After our stay in Kyoto we hopped back on a bullet train, this time headed towards Hiroshima. Our ride on the Shinkansen was under two hours long, direct and as always very pleasant. Because we left Kyoto bright and early, we arrived in Hiroshima just before 10 am. That let us spend a few hours in Hiroshima itself, before catching a ferry to Miyajima Island in the late afternoon.
Hiroshima is a very famous city for a really sad reason. On the 6th of August 1945, Hiroshima was the first city targeted by a nuclear bomb during WWII. After the devastation, Hiroshima was rebuilt from the ashes, becoming a large metropolis of over a million people.
What to visit in Hiroshima?
The main reasons to visit Hiroshima is of course to visit the Hiroshima Peace Memorial Park and Atomic Bomb Dome.
How to get to the Peace Memorial Park and Atomic Bomb Dome from the train station?
From the Hiroshima station, we hopped on Tram no. 2. The tram terminal is at the southern exit of the station and is easy to find. You can also take tram no. 6; whichever comes first. The Genbaku-Domu-mae (Atomic Bomb Dome) tram stop is a roughly twenty-minute ride away. All of Hiroshima’s main sights surround the Peace Memorial Park. Once there you can cover the entire area on foot.
The Atomic Bomb Dome
The only building that was not rebuilt after the war is the Hiroshima Prefectural Industrial Promotion Hall which has now been renamed the Atomic Bomb Dome. The nuclear blast occurred almost directly over this building, killing everyone in the area instantly. With its solid construction, the hall was one of only a few buildings near the epicentre left standing after the explosion. It quickly became a symbol of the tragic bombing, leading the city of Hiroshima to leave it untouched. The ruins have now been declared a Unesco World Heritage Site. This is a very moving place which remains quiet and peaceful, even with all of the visitors and the busy city that surrounds it. When we visited it was under renovation and covered in scaffolding.
Peace Memorial Park
This large green park is a great place to walk through and check out the many war memorials. The ones not to miss are the Cenotaph, the Children’s Peace Monument and the Hiroshima National Peace Memorial Hall for the Atomic Bomb Victims.
The Cenotaph is a large monument and water feature commemorating the victims of the blast. It contains a register of all who died when the bomb hit, or as a result of exposure to radiation. Through the arch of the Cenotaph, you can see the Flame of Peace and the Atomic Bomb Dome on the opposite side of the water feature. The flame will burn as long as there are nuclear weapons on the planet. It’s a place where you can pay your respects to those who died, and many Japanese school kids visit the site for that reason.
Hiroshima National Peace Memorial Hall
Next door to the Cenotaph is the Hiroshima National Peace Memorial Hall for the Atomic Bomb Victims. This memorial is free to enter, quite small and mostly underground. A spiral walkway takes you down to the Hall of Remembrance which reflects the bombed cityscape from the hypo centre. A fountain in the middle depicts the time (8.15) of the bomb blast. Another room holds the names and faces of all who died and a few videos of survivors’ stories.
The Children’s Peace Monument
The Children’s Peace Monument is very moving. A little girl named Sadako Sasaki inspired this monument. Another victim of the nuclear bomb, she died of Leukaemia at the age of twelve. Sadako began folding paper cranes on learning of her illness. She hoped that she would recover if she folded a thousand cranes. Cranes are a symbol of longevity and happiness in Japan. Unfortunately she died before reaching her target, but her classmates finished folding the remaining cranes. The paper crane has now become a symbol of peace. Thousands of cranes, folded by people from all over the world, lie at the base of this monument.
Peace Memorial Museum
It’s essential to visit the Peace Memorial Museum to learn the full story of one of the saddest days in history. Its many exhibits present an in-depth and very upsetting look into the events of this tragic day, the damage to the city, and the tens of thousands of people who lost their lives or loved-ones in the aftermath.
