by Bryce Marley-Jarrett
Just a couple of hours from Osaka, today's prefecture's natural beauty and it’s people are often overshadowed by its sad history; with it holding the unfortunate title of being the first city in the world hit by a nuclear weapon. Beyond its somber history lies a spectacular city, that has overcome its past, rebuilt stronger, and is home to some spectacular sights that can't be missed. Welcome to Hiroshima.
Hiroshima has a rich origin story, which sadly revolves around war. The city was founded back in 1589 by the warlord Mori Terumoto, who had Hiroshima Castle built for his residence, he soon lost the city and castle in the battle of Sekigahara. Following this, the city was industrialised throughout the early 1900’s and became a hub for Japan’s military supply manufacturing. The city played a key part in Japan’s war efforts in WWI, having a POW camp that held with over 500 German prisoners in Hiroshima Bay.
Hiroshima was a military city throughout it’s history and through WWII, being a major port city for the Japanese military, as well as producing the large majority of the Japanese military supplies. This all came to an end on the morning of August 6th, 1945, with what Hiroshima is known for the world over. The United States dropped a nuclear bomb on the city, wiping out the entire city footprint, and bringing the end of the second world war.
Hiroshima was changed forever that day, however after the war they rebuilt and grew into the current city we see today. A city that promotes world peace with their famous Peace Park, museum, as well as a rebuilt castle and spectacular gardens.
Let’s take a look at the great things this city offers any visitor, whether just for a day trip or longer.
The first sight is on most people’s lists of must experience when visiting the region. The Hiroshima Peace Memorial Park was opened in 1955, just 10 years after the attack.
The Peace park is about 20 minutes from Hiroshima Station by tram, with a stop right at the top corner of the park, just outside the now iconic remains known as the A-Bomb Dome.
The A-Bomb Dome
The A-Bomb dome (above in title picture) is the structural remains of the Industrial Promotion Hall. It is the building closest to the hypocenter of the nuclear bomb that remained in some form. The dome is now an officially designated site of memory for Japan and humanity’s shared heritage of the devastation of the attack on Hiroshima. The A-Bomb Dome is on the UNESCO World Heritage List.
The park is lush with trees and manicured gardens with wide rivers winding through it. Scattered among the park grounds are many tributes and memorials to the victims and history of the Hiroshima bombing. It’s easy to spend an hour or so slowly wandering the park grounds reading the history and taking a moment to pay your respects at the various monuments and tributes to those lost.
Cenotaph for the A-Bomb Victims
A short walk along the river brought us to the main memorial in the park, the reflection pool leading to the peace arch. Every year on August 6th they have a ceremony to remember the victims of the bombing and hold prayers for world peace, as well as various activities throughout the park on the anniversary to bring awareness and mourn the loss.
Peace Memorial Museum
The Peace Museum has been running since 1955 to preserve the history of that fateful day in 1945. The museum also promotes the ideals of world peace and a universal end to nuclear arms.
The museum is quite iconic, going through the mornings of Hiroshima residents that fateful day, with displays of war propaganda, personal belongings that were found in the aftermath and information on individuals who were lost. The museum then takes you through the time it hit and shows how vast the damage was through interactive displays and imagery.
As you walk through the museum you see the aftermath, and what became the final days of the second world war, and the rebuilding of Hiroshima. The Museum heavily focuses on the need for world peace and the ending of nuclear warfare.
Give yourself a couple of hours to get through the museum, it is quite shocking and confronting, however incredibly important in not letting us forget what happened, and try to stop it from happening ever again. All ages are welcome to the museum, and you will usually find quite a few Japanese school groups coming through. Although a lot of the imagery is quite graphic and might disturb small children.
Admission to the park is free, however the museum costs 50¥. The Peace Memorial Museum is open from 8:00am to 6:00pm daily (closed from December 29th to January 1st).
The Hiroshima Peace Park and Museum is about 20 minutes from Hiroshima Station, take tram lines 2 or 6 to Genbaku Domu Mae Station. Tram fare is 160¥. For more information visit the Museum website here.
The mighty Hiroshima Castle sits in the centre of Hiroshima along the river bank. The original home of the war lord Mori Terumoto, the castle became seen as a key seat of power for Western Japan. Sadly the castle was destroyed in WWII, however the city rebuilt it to the same specifications of the original.
The Castle’s main building is 5 stories tall and surrounded by a moat. Within the castle grounds you will be able to tour both the castle itself, as well as the ruins of the original. On the grounds there is also a shrine and some other reconstructed buildings from the original, as well as a museum that tells the history of the castle and the city, and also the vast history of castles in Japan.
