Hiroshima may have gone down in history as an inexplicable story of sorrow and pain across the world. However, back in the city, life has returned to normal.
Hiroshima is definitely worth visiting. Here are the 10 reasons why:
- Take The Ferry To Miyajima (宮島)
- Visit Ground Zero If You Are A History Buff
- Experience Authentic Okonomiyaki
- Explore the Samurai Castle
- Ride The Streetcars
- Experience The Sunset At The Torii Gate
- The Kintaikyo Bridge in Iwakuni
- Car Lover’s Paradise, The Mazda Museum
- Stroll Down The Memory Lane Through Time In Takehara
- Oyster Island in Miyajima
Let’s take a stroll through the streets of Hiroshima through our eyes, and explore all the things we mentioned above in detail. Immerse yourself in the samurai lore and see cool artifacts. Imagine the natural beauty of the island of Miyajima, and smell the delicious Okonomiyaki wafting through the air while you experience the splendid history.
Here’s to all the hidden jewels of Hiroshima you didn’t even know about.
1. Take The Ferry To Miyajima (宮島)
The candid videos you see on the internet where tourists are petting wild deer, originate from Nara, in the Kansai region of Japan. However, another secret place that nobody knows about, which is teeming with friendly Disney characters like deers, is Miyajima island.
You will get the ferry for the magical island from JR Miyajimaguchi Station. If you have taken a JR pass, the ferry ride will be covered.
The island is a little bit outside the city, by about an hour. But we start our journey from here because we want you to see the most stunning aspects of Hiroshima. Google the giant torii gate and you will see the most Instagram worthy water sculpture.
It sits on the waters and looks like its floating when the high tide comes. The sight is an iconic view you won’t be able to forget for a very long time.
You might come across locals who refer to the island as Itsukushima, which is the official name of the island. The name means shine island, which is a tribute to the Itsukushima shrine which is located nearby. The shrine has gates built in the water just like the gate and has an amazing view.
Things to do
You want to spend at least a night in the islands because the very air teems with romance. The ryokans make for a great place to stay. There are lots of tourists in the day on the island, but not many of them stay back in the night.
If you do, you will be able to enjoy the calm and quiet of the land. The wild deer roam amongst the tourists adored by everyone and they make for fantastic photo ops. In the daytime, they will walk by you, and at night they sleep on the streets.
2. Visit Ground Zero If You Are A History Buff
We take that back. You don’t have to be a history buff to visit the Hiroshima Peace Memorial Park, which is the ground zero of the nuclear bombing site. The land under the Hiroshima Peace Memorial Park is split at the Aioi bridge on the bank of the river Motoyasu.
This is where the bomb was dropped and if you don’t get goosebumps standing on the spot of one of the biggest humanitarian disasters, we don’t know what to tell you. The tragedy does not define Hiroshima, but the memorial is a fitting tribute to the countless lives lost. You can also witness the atomic bomb dome and the Eternal Flame of Peace at the end of the tour.
3. Experience Authentic Okonomiyaki
Local delicacies are always a delight to experience. If you love to experience different cuisines, you can join the battle of the Okonomiyaki right at the heart of Hiroshima. This is a unique experience you will cherish.
Okonomiyaki originated from one of the two places in Japan, and you can decide for yourself if the one you encounter in Hiroshima is truly superior.
The Okonomiyaki is a savory style pancake. This may sound like an oxymoron if you are an American tourist and know pancake to be a sweet dish best enjoyed with a copious amount of maple syrup. But trust us, Okonomiyaki is worth taking a chance at.
If you are worried about this being something funky, like fried scorpions or something. The pancake is innocuous and made of healthy and yummy ingredients like flour, eggs, and cabbage. It is also mixed with meat and then topped off with a sweet-ish sauce. The best part is, you get to douse the whole in mayonnaise and enjoy it with some fish flakes on top or the side.
The closest English translation for Okonomiyaki we can think of is – grilled to your liking. A lot of tourists come to Hiroshima to enjoy Okonomiyaki, and you would understand why when you have taken a bite of the delicacy.
So, where do you get the specialty of Hiroshima?
Head off to the Okonomimura building. It is a four-floor building dedicated completely to the delicacy. The building previously used to be some sort of theme park, and now houses over twenty varieties of the same dish. Each of the shops has a special flavor to offer. The whole dish if cooked while you watch on a red hot grill.
One shop on the second floor of the building has a lot of history with Okonomiyaki and over 50 years of experience making it. If you like something else, you can even get different foods at the other shops.
This complex opens for lunch hours from 11 AM to 2 PM. So, this could be a perfect stop on your way to our next destination.
4. Explore the Samurai Castle
Is there anyone in the entire world, who doesn’t want to see cool samurai tchotchkes? You can see a whole castle full of this stuff. The Hiroshima castle looks even unique from the outside. Why? It is made up of wood and black lacquer.
The castle is as tall as a building of five stories. And yes, there is a moat surrounding it. The outer layer of the castle resembles the samurai armor, and the castle hosts a major part of samurai history.
The Hiroshima castle is pretty much in the middle of the city, which made Hiroshima famous as a castle town. You can watch a special performance hosted by Samurai’s if you visit the museum on Sunday. The performance happens outside the castle between 1 and 3 PM. Saturdays and public holidays are dedicated to parades by the samurai during the same hours.
If you are staying in the city, you can plan for the weekends watching the shows at the castle itself. If you want to take pictures of the samurai armors, there are costumes available for a price to the tourists.
5. Ride The Streetcars
They are a sight to behold. Streetcars, or what you might traditionally know as trams are a keystone sight in the streets of Hiroshima and Kagoshima.
