How to spend a weekend in Hiroshima

After spending a week in Osaka I moved further south down into Hiroshima. I decided to use Hiroshima as a base to also visit Okunoshima but if you’re pressed for time you could easily see Hiroshima as a day trip from Osaka. Hiroshima is home to two world heritage sites, the Atomic Bomb Dome, and the nearby Peace Memorial Park. Aside from its tragic history, however, Hiroshima also boasts mountainous islands, beautiful seas and a great climate.

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Important notes

  • Visa – As a British National I was exempt from requiring a visa to visit Japan for less than 90 days, however, some nationalities will require a visa. For the most up to date information visit the Ministry of Foreign Affairs of Japan
  • Immunisations – some are required, check out my go-to website for up to date information: https://nathnac.net
  • Safety – Just like London, Hiroshima is a very safe place to visit. You should use usual common sense, around protecting valuables to avoid pick-pocketers, and staying safe at night.
  • Currency – Japanese Yen
  • Language – Japanese

Getting there

To get to Hiroshima from Osaka I boarded the Shinkansen Hikari, and the journey only took around 1 hour 30 minutes. There are a couple of other Shinkansen trains that you can take to reach Hiroshima. I always check the Hyperdia website to find the latest information on train times in Japan, check it out here. When I arrived I had planned to use public transport, as the city is well served by buses and trams, however, I arrived a little late in the day and being tired and hangry, and opted to just jump in a taxi instead.



Accommodation

I stayed in a great hostel in Hiroshima called Kawate-Ya, they have a restaurant at the front of the building and the chef kindly whipped me up some vegan fried rice when I arrived. It’s situated in a great location just 15 minutes walk to the Atomic Bomb Dome and Peace Memorial Park. I fond it through booking.com, and always check the website or app for the best deals.



Booking.com

Getting around

Walking

I found it very easy to explore all of the main sights by foot as they are all within walking distance of one another, however there Hiroshima also has convenient transport links including the streetcar and their public buses.

Streetcars

Seven colour-coded lines cross the city and charge a flat rate to ride within the city. The final destinations are displayed on the front of the cars, and there are maps available at the stops so it is very straight forward to navigate.



Buses

Much like the streetcars, buses are also very convenient and easy to use. I only used the bus a couple of times to get to and from my hostel accommodation to the JR train station, other than that though depending on where your accommodation is based, I recommend walking, weather permitting!

Hiroshima

Day 1

Peace Memorial Museum

When I arrived the building was undergoing extensive work to reinforce the building against earthquakes so I wasn’t sure if it was open, luckily it was! The entrance fee to the museum is very reasonable and the whole experience was very educational and eye-opening. I highly recommend visiting the Museum, but be aware that there are several distressing images and detailed accounts of the tragic day of the Atomic bombing on Hiroshima which you may find upsetting.  Although I think it is important to recognise and learn about this tragic event, to pay our respects to the lives that were lost and ensure that this does not happen again. For more information on admission fees and opening times, check out the official website here.

Views from the Peace Memorial Museum, Hiroshima, Japan
Views from the Peace Memorial Museum, Hiroshima, Japan

Hiroshima Hall of Remembrance

The Hall of Remembrance in Hiroshima was designed to inspire thoughts of the victims, prayers for the peaceful repose of their souls and contemplation of peace. Inside the hall, you will find a 360-degree panorama of the A-bombed city as seen from the hypo-centre of Shima Hospital. It is made from 140,000 tiles to make the number of victims who are estimated to have died by the end of 1945. The Panorama was based upon the photos taken by the US army in 1945. 

Hiroshima Hall of Remembrance, Hiroshima, Japan
Hiroshima Hall of Remembrance, Hiroshima, Japan

There is a fountain in the centre of the hall with a sculpture depicting a clock face showing 8:15, the time of the bombing, and the fountain symbolically offers water to the victims of the bombing, many of whom died begging for water to quench their thirst. The Hall is an important landmark to remember those who lost their lives and who were affected by the bombings and to promote peace and harmony for future generations.



Children’s Peace Monument

The children’s peace monument was built to commemorate the thousands of innocent children who died due to the atomic bombing of Hiroshima, and one child in particular – Sadako Sasaki. Sadly Sadako was exposed to radiation during the atomic bombings aged just two years old, she battled a 10-year fight against leukaemia. Her story is not unique and this was the fate shared by thousands of other children. However, it is Sadako’s determination which is so moving. Her father told her the story of the paper cranes, in that if you fold 1,000 your wish will be granted by the gods. Throughout her illness she folded over 1,000 paper cranes, using whatever paper she could find, sometimes even medicine wrappers. Sadly Sadako died soon after at just age 12. The Peace Monument is regularly visited and especially by schools and children. During my visit, I witnessed several classes sign songs at the monument. It was very moving.

