When you want to establish your exact itinerary for Japan, you will probably hesitate between some cities. One common example is the city of Hiroshima. This particular city seems interesting to visit and everyone talks about it, but it is not really located on your way between the top three most visited cities (Osaka, Tokyo and Kyoto). Being located at more than 200 miles (330 km) from Osaka, it is quite normal to ask yourself if it’s worth the detour.
Hiroshima is worth visiting to remember the atrocities of war and learn about the unspeakable impact of an atomic bomb. On a day trip from Osaka, it is possible to visit the Atomic Bomb Dome, the Peace Memorial Park and the Museum and also enjoy some local specialities like Okonomyaki along the way.
So now that you know that is possible to visit Hiroshima even if it’s not close to the major cities, let’s take a look at what you can see, how to get there and how much time do you need.
What is Hiroshima known for?
Hiroshima is not like any other city in Japan. This city is charged with a heavy history that we all know too well, but it’s always worth recalling. On August 6th, 1945, at 8:15 am, Hiroshima became the first city to be hit by an atomic bomb. The bomb was aimed at the Aioi bridge which was easily seen from above thanks to its T shape. The city remained a post-apocalyptic wasteland for years after the bombing, but it’s now a major tourist destination with approximately 2 million inhabitants.
The city is mostly known for its peace tourism that allows the world to keep the memory of these shocking events alive and remember the thousands of victims that lost their lives that day and on the following years due to radiation.
Atomic Bomb Dome
The famous A-Bomb Dome (or Genbaku Dōmu) was the Hiroshima Prefectural Industrial Promotion Hall at that time. It is located really close to the hypocenter, but it wasn’t completely destroyed with the blast because the bomb exploded at about 2,000 feet (600 meters) above the ground.
The building is considered a World Heritage Site since 1996, and it plays an important role as an evidence of Japan’s history. You cannot see inside the dome because it has a fence all around it, but it’s still quite impressive to stand by this building and imagine how this tragedy could happen.
Peace Memorial Park and Museum
The Peace Memorial Park and Museum are also famous landmarks of Hiroshima and one of the most visited places in the city. The park exists since April 1st, 1954, and is meant to keep alive the memory of one of the darkest evens in Japan’s history. It has more than 70 monuments that you can see while strolling around this huge area.
Other than the A-Bomb Dome, you can also see the Memorial Cenotaph, which is an arch meant to provide a shelter for the bomb victims, the Children’s Peace Monument, which is a statue that represents a young girl that died of radiation poisoning years after the bombing, or the Peace Flame that burns since 1964 and that is meant to continue burning until there are no more nuclear weapons in the world.
The museum is a must-visit if you want to have a sincere approach to one of the darkest moments in modern history. It shows the horror of the nuclear war, but also the violent history of Japan, and it is precisely this neutral position that conveys the desire of long-lasting peace.
Miyajima Island is the number one destination for those that visit Hiroshima and there’s a good reason for that. This small sacred island is a paradise easily accessible by ferry from Hiroshima and the ferry ride only takes 10 minutes.
There’re lots of things to see and do on this island, but the most important are the floating torii (this incredible gate built on the water) and the Itsukushima Shrine which is also a UNESCO World Heritage Site. While on the island, take some time to feed the roaming deer, visit Mount Misen and shop at Omotesando Street.
Honestly, this small island is really worth your time and you won’t be disappointed with your visit. If you need more information about the island, check my article Is Miyajima Worth Visiting? for details on what to visit and how to get to the island.
Okonomiyaki is the famous dish of Hiroshima and though you can eat okonomiyaki in other parts of Japan, like Osaka for example, the recipe from Hiroshima is considered the best one. It is also in Hiroshima that you can find the most Okonomiyaki stores per capita in all Japan. This is a good sign of how important okonomiyaki is in Hiroshima.
Okonomiyaki is a sort of pancake made with flour, eggs, shredded cabbage, what you want as protein and topped with several condiments. The version from Hiroshima puts the ingredients in layers instead of mixing them like they do in other regions of Japan.
In Hiroshima, the best place to try Okonomiyaki is called Okonomimura, a building with more than 20 restaurants specialized in Okonomiyaki (5-13 Shintenchi, Naka Ward, Hiroshima, 730-0034, Japan).
If you want to take you Okonomiyaki experience to the next level, you can try a cooking class while in Hiroshima. There’s a good deal available at Klook, where you learn how to cook this dish.
The original castle was built in the late 1500s, but the actual building is a replica built in 1958 after the war because the original was destroyed during the bombing. Even if the castle didn’t survive the bomb, there are three trees in the castle grounds that did and are now symbols of the ability to survive destructive circumstances.
It is a nice area to walk around, but if you’re short on time, you can skip this castle. Even if it is a beautiful castle, it has nothing more than what you probably already saw in Osaka or Himeji castles.
Okunoshima Island is also known as the Rabbit Island because of the amount of wild rabbits that live there (more than 1,000). This cute island has a dark past, though. It was used for research and production of chemical weapons like the poison gas during World War II and the tests were made on rabbits. Don’t worry, the rabbits on the island are not the same used in the tests and are perfectly normal.