I couldn’t help but shed some tears when we saw examples of the items recovered from the rubble, such as children’s toys, books or pieces of clothing. Be warned that some of these displays are quite disturbing, such as statues of children walking with skin melting off their bodies. Although it was very sad and sombre, the museum really showcases the dangers and the horrors of nuclear weapons. It is a very good reminder for us to avoid nuclear war at all costs.
Fee: Y50 per adults.
After exploring the Peace Memorial Park and the museum we took a short walk north of the Peace Memorial Park to the Hiroshima castle. The bomb blast totally destroyed Hiroshima Castle, but in 1958 it was rebuilt in its original form. If you have the time you can pay to go inside. Instead, we simply enjoyed wandering around the grounds and checking out the castle’s impressive moat. The castle is beautiful and worth a quick stop.
Fee: Y370 per adult to enter the castle. The castle grounds are free to explore.
Where to eat in Hiroshima?
We were feeling pretty hungry after all that walking. That called for a pit stop for some hearty food and a tasty Japanese beer! Hiroshima’s speciality is their own version of Okonomiyaki, or as we like to call it, the Japanese pancake. In Hiroshima, they layer their Okonomiyaki, rather than mixing the ingredients together before frying. Oysters and Squid are also popular toppings in Hiroshima, although you can easily go without them if you’re not a fan of seafood.
Thanks to Tripadvisor we found a fantastic Okonomiyaki restaurant called Okonomiyaki Nagata-ya, just a short walk from the peace park. You might remember from our post on Kamakura how much fun we had cooking our own Okonomiyaki. We were keen to do that again in Hiroshima, but the only space left was at the bar. Fortunately sitting right in front of the grill let us watch the experts themselves create our Okonomiyaki. Of course, they turned out way nicer than any we could have made ourselves. They were so delicious and filling!
How to get to Hiroshima?
Getting to Hiroshima from Osaka is super easy. You can take one of the bullet trains on the Sanyo Shinkansen Line from Shin-Osaka Station directly to Hiroshima Station. Tickets cost around 9,710 yen and are free with a JR pass.
Journey times depend on the model of the train you take. The faster models such as the Mizuho and the Nozomi take about an hour and a half but they are not included in the JR pass. The slower trains such as the Hikari take about two hours and fifteen minutes.
The Tokaido and Sanyo shinkansen lines connect both Kyoto and Hiroshima. Those trains will take you directly to Hiroshima. The journey should take around 1 hour and 40 minutes and the fare should be around 10,570 yen for an unreserved seat.
If you have a JR pass, you may have to make a transfer at Shin-Osaka Station or Shin-Kobe Station. If this is the case, it will add an extra ten or fifteen minutes to your journey.
You can easily get from Tokyo to Hiroshima on the JR Tokaido/Sanyo Shinkansen lines. The direct Nozomi trains take about four hours. The Hikari and Sakura trains (included with the JR pass) take about five hours, with a transfer at Osaka station.
The fare is around 18,040 yen (one way) for a non-reserved seat on Hikari and Sakura trains and around 19,000 yen for a reserved seat on a Nozomi train. If you are going to do this trip from Tokyo, we strongly recommend getting the JR pass. It will work out cheaper for you.
How long should you stay in Hiroshima?
Hiroshima is doable as a day trip from Kyoto or Osaka (but not from Tokyo!). However, if you have more time you can also visit the lovely Island of Miyajima which is only a short train and boat ride away. I would suggest two days to cover both the Hiroshima and Miyajima. If you can manage three days there then even better!
Where to stay in Hiroshima?
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Good value: Nest Hotel Hiroshima Hatchobori
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Next Stop Miyajima
That was the end of our visit to Hiroshima. Our next stop was the island of Miyajima, a short ferry ride away. But we’re so glad we visited this incredible, strong city. If there is one thing we should take away from Hiroshima, it’s that war solves absolutely nothing. It simply destroys the lives of innocent people. If we leave there with that realisation then there is hope for the world to become a much better place; a world that we all want to live in, and a safer world for our future generations.
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