Flame of Peace

The flame of peace is situated just behind the Cenotaph for the A-Bomb Victims. It was lit on 1st August 1964 and will continue to burn until nuclear weapons are abolished worldwide. Every year a flame of peace running relay takes place, which sees runners carrying the flame, through cities, towns and villages in Hiroshima Prefecture to call for the abolition of nuclear weapons and improvement of support for survivors

Cenotaph for the A-bomb victims

The Cenotaph is an imposing saddle-shaped concrete structure, located between the Peace Memorial Museum and the A-Bomb Dome, which commemorates all the lives that have been taken by the Atomic Bombing in Hiroshima. The monument is specifically located so that when gazing through one can view both the Flame of Peace and the Atomic Bomb Dome. The monument has also been created in this saddle shape as a shelter to all the souls of the victims of the atomic bomb. Inside the cenotaph is a list of names of all those who have died as a result of the A-bomb. Sadly names are still added to the list in modern-day, as victims succumb to the life long effects of the radiation they suffered years previously.

Cenotaph for the A-Bomb Victims, Hiroshima, Japan
Cenotaph for the A-Bomb Victims, Hiroshima, Japan

Hiroshima Castle

Sadly the original Hiroshima Castle was destroyed by the atomic bomb blast on 6th August 1945. The original castle, however, was built in 1589 by the powerful feudal lord Mori Terumoto, through the years the castle came under a different rule and by the Edo period was used as a military base.

Today we can only see mostly ruins of the once grand castle, however, some portions of it have been reconstructed to show what it would have looked like. As you enter you will fund the restored main gate, with a bridge crossing the moat, along with several turrets.

As you continue walking through the grounds you will find the ruins of the Imperial General Headquarters and then to the far corner a restored Castle Tower. Inside the castle tower, there is an exhibition across 5 floors, with the top floor offering an observation deck overlooking Hiroshima. The following four floors showcase the history of ancient Hiroshima, the castle and what the lives and experiences would have been like for the Japanese residents during this time.


Atomic Bomb Dome

The atomic bomb dome was positioned directly beneath the atomic bomb when it exploded however somehow miraculously still stands today. The site has been preserved just as it was, as a tragic reminder of that fateful day. In 1996 the building became a World Heritage Site.

The bomb exploded 600 metres above, and 160 meters to the southeast of the Atomic Bomb Dome. When the building was actually in use before this tragic event it was the Hiroshima Prefectural Industrial Promotion Hall. Sadly all of the people inside the building at the time died instantly and the interiors were completely destroyed, yet, the thick outer walls and steel dome remain relatively unscathed.

Hiroshima Museum of Art

After spending the best part of the day learning about the horrific tragedy of the Atomic bombing in Hiroshima, and paying tribute to its victims, I decided to visit the Hiroshima Museum of Art for a change of pace and mood.

Hiroshima Museum of Art, Hiroshima, Japan
Hiroshima Museum of Art, Hiroshima, Japan

An interesting building architecturally the museum is located in a circular domed building, which you enter via a courtyard garden after entering the main reception building. Housed inside the museum the current collection ranges from romanticism, impressionism, post-impressionism and Neo-impressionism, holding works from the likes of Monet, Renoir, and Van Gogh.


Day 2 – Okunoshima

For my second day staying in Hiroshima I decided to take a day trip to Okunoshima, more widely known as ‘Rabbit Island’. It was a great relaxing day, with not too much walking or sightseeing, and enjoying just being in the bunny’s company. Which was needed after quite a heavy, emotional day the previous day. You can read more about ‘How to spend a day in Okunoshima’ here.

If you have more time

I initially was debating whether to try and visit both Okunoshima Island and Miyajima in one day, but decided against this as I thought it would be too rushed. if you have an extra day or two though, definitely head on over to Miyajima to see the magnificent Torri Gate in the water and enjoy the rest of the area. I’d also recommend you visiting the Mitaki-Dera Temple and  Senko-Ji Temple.

I hope you’ve enjoyed reading about how I spent a weekend in Hiroshima, and that I’ve given you some inspiration for your own trip. If you have any questions or queries please do get in touch, I’d be happy to help.

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How to spend a weekend in Hiroshima

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