Hiroshima is one of the last cities in Japan that still run streetcars, and for a very good reason. You can take a stroll through the city riding one of these cars for a cheap price. The carries bring in a lot of nostalgia for tourists who have experienced the old-timey transport which is still alive in this part of the world.
They don’t operate exactly like buses, and you don’t have to pay when you get up. Instead, you pay the fare while deboarding. The streetcars don’t accept credit cards or even big bills, so do remember to carry some coins with you. There are many coins exchange machines on the streets of Japan, or at the rail stations. This will let you go anywhere you want, and at a very cheap price.
Get up on the ride from the back door and pay when you deboard at whichever stop that grabs your fancy. You can take the streetcar back to your origin when you are finished shopping or roaming the streets.
6. Experience The Sunset At The Torii Gate
We know we have already covered Miyajima, but the torii gate deserves an entry on this list as its own for being an iconic landmark. We also wanted to inform you that the shrine of Itsukushima is under repair in 2020, which means you won’t be able to visit the place before late summer.
The Japanese government is working through the coronavirus crisis to make the place up and running. When you can travel, definitely take some time to watch the water change color while the floating tory gate lights up the background.
7. The Kintaikyo Bridge in Iwakuni
This place has a lot of history and is just as iconic as the torii gate. It has stood the test of time for centuries. The wooden construction is arched into elegant shape over pillars made of stone. The whole structure stands over the Nishiki River and is a sight to behold.
The bridge was initially built when currents on the river were super strong. In fact, the river has destroyed the bridge, and hence the need for the new bridge came up. The bridge was commissioned to a feudal lord names Iwakuni who has a statue at the gate of the Kikko park even today.
Iwakuni has been struck by natural disasters, typhoons, and other tragedies, but the bridge still stands after 300 long years. The country has been exhausted by countless wars in the past, and that is why the bridge which stood for 300 years collapsed due to prolonged neglect. But the townspeople rebuilt the structure in the last 1950s. renovations are still going on to ensure the bridge never falls apart every again. Visitors must pay a price to walk across the bridge, as it is not allowed to be used as a normal pedestrian bridge.
8. Car Lover’s Paradise, The Mazda Museum
Hiroshima is home to Mazda. The headquarter of the global giant in the automotive industry. Naturally, there is a museum dedicated to cool cars they have made through decades. You can visit this as part of the factory which is also open to the general public for viewing.
Mazda still makes millions of cars every year, but the unique and rare beauties they have saved in the museum are beyond comprehension.
You need to make a reservation if you want to visit the museum. You should do this in advance because most tourists love hitting up this spot, so naturally, there is a high demand for the guided tour. On the plus side, the tour is free. All you have to do is call their phone at 082-252-5050 or visit their website to make a reservation.
The entire tour is about 90 minutes long and you get to know the history of the car company while enjoying vintage vehicles. There is also a vehicle assembly line, where you get to witness how cars are assembled part by part. This is one of the most popular aspects of the entire tour, and we are sure it will get you plenty excited. You can head off to the souvenir shop when you are done with the tour.
Also, the weekends are closed for tours. If you want to visit when the guided tour is being conducted in English, you need to remember the time is between 10 AM to 1:30 PM on the weekdays.
9. Stroll Down The Memory Lane Through Time In Takehara
This is the heritage center of Hiroshima. That means every sight in this place is straight out of a history book page. There are plenty of heritage buildings in combination with shops, food bistros, and museums. The streets are cobbled and look gorgeous.
If you have read about the Edo era in Japan, then you will find this place to be one of the best sights. There aren’t many tourists in this town, and you will have a much-needed break from the hustle-bustle that the city of Hiroshima offers. This is a quiet place of reflection and is extremely peaceful to have a stroll on.
We recommend to don’t take a ride to explore this place. Walks around the labyrinth of cobblestone path and experience the rich culture of Japan firsthand. If you get lost in this place, the locals will guide you to the nearest bus stop, so don’t worry and just get moving.
When you are tired from the walking, you can head off to a café to indulge in some authentic sake and soba, which are famous in Takehara.
You should also make a plan to keep the Saihoji temple on your travel route in Takehara. It’s situated on top of a hill and you have to travel through the lush green forest floor to reach the temple. From here, you can see the whole town as a picturesque landscape.
You can reach the beautiful town at a very cheap price if you take the bullet train from Mihara, which will cost you around 10 dollars. The ride takes about 30 minutes, and even the ride is something you will thoroughly enjoy. If you haven’t had a lot of time on the trip, save it for last because the town is also located 30 minutes from Takehara airport. You can make this the last stop on your trip.
10. Oyster Island in Miyajima
The island is not only famous for its scenic beauty and the shrine. There are also many oyster beds surrounding the island. Fans of seafood take notes head off to any shop here and you will get the freshest oyster right from the sea. Further, the streets of the island are lined with the delicacy and will offer you cooked or raw dishes at a great price.
What’s more, the island is also famous for Momiji Manju, a foodie delight. It is a bun that is built to look like a maple leaf.
The insides are filled with red bean or matcha paste, either of these varieties is absolutely killer and will satisfy your cravings for savory delights. Bite through the buns while you shop for tchotchkes related to deer and torii gate at the local shops at absolutely fantastic prices.
You can reach this place very easily by taking the train from Miyajimaguchi Station. If you have a JR pass, this train ride is also covered under it.
Otherwise, you will have to pay around 5 dollars to go one way. There is also a ferry ride to take you to the pier at $2. Both of these are covered by the JR pass. Now you have enough reasons to head off to Hiroshima next summer instead of Paris!