Much like those who call themselves a content traveler in the inbound tourism space, I am no stranger to Hiroshima. Alas, though I’ve been in (and through) the city numerous times, I’ve never really had a chance to savor Hiroshima’s lesser known sides. While I have experienced the tragic Atomic Bomb Dome and the Hiroshima Peace Memorial Park, alternative plans and circumstances have always pulled me in another direction. Consequently, I had limited opportunities to investigate what Hiroshima has to offer.
Luckily for you, the reader, I recently had the chance to spend a couple days exploring Hiroshima. Though the purpose of the trip was actually work related, I was able to sneak in a bit of sightseeing between meetings. I also took ample advantage of my evenings which allowed me to sample the throngs of Hiroshima’s bustling culinary and nightlife scenes. Thanks to this hodgepodge of adventures, I now feel that I have a much better grasp of what the city has to offer outside of its World War II legacy.
Hiroshima’s main tourism draw will always remain the Atomic Bomb Dome, Hiroshima Peace Memorial Park, and Miyajima. Nevertheless, endless ventures await those seeking unique experiences. In the following sections, I’ll detail some of the spots that I visited during my two-and-a-half day stint around Hiroshima. Hopefully, you’ll consider adding some of these locations to your standard itinerary when traveling through this area of Japan.
How to Get There
At the risk of sounding like Captain Obvious, you’re going to need to haul your behind all the way down to Hiroshima City before you can explore the lesser known attractions that I’ll recommend. Thankfully, this is quite easy (even for those who struggle with transportation). Assuming that you’re coming from Tokyo, all you need to do is board one of the Nozomi bullet trains bound for Hakata Station and you’ll be in Hiroshima in approximately four hours. Alternatively, those who prefer domestic flights can simply elect to hop a flight down as well.
One important thing to note if you’re traveling by the bullet train is that not all the Nozomi go all the way to Hakata Station. Instead, a handful of trains go only as far as Shin-Osaka. Because of this, you’ll want to check with Jorudan or a similar service first. Personally, I prefer to wait a few minutes longer for my departing train so that I can avoid negotiating a transfer and get some serious work done on the way however you may prefer the more expedient arrival.
Once you’re in Hiroshima, getting around will really depend on where you want to go. All things considered, it’s a very walkable city (at least in so much as the core areas are concerned). That said, in the interest of time, you’d probably do well to take the train to the Atomic Bomb Dome and the Hiroshima Peace Memorial Park and then work your way back on foot while hitting up some of my suggestions.
What to See in Hiroshima City
As previously mentioned above, the main reasons that one would want to visit Hiroshima are the Atomic Bomb Dome, the Hiroshima Peace Memorial Park, and nearby Miyajima. While the following allures should never supersede this important trifecta, they can all be easily tacked onto the standard route for Hiroshima. Should you find that any of these adventures strike a chord with you, do consider including it on your Hiroshima itinerary!
Until only just recently, one of the things that I really regretted not being able to experience in Hiroshima was the city’s amazing nightlife scene. Centered around the Nagarekawa district (Hiroshima’s answer to Osaka’s legendary Dotonbori area), this endless maze of eateries and watering holes has something for everyone. Before things get too boozy, be sure to share an okonomiyaki with friends!
Found in the center of the city, Hiroshima Castle is a stark contrast to the more easily defendable mountaintop fortresses that pre-date it. Originally erected during the waning years of the Warring States period (1467–1603), Hiroshima Castle actually survived the dismantling that many similar structures suffered as Japan entered modernity. As you can likely imagine though, the original build was lost to the atomic bombing of Hiroshima in 1945. As if I needed more reasons to dislike my country of origin…
Found within a few minutes walk of Hiroshima Station, this gorgeous garden dates from the year 1620. The space is chock full of various elements that represent Japan’s omnipresent mountains, rivers, lakes, etc. While not a must visit for those pressed for time, Shukkei-en is definitely worth stopping by if you’re visiting the nearby Hiroshima Castle.
In traditional Japanese geomancy, the northeast is considered to be the direction through which evil flows into space. To ward against this divination, many locales have placed some sort of spiritual entity at the northeastern extreme. For the city of Hiroshima, this preventative measure doesn’t come in the form of a single bastion like the sacred Enryaku-ji in Kyoto. Instead, you’ll find a cluster of shrines and temples in the northeast. Should you be in the mood for a quick hike around the base of Mt. Futaba, the Toshogu Shrine and the 100 torii at neighboring Kinko Inari Shrine make for a great addition.
While I’ve read a lot of good things on this site, I do need to come clean and say that I did not have time to fit it into my recent trip to Hiroshima. From what I can gather though, it’s one of the more charming allures in the city. Allegedly, this Shingon Buddhism temple dates back to the early 800’s and is especially stunning during the months of autumn.
While not a UNESCO World Heritage Site like some of Hiroshima’s more iconic spots, Fudo-in is a temple that holds four centuries of history. In addition to its austere beauty, it is one of the only buildings in Hiroshima City to survive the atomic bomb blast. You’ll find Fudo-in located a fair ways north of Hiroshima Station.
While I am not a connoisseur of art, I read that Hiroshima has some great art museums. Since this really isn’t my shtick, I’ll instead elect to just link to Get Hiroshima on this one as the couple that run this web magazine are the go to sources for all things Hiroshima.
Finally, if you’re a fan of baseball, I highly encourage you to catch one of the Hiroshima Carps games. The locals are very passionate about their team and always show up decked out in home team merch. Honestly, their passion and enthusiasm alone is worth the price of entry to the stadium!
Other Nearby Attractions
The immediate vicinity around the city of Hiroshima is full of all sorts of other allures that most tourists miss out on. For starters, the often-overlooked town of Iwakuni with its iconic bridge is less than an hour away. Additionally, visitors to this part of Japan will have the entirety of the ever-beautiful Seto Inland Sea to explore too (cyclists are HIGHLY encouraged to try the popular Shimanami Kaido course if they have time). All in all, if you want to spend more time down around Hiroshima, you’re really spoilt for choice.
During my recent stint in western Japan, I had the pleasure of checking out the former naval port of Kure. Though not a part of Japanese history that most visitors from overseas get excited about, Kure’s Yamato Museum does an excellent job of documenting the Japan’s navy’s legacy. The facility also has a 1:10 scale replica of the infamous Yamato, the largest and most sophisticated battleship ever made at the time. If you’re a World War II history buff, I couldn’t more highly recommend that you add Kure to the list!
Until next time travelers…