When we visited Japan in March 2016, we couldn’t pass up the opportunity to visit one of the most well-known cities in the world; Hiroshima.
On Hiroshima Bay in west Honshu (Japan’s largest island), the city of Hiroshima is well connected to many major cities in Japan by fast-speed trains. A direct Shinkansen links Kyoto to Hiroshima in 1 hour and 37 minutes and a JR (Japan Rail) + Shinkansen links Osaka to Hiroshima in less than 2 hours.
Hiroshima is a beautiful and unique city that can easily be explored by foot in a day. So, it’s perfect for a day trip from Kyoto or as a stop over on your way to Miyajima Island.
What to do and see in Hiroshima in a day
The Hiroshima Peace Memorial Park and the Hiroshima Peace Memorial Museum
During World War II, at 8:15 am on Monday, 6 August 1945, the nuclear bomb “Little Boy” was dropped on Hiroshima by an American B-29 bomber. It directly killed an estimated 80,000 people and injury and radiation probably contributed to a total of 90,000 to 166,000 deaths, or almost 48% of the city’s population at the time. Around 70% of the city’s buildings were destroyed, and another 7% severely damaged.
Hiroshima was rebuilt after the war with the help from the national government, and the Hiroshima Peace Memorial Park was established around the closest surviving building to the location of the bomb’s detonation, the Genbaku Dome or “Atomic Dome”. The Genbaku Dome is a symbol of the “peace city” and was designated a UNESCO World Heritage Site in 1996.
I didn’t really know what to expect when we visited the Hiroshima Peace Memorial Park, but it was a peaceful and moving experience. Around the base of the Genbaku Dome sit locals and historians who generously share the story and their own family’s experiences of that horrific day in 1945. There are folders of photos, articles and imagery that is very sobering. And, there are people sitting in circles learning to fold origami to make small paper cranes representing prayers for peace.
Crossing the river we found a series of monuments scattered across the tranquil green gardens. Silently, our group drifted apart and wandered through the gardens individually to experience the significance and magnitude of it all.
The nearby Hiroshima Peace Memorial Museum was opened in 1955 and was undergoing some renovation when we visited it in 2016.
According to the Hiroshima Peace Memorial Museum’s English guide: “The Peace Memorial Museum collects and displays belongings left by the victims, photos, and other materials that convey the horror of that event, supplemented by exhibits that describe Hiroshima before and after the bombings and others that present the current status of the nuclear age. Each of the items displayed embodies the grief, anger, or pain of real people. Having now recovered from the A-bomb calamity, Hiroshima’s deepest wish is the elimination of all nuclear weapons and the realization of a genuinely peaceful international community.”
Hiroshima was proclaimed a City of Peace by the Japanese parliament in 1949 and continues to advocate the abolition of all nuclear weapons by the year 2020.
It was harrowing, but truly an experience not to be missed.
From the JR Hiroshima Station, you can reach the Hiroshima Peace Memorial Park easily by foot in 30 minutes. Or, you can catch a bus or tram for approximately ¥200.
(The Hiroshima Peace Memorial Museum is open from 8:30 am- 6 pm (March-November), 8:30 am – 7 pm (August) and 8:30 am – 7 pm (December-February). Admission: ¥50 for adults, ¥30 for children.)
Enjoy some delicious Okonomiyaki
Allegedly, Hiroshima is the birthplace of Okonomiyaki, a delicious food that literally translates to “grilled as you like”. The entire selecting, cooking and eating process makes it a Japanese experience you can’t miss.
Okonomiyaki (don’t you just love saying it?!) is a pancake of messy comfort food; a crepe topped with cabbage, green onion, sliced pork, fish flakes, dried seaweed, or anything you like, with a generous helping of special sauce, grilled on a hotplate built into the table. It’s messy and incredibly delicious!
The Okonomimura Building is home to three floors of diners/restaurants all serving delicious Okonomiyaki in a variety of ways. It’s about half-way between the Hiroshima Peace Memorial Park and the JR Hiroshima Station.
Want to know more about food in Japan? Check out my post on where, what and how to eat in Japan.
Visit Hiroshima Castle
The Hiroshima Castle that exists today is a replica of the castle that was built in the 1590s and destroyed by the atomic bombing in 1945. It was renovated in 1958 and the internal rooms were restored in 1989.
It’s now a history museum featuring Samurai culture and is a fun place to visit if you are interested in learning about ancient and modern history, or if you are travelling with children.
(Hiroshima Castle is open every day from 9am – 6pm (March – November) and on weekdays from 9am – 5pm (December – February). Admission: ¥360 for adults, ¥180 for children.)