The main attractions on the island are feeding the rabbits and visiting the Poison Gas Museum and the abandoned buildings related to the poison gas. This island is not as close to Hiroshima City as Miyajima, but is also easily accessible by train and then the ferry. You just have to take the Tokaido-Sanyo Shinkansen from Hiroshima station to Miahara station (around 30 minutes) and then switch to the Kure Line from Mihara station to Tadano-Umi station (around 25 minutes). From there is just a 5-minute walk to the ferry and the ferry takes another 15 minutes to arrive at the island.
Except for the ferry, the train travel is covered by the Japan Rail Pass, so if you bought one or if you’re planning on buying one, this trip is also a great opportunity to make good use of your pass.
For more information on this island and many others, check my previous post on Japanese islands.
How many days do you need in Hiroshima?
The number of days you will spend in Hiroshima will depend on what you really want to see and do. Sometimes, you don’t have all the time you would like to visit everything and you have to make a custom itinerary that fits yours needs. Either way, I’m going to tell you a few examples of what you can see with the time you have available.
Can Hiroshima be done in half a day?
The answer is yes, if you just want to do some sightseeing in the area around the Peace Memorial Park. Visiting the park with the different monuments, the A-Bomb Dome and the museum is perfectly doable in half a day. You won’t have any time to visit other things along the way, but at least you have seen the most important in Hiroshima city.
The advantage of just taking half a day for the city is that you can spend the other half at Miyajima island. This is an option that is usually chosen by tourists that don’t have much time, but want to see a maximum of different places. If you decide to take this option, make sure you start your day in Miyajima and then you return to Hiroshima in the afternoon because stores close earlier in Miyajima. In Hiroshima, the museum closes by 6 pm most of the year, and the park is open 24h. Besides, the A-Bomb Dome is illuminated at night so it’s better to visit it later.
I would recommend spending a full day in Hiroshima though because it’s a big city and you won’t run out of things to do. It is a lot better to visit a Hiroshima allowing enough time to move around without having to run from one place to the other. Plus, if you stay overnight, you can even experience Hiroshima’s nightlife.
Consider adding a few days in Hiroshima if you plan on day trips to Takehara, Okunoshima, Sandankyo Gorge, Iwakuni, Onomichi or Naoshima. These are all amazing places that are worth the visit if you have some time available.
How do you get to Hiroshima from Tokyo, Kyoto or Osaka?
Although Hiroshima is well-connected to other cities, it is not that close to the main cities tourists visit on their first time in Japan. Indeed, Hiroshima is about 511 miles (813 km) from Tokyo.
You have different options to get to Hiroshima, but we will only see here the most common and the most valuable for tourists: shinkansen (Japanese bullet train) and airplane.
The shinkansen, which is the Japanese bullet train, is one of the best ways to get to Hiroshima and all the great cities in Japan. Be careful, though, because you have different types of bullet train in Japan and some are faster than others.
You can pick a train to Hiroshima from Tokyo with no transfer at all that is called Nozomi. The travel takes less than four hours and it costs around 19,440 yen or 183 US dollars each way. From Kyoto, it will take around 1 hour and 40 minutes and it costs around 11,620 yen or 110 US dollars and from Osaka (Shin-osaka station), it will take around 1 hour and 20 minutes and it costs around 10,630 yen or 100 US dollars. The only problem with the Nozomi train is that it is not included in the Japan Rail Pass, so if you have bought the Japan Rail Pass, you can use it on this type of train.
For those who have a Japan Rail Pass, it is best to use the other types of bullet trains that take a little longer. For example, you can choose a train that has a transfer at Kobe. The overall travel will take around five hours to get to Hiroshima, transfer included, and will cost around 18,910 yen or 178 US dollars each way. From Kyoto with a transfer at Kobe, it will take around 1 hour and 50 minutes and it costs around 11,300 yen or 107 US dollars and from Osaka (Shin-osaka station), it will take around 1 hour and 30 minutes and it costs around 10,420 yen or 99 US dollars (no transfers).
Knowing that a Japan Rail Pass costs 29,650 yen (around 280 dollars) for 7 days of unlimited travel on JR trains, even if you use the pass just to go to Hiroshima from Tokyo, it is already worth it and you will save about 80 dollars on this trip. If you use the pass from Kyoto or Osaka, you will have to make a few extra train rides to compensate the pass’ price.
Tourists don’t think very often about domestic flights, but they are a fantastic option in Japan, especially between cities that are far from each other like Tokyo and Hiroshima. Like any flight ticket, the prices can change drastically, but in general you will be able to find something like this.
When you leave from Narita airport, it will take about 1 hour and 40 minutes to get to Hiroshima. Of course, this is the flight time so add some extra time for checking your luggage and to get to the airport. I saw that tickets from Spring airlines are usually cheaper than other companies (around 9,716 yen or 91 dollars).
When you choose Haneda airport, you will get to Hiroshima in 1 hour and 30 minutes plus the transfer to the airport and the time for checking your luggage. The tickets cost around 14948 yen or 140 dollars with companies like JAL or ANA, for example.
If you don’t know which airport is best for you, take a look at my article How many airports does Tokyo have and which one is better? to help you.
- How many airports does Tokyo have and which one is better?
- Is Miyajima worth visiting?
- Is the Japan Rail Pass worth it?