Be sure to visit the top story of the castle to get some of the best views in all of Hiroshima.
Hiroshima Castle is open daily from 9:00am to 6:00pm, and admission is 360¥.
Getting to the Castle is easy: You can take a train from Hiroshima Station on lines 1, 2 or 6 to Kamiyacho-nishi station and its a ten minute walk. Alternatively its just a 15 minute walk from the Peace Memorial Park.
One of Japan’s most famous car manufacturers calls Hiroshima home! Mazda was created in Hiroshima in 1920 and is still located here today, producing over 1 million cars a year.
Fans of the car manufacturer can visit it’s head office and museum as well as have a tour of the factory that creates the cars.
When arriving, guests enter through the head office building and sign in, then you will be put on a tour group. Once assigned to a tour group, you’ll be directed to a bus where you will be transported to the museum. The museum offers a peek at the company’s deep history in Hiroshima, a chance to see the technology it has created to make the latest Mazda creations, as well as a sneak peek into the future concepts they are creating to make tomorrow better.
Following the museum tour you will be guided through a real working production line that is in use today! The tour concludes in an exclusive Mazda gift shop. Total time of tour is approx 90 minutes.
Tours are held Monday to Friday and the English one begins at 10am. Tours are free and advance reservations are recommended. Reservations can be made here .
Getting to the Mazda Museum is easy: simply take the JR Sanyo Line from Hiroshima Museum to Mukainada Station, and it’s a 5 minute walk.
Hiroshima is home to some beautiful parks and sights, however if you would love to take in a traditional Japanese garden, Shukkeien Garden is a must stop.
The Gardens are beautifully manicured and almost look miniature. This might explain the English translation of the garden’s name, the “shrunken scenery garden”. The garden depicts vast landscapes in miniature, from mountains to forests, valleys and streams, each beautifully maintained from the garden’s opening in 1620.
Navigating the gardens is quite easy with a path that connects around the whole gardens like a trail to follow, making this an easy hour stop to admire the beauty while in Hiroshima.
Shukkeien Gardens are open daily from 9:00am to 6:00pm and cost 260¥ to enter.The gardens are easily accessed by walking, just 15 minutes from Hiroshima Station.
Located just an hour from Hiroshima is the spectacular Miyajima Island. Japlanning’s full guide to the island is located here
Getting to Miyajima Island is easy from Hiroshima, either by taking a train or tram to the ferry.
- From JR Hiroshima station, take the JR Sanyo Line to Miyajimaguchi Station (25 minutes) or the tram line #2 from central Hiroshima bound for Miyajimaguchi (60 minutes) and walk to the ferry pier.
- A ferry from Hiroshima Peace Park takes 55 minutes and costs ¥1900 one way or ¥3400 for the round trip.
- A ferry from Hiroshima Port takes 30 minutes and costs ¥1800 each way.
It’s one of the most beautiful times of the year to visit anywhere in Japan, when all the Sakura (or cherry blossom) trees bloom, and Hiroshima is one of the most spectacular bloom spots. Traditionally the bloom in Hiroshima happens in early April, so don’t be late!
Grab a blanket, bento box and relax under the blossoms at one of our prime spots for viewing sakura in Hiroshima:
- Hiroshima Peace Park: Find a spot along the river that goes through the middle is lined with beautiful sakura.
- Hijiyama Park: This park in central Hiroshima has over 1000 cherry trees, and here is where you will find the most sakura viewing parties happening.
- Hiroshima Castle: Set up camp under any of the trees, which are all around the castle grounds.
- Shukkeien Gardens: Anywhere amongst these gorgeous gardens is perfect, as the trees are scattered throughout.
- Miyajima Island: The small shrine island has over a 1000 trees littered all over the island, specifically around the main shine, so finding a great spot here isn’t difficult!
Hiroshima is quite famous for two types of food in Japan, Okonomiyaki, where the Hiroshima style is one of the most well know variants. The other famous food is Oysters.
Hiroshima brings in about 65% of Japanese Oyster production, with Hiroshima oysters being shipped across Japan and the world. You can find oysters offered in most restaurants, food stands and even when staying at ryokans in Hiroshima.
How to get there
- TRAIN: Take the Shinkansen from Shin-Osaka Station to Hiroshima Station TIME: 1.5-2 hours.
- TRAIN: Take the Shinkansen from Shinagawa Station to Hiroshima Station TIME: 3.5-4 hours.
- PLANE: Multiple daily flights depart from Haneda Airport TIME: 1 hour 40 minutes