Discover Hiroshima’s vibrant culture, delicious food, and somber yet inspiring history. Spend a day or a week – but you must see Hiroshima when in Japan!
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Hiroshima today is famous for many things, from the dark days of World War II to being the home of Mazda Motor Corporation, to its wonderful food like okonomiyaki. The city is full of history and yet is modern, having been rebuilt less than 75 years ago. There is so much to see! Use this guide and make the most of your time experiencing the best of Hiroshima.
A solemn and humbling part of your visit to Hiroshima will be visiting the Peace Park. It’s easier to hope for world peace as you experience all the sites in the Peace Park and see how the city has grown since the war. Think about the wonderful relationship Japan and the USA enjoy today! There is a lot to see in the park – you may go several times and still find a new corner of the park on each visit. Take a day to walk around and see everything or pick and choose the memorials you want to visit.
If you really want to get the most out of Hiroshima, check out Magical Trips for a guided tour given by Hiroshima residents. Here are the reasons why I love the Hiroshima Peace Park Walking Tour:
- The familiarity that the tour guides have with the area and its history made our tour hit so much closer to home.
- After previously being “tour guides” ourselves at the Peace Park several times, I realize how much more meaningful it is having a local show us around. You don’t want to miss out on this tour!
- The day after the tour, I loved seeing all the pictures they took during the day – the candid shots they will take of you are great memories!
After the atomic bombing on August 6, 1945, this building was the closest left standing, merely 160 meters away from the hypocenter. This building stands as a powerful reminder of the effects of nuclear warfare and the hope for a world full of peace.
The Hiroshima Peace Memorial Museum has a graphic collection of pictures, objects and stories from WWII and that fateful day in August 1945. The price is ¥200 for an adult and ¥100 for a child (roughly US$2 and US$1). There is a free exhibit in the lobby area that has several interesting things to see and read.
We went with our kids when they were 2 and 18 months. We wouldn’t take them at their current ages, 3 and 4. Royce still remembers that there is a mural with camels on it in the lobby, but I don’t want him remembering anything horrific at such a young age! It is something we recommend for all mature children/teenagers and adults.
To commemorate Sadako Sasaki, a young girl who died of leukaemia from the atomic bomb, children raised money and constructed the Children’s Memorial. Prior to her death, Sadako had the hope that if she could make 1,000 cranes, her wish to get well would be granted. She succeeded in her goal but passed away at the age of 12. She inspires us now to peace, and a world without nuclear weapons. There are several glass displays filled with paper cranes folded by children all over the world.
Between the Museum and the Children’s Memorial lies the Peace Flame. This flame will stay lit until all nuclear weapons are destroyed and we are free from the threat of nuclear destruction. The fire that lit this flame is from the Eternal Flame on Miyajima.
The upside down U-shaped structure covers the Cenotaph that houses the names of all those who lost their lives from the bombing. It is oriented so that when you look through it you see the flame and the A-Bomb Dome perfectly aligned. The inscription on it reads: “Let all the souls here rest in peace for we shall not repeat the evil.”
Another surviving building from the bombing is a souvenir shop and tourist information area. The upper floors house offices while the basement is kept nearly exactly as it was after the bombing. See the map for the location!
About 20,000 out of the 160,000 who died were Korean. Decorated in Korean symbols, this monument is to remember the lives of the Koreans who were tragically lost.
We came across this by accident and were surprised to find that this large grassy mound is where the ashes of 70,000 bodies were interred.
Our first time in Hiroshima we parked and walked over to the Peace Park to see the memorials. Upon returning to our car we saw a plaque so we stopped to see what it said. It was at that point 600 meters above us that the atomic bomb exploded. Definitely a sobering moment.
After visiting the Peace Park 5 times we finally made it to Orizuru Tower. Unbelievable. How could we have not known about this place? It’s a bit expensive, ¥1700 per adult, but if you bring your passport you get a discount! The pass is good for all day so feel free to come and go as often as you like.
Tip: Bring your passport to get a discount on the entry price!
What is Orizuru Tower? A modern building near the Peace Park and A-bomb dome that offers a very impressive view, not only of the park but also Hiroshima City. The top floor is an open area that stays cool in the summer; during the winter they put up transparent igloo-like tents that keep you warm. Grab some food from the cafe on the first floor to bring up and have a picnic! It really is a beautiful place.
Once you have enjoyed the view, descend one floor to fold your own paper crane to drop in their “Orizuru Wall”. Orizuru is the Japanese word for origami paper cranes. They have iPads set up that will teach you how to fold the cranes. There are also detailed interactive stations about the area before and after the war that are very informative.
To get to the top you can take the elevator or the stairs; on the way down you can take the elevator, stairs or the slide! We opted for the slide and all had a great time sliding down 12 floors!
Try Hiroshima-style Okonomiyaki
After visiting the hypocenter you can walk about 1 minute and get to the best okonomiyaki restaurant in Hiroshima (in my opinion!). Be prepared for lines because there are many people who feel the same way.
Okonomiyaki is comfort food that was made famous during and after the war, as it was something easy to make with the ingredients that the people had while the rice was scarce. It’s pancake-like with eggs, cabbage, pork, often seafood and other ingredients added. There are two different styles: Hiroshima-style and Osaka-style. Try them both and see which one you prefer!
