to make bookings directly at Japan Expressway Bus Net go to: https://www.kousokubus.net/JpnBus/en

Kyoto

Shinkansen – Shin-Kyoto to Hiroshima

                         JR Tokaido and Sanyo lines (Not covered by Japan Railway Pass)

                        (Tokaido and Sanyo are regular, quicker and direct service)

                        Nozomi trains

                        For unreserved seats, fare is 10,570 Yen

                        Reserved seats, fare is 11,500 Yen

                        Journey time is 1 hour 35 minutes

                        With Japan Rail Pass

                   Hikari and Kodama trains but you need to transfer onto a Sakura train at                              Shin-   Osaka or Shin-Kobe, adding 10 to 15 minutes to your journey.

                    Unreserved seats: 10,570 Yen

                    Reserved seats: 11,000 Yen

                    Journey time is 2 hours

Bus transportation – Kyoto to Hiroshima: Daytime and Overnight service

                                    Provided by JR Bus and Willer Express

                                    Daytime journey is 6 hours 20 minutes

                                    Overnight journey is 8 hours 40 minutes (6,100 Yen)

For up-to-date information and fares and to make bookings directly at Japan Expressway Bus Net go to: https://www.kousokubus.net/JpnBus/en

Tokyo

Shinkansen – Tokyo to Hiroshima

                       JR Tokaido and Sanyo lines (Not covered by Japan Rail Pass)

                       Nozomi

                       4 hours

                       19,000 Yen for a reserved seat

                      With Japan Railway Pass

                      Hikari and Sakura Lines

                      5 hours with transfer at Shin-Osaka station

                      Unreserved seats: 18,040 Yen

                      Reserved seats: 18,500 Yen

Bus transportation: Tokyo to Hiroshima-Overnight service

                                Journey time is 12 hours and fares are usually 11,900 Yen

                             Discounted fares are available on Willer Express and Japan Bus. You can make online bookings directly.

By Air: Tokyo to Hiroshima

  • There are several flights a day between Tokyo’s Haneda Airport and Hiroshima by JAL and ANA.
  • Flight duration is 90 minutes
  • One way fare is 35,000 Yen
  • Hiroshima Airport is 50 minutes away from City Centre
  • Bus fare from Hiroshima Airport City Bus Terminal is 1,340 Yen

2 thoughts on “Hiroshima City (広島市)-Top places to visit”

  1. I have never seriously thought of visiting Japan before. Your post reminds me there is amazing history in this unique country. Hiroshima is a city that experienced incredible nuclear destruction. I am so glad to hear there is such a focus on peace.it looks such an interesting city . Who knows one day I might get there .

    1. Thank you so much 🙂 I am glad that my posts have encouraged you to think about Japan. It is an incredibly unique country. One can get completely immersed in its history , legends and myths! And yes, Hiroshima has moved forward and a great City to visit. I hope you will, too 🙂

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