Both the site of terrible destruction and an uplifting symbol of world peace, a visit to Hiroshima is vital to understand the past, even as today the city looks towards the future.
Hiroshima became instantly famous worldwide when it became the first city ever to be targeted by an atomic bomb on 6 August, 1945. Standing in the peaceful leafy park surrounding the Genbaku (Atomic Bomb) Dome, it is hard to believe that the destructive power of the bomb was so great that it obliterated everything else for a 2km radius around it. After the war, great care was taken to reconstruct the city, and today Hiroshima is a modern and lively municipality whose outward facade belies the tragic facts of its recent past.
What to do in Hiroshima
Just under an hour from the city centre by one of Hiroshima’s quaint trams and a short ferry-ride, you will find the picturesque island of Itsukushima. More commonly known as Miyajima (literally, “shrine island”), it is best known for the striking sight of Itsukushima Shrine’s large “floating” torii (shrine gate) standing proudly in the bay. Together with the A-Bomb Dome, Itsukushima Shrine was inscribed on UNESCO’s World Heritage List in 1996, making visits to both the focal points of any visit to Hiroshima.
After photographing the magnificent torii, explore the island’s gentle walking paths. If you’re visiting in autumn, make sure you go to Momiji-dani (Maple Valley), the island’s prime spot for autumn leaf viewing and the inspiration for a popular local snack and souvenir, momiji manju (sweet steamed buns shaped like autumn leaves).
For more energetic walkers, there are more strenuous hiking trails to the summit of Mt. Misen, offering many vantage points for scenic views of the countless islands dotting the Seto Inland Sea. Whichever route you take, you will be sharing the winding paths with wild deer and monkeys as well as other tourists!
Sate the appetite you’re sure to have worked up after all that walking by heading back into town and feasting on some of Hiroshima’s best-known gastronomic delights - fresh oysters, and Hiroshima-style okonomiyaki (savoury pancake).
How to get to Hiroshima
Hiroshima Station is on the shinkansen (bullet train) line. From Shin-Osaka Station, it is around 85 minutes by Nozomi or Mizuho bullet trains or around 100 minutes by Sakura. From Tokyo Station it is around 4 hours by Nozomi (direct) and around 5 hours by Hikari (change at Shin-Osaka Station). The Hikari and Sakura bullet trains are covered by the JR Pass, while the slightly faster Nozomi and Mizuho bullet trains are not.