They are pretty big, so you may consider sharing one especially if you hit Hondori street next!
Hiroshima Food Tour
Do you want to know the best places to get something to eat and drink in Hiroshima? Magical Trips offer guided nightlife tours! They bring you to top restaurants and bars and guide you through the menus like a pro. Have a local show you around for the most authentic night out Hiroshima has to offer!
Walk along Hondori street! You’ll love looking in the stores and seeing all the different shops. It is not as exciting as Osaka’s Dotonbori or Toyko’s Takeshita street, but there is a lot of good food here, too!
Try the colourful, bright and fun ice cream. The cones have fun flavors and you get to choose the combination of cone, ice cream and toppings. The kids loved it!
You can get oysters, Japanese pancakes, macarons, okonomiyaki and so much more, just keep walking until something smells good!
The original castle was destroyed but a replica was built in 1958. It recounts the history of Hiroshima prior to WWII. A great place to read up on history or just enjoy a beautiful walk around the water that surrounds it. Check out their website here.
Vending Machine Pizza
Have you ever had a vending machine pizza? We gave it a try! It was pretty cool that you just had to hit a few buttons to choose your toppings, then sit back and wait. After several minutes our hot pizza came out in a takeaway box. We grabbed our slicer from the convenient drawer on the side and cut into our very own vending machine pizza!
We like cars. In fact, both of our kids are named after English automobile manufacturers! Mazda is an independent manufacturer known for its commitment to the driver and the driving experience. We have become huge fans of Mazda since moving to Japan but especially since touring the factory. The assembly line was mind-blowing and a definite highlight of the whole tour! They give tours Monday – Friday, and in the morning it is in English. If you love Mazdas or are a car enthusiast, this is a great stop! You must make reservations in advance.
Hiroshima Prefectural Art Museum – Kagura
Kagura is a type of ritual dance that has been present in Japan for over 1,000 years. It is a purifying ritual, an art form, and a way to tell stories, with music played on drums and pipes, and performers wearing elaborate masks. Kagura isn’t seen everywhere in Japan, but it’s in Hiroshima!
Every Wednesday, starting in April and finishing in December, artists put on a Kagura performance at the Kagura Monzen Toji Village. Performances have historically had doors open at 6:00 PM, performances begin at 7:00, and they finish at 8:45.
Check their website closer to April to check on the new season’s schedule!
In the spring and summer join with thousands of other baseball fans and the Mazda Zoom-Zoom stadium to cheer for the home team, the Carps! They have some serious fans, it’s a lot of fun to join in the fun and whoop and shout for the local heroes!
Sandankyo is easily one of our favorite places to hike. You can choose an intense pace to see it all (and we wouldn’t blame you, you won’t want to miss much!), or you can take a leisurely hike that even young children can manage. It’s not too challenging a trail, and either way, you’ll have a good time. We were even able to bring our B.O.B. stroller to push the kids when they were younger.
Take a boat ride through the gorge, view spectacular waterfalls and enjoy nature – it’s especially beautiful in the fall during the koyo, or changing colors.
Terraced Rice Paddies
One of our most memorable experiences so far has been participating in the Ini-no tanada rice harvest. The kids and I worked side by side with other volunteers and local families to work the land and reap the harvest. I was a little shocked with they handed my 3-year old a sickle and had him start chopping the rice. They next let him push the combine harvester! Afterwards, we enjoyed a meal with the villagers. These are memories that will last forever!
You can view these beautiful terraced rice paddies and enjoy lunch at the local cafe where they serve their own rice; it’s a great place to visit after a morning hike at Sandankyo!
Okunoshima Island: the Rabbit Island
A top-secret chemical weapons facility has been transformed into a sanctuary for hundreds of rabbits! What sounds like a weird Sc-Fi plot is actually an amazing way to spend a day because Rabbit Island is a beautiful and unique place that you will never forget. Don’t forget your carrots!
Hiroshima Transportation Museum
A great place for kids and adults to learn and explore! Trains, airplanes, cars, motorcycles or boats – you name it, it’s here! They have arts and crafts and hands-on exhibits. There is an outside area with little motorized carts that kids can drive for ¥100.
One of Japan’s top destinations, Miyajima is a sacred island that has temples and shrines that date back over 1,200 years. The giant torii gate of Itsukushima Shrine is one of the three classic views of Japan. The first ferry departs at 0625, and it’s the least-crowded time to see the floating torii!
You can take a train to the Miyajima ferry station or a ferry from the Peace Park to the island; plan on at least half a day there depending on what you want to do. Check out our Ultimate Guide to Miyajima for details and tips for while you’re there!
Plan your trip
The one-day tour of Hiroshima that we would take visitors on:
- Early-morning trip to Miyajima
- Orizuru Tower
- Peace Park
- Kagura performance
If we had more than a day and the means to get around:
- Everywhere else!
We love Hiroshima and the surrounding area! It’s definitely worth getting out and exploring. Start with our guide, keep your eyes open and don’t miss a thing – you’re sure to have an amazing experience when you visit!
Let us know your questions or tips in the comments below!