This post was last updated on June 9th, 2020 at 11:42 am
It is August 6, 1945, when a drama of unprecedented magnitude takes place in Japan. At 8.15 a.m., the Americans drop a 4.5-ton nuclear bomb on Hiroshima, to put an end to World War II. Almost immediately this killed ~80,000 people. Due to the disappearance of all communication lines from Hiroshima, this tragedy was not known in other parts of Japan until hours later. For example, a huge smoke cloud was visible 160 kilometers from the city. It was later revealed that as a result of the nuclear bomb attack no fewer than 237,062 people died.
After this complete destruction, Hiroshima is completely rebuilt today. When you take a tour through the city, several monuments immediately remind you of that one terrible day. It may not be the happiest destination in Japan, but Hiroshima is a must to include in your trip. Because the city certainly makes an impression.
Incidentally, there is more than just the sad side. The center of Hiroshima is very cozy, there are a few islands nearby and the local castle is also worth a visit. You can also visit a great temple where hardly any tourists come.
Visiting the Peace Memorial Park & Museum
A visit to the Peace Memorial Park has deeply touched us. This loaded place is located in the middle of the city and besides the monuments, it is also a beautiful, relaxing spot full of greenery that is pleasant to walk around.
On the riverside, you’ll see the Atomic Bomb Dome. An imposing building that, after the bombardment, is one of the few buildings that has remained largely intact. It symbolizes the sad history of the city and is one of the most visited sights of Hiroshima. This peace monument is also recognized as valuable by UNESCO and has been a World Heritage Site since 1996.
For a beautiful view of Hiroshima and the Peace Memorial Park, we recommend walking into the adjacent Hiroshima Orizuru Tower. The entrance fee is 1,700 yen (~ US$15.70), although you will receive a substantial discount on presentation of your passport. You then pay 900 yen (~ US$8.35).
Another place that makes an impression is the Children’s Peace Monument, erected to commemorate the thousands of child victims who have been killed by the nuclear bomb. One is Sadako Sasaki. She died of leukemia caused by radioactive radiation years after the disaster. When you stand in front of the statue and look at it, you become silent for a moment and you feel the sadness in yourself increase.
Furthermore, the Memorial Cenotaph is a striking monument in the park. Striking because of its arc shape, but mainly because of the countless number of names of the identified victims that are on it.
Be sure to enter the Peace Memorial Museum, where everything about the attack and the days after is told and portrayed. The photos of burned and injured victims, the collapsed buildings, and found objects after the attack will have a huge impact on you.
Hiroshima Castle is located near Peace Memorial Park. A beautiful and serene building that was completely rebuilt in 1958 after the nuclear bomb attack. The complex is surrounded by a moat and a beautiful garden. A short walk through the same garden takes you to the main building, which consists of five floors. If you want you can take a look inside for a small fee. From above you have a wide view of the city.
Admittedly, compared to the castle in Matsumoto, Hiroshima Castle might be just a little less impressive. However, with history in mind, we can only respect the fact that this photogenic replica was built.
The Cozy City Center
From the station or from the Peace Memorial Park you can easily walk to the cozy center of Hiroshima. There you’ll find, among other things, the covered Hondori Shopping District with numerous shops and eateries. And if you want to drink a nice coffee, we advise you to go to Obscura Coffee Roasters. Also, try the traditional local snack “okonomiyaki”. A must to try this snack is the restaurant Hassei.
By the way, you can see trams driving all over Hiroshima. Using a tram it is super easy to get from A to B if you do not want to walk continuously.
An Oasis of Peace in the Shukkei-en Garden
A little further on, on the Enko River, lies the Shukkei-en Garden. A small-scale park where you can relax or take a peaceful walk. In the well-kept garden, you will find beautiful ponds, bridges, benches to sit on, and countless hiking trails. In the peak periods of autumn and spring, it is most beautiful because of the bright colors.
Mitaki-dera: One of the Coolest Temple Complexes in Japan
Not well known but a must-visit, as far as we’re concerned, is the Mitaki-dera Temple. A friend of ours who also happened to be in Japan gave us this tip. And without exaggerating, we can say that for us this is one of the most special complexes we have visited in Japan.
After a walk on Mitaki hill, we entered a fairytale-like world. Many sculpture gardens, waterfalls, and an orange pagoda caused astonishment. The bright autumn colors over the entire complex completed the picture.
From a winding path at the top of the complex, we heard dreamy music and tried to figure out where exactly the sound came from. We were looking for speakers that might have been hidden between the plants, but moments later it turned out that a woman was playing a recorder. We sat down and felt a sense of calm descend upon us. It completely suited the setting of Mitaki-dera.
Except for some locals we have not seen any other tourists here. This will only benefit the “temple feeling”.
We can only say one more thing: experience for yourself how magical this place is.
Miyajima: an Island Full of Sights
From Miyajima-guchi Station you can walk to the harbor where you can take the ferry to beautiful Miyajima. About 10 minutes later you are already there and you are suddenly among plenty of deer. It’s a wonderful day trip from Hiroshima and you’ll really miss something if you don’t go there.
The main attraction most tourists come to is the Itsukushima Shrine, especially because of the gigantic torii gate nearby. Perhaps the most famous torii in all of Japan.
If you ask us, however, the island has much more to offer than just this gate. There are several temples, various colorful parks and you can even climb a mountain.
A picturesque place is the Daisho-in Temple with a mysterious Buddha garden where all figurines have a colored cap. Then walk upstairs to see all kinds of beautiful buildings, statues, and a pilgrim’s cave.
The red-orange Gojunoto pagoda is also an eye-catcher. This Buddhist shrine is 27 meters high, consists of five floors, and has several unique golden details incorporated in the upper part. The pagoda is easy to reach from the center.
Right next to Daisho-in Temple is a path that leads to the 500m high summit of Mount Misen. The road is steeper than we thought, but once you get up there you’ll have a panoramic view of Hiroshima. Along the way, you will not see many people and besides nature, you will see a number of impressive Buddhist structures. It is quite busy at the top.
Where to Stay in Hiroshima
The nicest location to stay in Hiroshima is in the center. We felt like it was a lot less atmospheric outside of the center. There are enough hostels, such as the cozy Hostel Mallika and WeBase Hiroshima. In terms of hotels, we can recommend KIRO Hiroshima.
We also stayed in this Airbnb, within walking distance of the castle and the Peace Memorial Park. An excellent and affordable studio in which we could also cook a meal ourselves. Nearby is Yokogawa Station, which is where you can take a direct train to Miyajima-guchi Station to reach Miyajima. As we said, the neighborhood, just outside the center, was a bit less atmospheric.
Traveling on by Bus? Keep This in Mind
In most places in Japan, you will find the bus station near the train station. However, in Hiroshima, this is not the case and you will have to go to the Hiroshima Bus Center. This bus station is located about 2 kilometers away in the SOGO mall on the third floor. We continued to Fukuoka from here.