The Best Sights and Things to Do in Hiroshima
Hiroshima brings to mind images of nuclear war and the devastation of World War II. In the years since, this Japanese city has made a remarkable recovery, and today is a mid-sized city that stands as one of the better places to live in Japan. While not quite as large or exciting as Tokyo, Hiroshima today is still a respectable tourist destination that offers a lot of history and some of its own unique quirks.
Located west of both Tokyo and Osaka, Hiroshima makes an excellent stopover on a larger Japan trip. My first time in Japan, I was staying in Osaka and took a day trip to Hiroshima via the Shinkansen (Japanese bullet train). I was lucky enough to be shown around by a Japanese friend who lived in a nearby prefecture. The city makes for a nice, relaxing stop away from the larger cities of Japan, while still having enough in terms of urban modernity and convenience.
A 1958 reconstruction of the original Carp Castle (first built in the 1590s), Hiroshima Castle serves as a history museum of sorts for the city’s pre-20th century past. It has historical artifacts and exhibitions on many aspects of the city’s history - such as which warlords ruled it, life in the castle town and other areas, and the government of Hiroshima. One of the best exhibits here is the weapons and armor section on the third floor, which contains some of the traditional wear of warlords and samurai of the period. It also contains a lot of carp fish in the nearby river, and is a popular destination for many young Japanese students on field trips.
Peace Memorial Park
A Memorial Park dedicated to the memories of the victims who perished from the atomic bomb. What would otherwise be a pleasant park to take a stroll is marked by important historical monuments and lessons about the tragedies of the war. There are several fascinating things to see here, such as the A-Bomb Dome (more on this later), monuments such as the Peace Flame and Peace Bell, and the Peace Memorial Museum. The park itself is free but some of the attractions and exhibits may cost a bit. The Museum contains a lot of great content about the history of Hiroshima both before and after the bomb.
Genbaku Dome (A-Bomb Dome)
The A-bomb Dome - also known as the Hiroshima Peace Memorial - is the only structure that was left standing in the aftermath of the atomic bombings. Originally built by a Czech architect in 1915, it went through several name changes even before the bomb, first starting out as Hiroshima Prefectural Commercial Exhibition before finally being dubbed the Hiroshima Prefectural Products Exhibition Hall in 1933. Since the end of the war, great efforts have been made to preserve the dome in its current state as a memorial. More than any other site in the Peace Memorial Park it serves as a reminder of the horrors of World War II, and is a famous spot for both Japanese tourists and visitors from overseas.
While Hiroshima is mostly known for history and the tragedies of the war, there are other more relaxing things you can take part in as well. Mazda Stadium serves as the home for the city’s professional baseball team, the Hiroshima Toyo Carp. As you might already know, the Japanese are crazy about baseball, and teams in the country have large dedicated followings. Come here during baseball season and check out a game. Even if you’re not a sports fan, the stadium is sometimes open to the public for sightseeing - at least it was when I visited.
Many people familiar with Japanese cuisine have heard about Okonomiyaki, a kind of Japanese fried pancake - with meat and vegetables - originating in the Kansai region (Osaka, Kyoto, and Nara). Hiroshima has its own spin on the popular dish, called Hiroshima-yaki (for those curious - the yaki part means “fried” or “cooked”. The okonomi part in the original dish means “as you like it” - referring to the different flavors and styles available).
Okonomiyaki in its original form has cooks mixing the ingredients all up and forming them into a round, pancake style shape. Hiroshima-yaki, on the other hand, stacks up the ingredients - the meat, vegetables, and noodles - into layers, which gives it a different flavor and texture. It’s definitely worth trying out when you’re in Hiroshima, as many other parts of Japan don’t prepare the dish in this fashion.
Miyajima, also known as Itsukushima, is a popular island for sightseeing off the coast of Hiroshima. The trip by ferry only takes about ten minutes, so even on a day trip you don’t have to worry about missing out on it. The island itself is home to a small. rural population of around 2,000. The most famous landmark on this island is the torri, or giant Japanese gate which greets visitors when they arrive. The island also contains Itsukushima Shrine, an Aquarium and several tourist shops. You can also see deer roaming freely, as well as a ton of Japanese and foreign tourists.
Hiroshima doesn’t have the same sense of excitement as other large Japanese cities, but it still contains a lot of what makes Japan great. From its excellent historical exhibits, memorials, shrines, and quiet, relaxed atmosphere, the city makes an excellent day trip for those visiting Japan for the first time.