Hiroshima provides a great way to see a fascinating city on foot. You will be able to walk and see the major Hirshima attractions in 24 hours. You can plan your trip with the information below and learn how to spend your time on one of the best day trips from Osaka while in the Kansai region of Japan.
Hiroshima is a treasure of a city. One might easily over look it except for the fact that it holds a heavy time in history in its arms. One thing that shocked me in terms of the city was how little evidence there is of that awful day in August of 1945. If you don’t know much about the bombing of Hiroshima, it is certainly worth having a bit of read online about the tragedy that took place. It was 8:15 in the morning when an atomic bomb flashed over the city of Hiroshima. The US army dropped “Little Boy” and then a second bomb, “Fat Man” over Nagasaki. These two times are the only two times that atomic bombs were ever used in war. The US wanted the Japanese to surrender and to establish US dominance before the Soviet Union did. They did more damage that mankind could have ever conceived.
HOW TO GET THERE
Hiroshima is geared for tourism and it is easy to get there. The easiest way and the way that I traveled was the Shinkansen train from Kyoto. I purchased the 5 day JR Kansai Region Rail Pass which allowed unlimited train travel over 5 days in this region. It included my train to Hiroshima, the ferry to Miyajima island and the train back to Osaka. Purchasing the JR Rail Pass was cheaper than purchasing each one-way train ticket. See my post on my budget travel guide to Kyoto for more info on the costs associated with this ticket. When you arrive at the Hiroshima train station, you are not far from getting into the main area to see the sights. I’ll first say that it is walkable, however, I wouldn’t advise it because you are really going to be on your feet all day. Spend the money on a tram as it is very cheap. Take tram 2 or 6 to Genbaku-Domu mae station. It takes about 15 minutes and will only cost you 200 Yen, if I remember correctly. Once you arrive at the Genbaku-Domu mae station, it is a 2-minute walk to the Peace Park.
WHAT TO DO
If you only have a short time, there are a few key things to do. Once arriving in Hiroshima mid-morning, I headed straight to the Peace Park. This is best visited first because it is closest to the train station you will be arriving at, and it gets very crowded with school groups and visitors. There were thousands of visitors there when I visited at 10am. If you can get there earlier it might be a bit better. In any case, I am sure it’s crowded all day so travel at your convenience and enjoy what Hiroshima has to offer. You can do everything in one day. I did the following 3 sights and finished around 5:30pm on the same day that I arrived.
1. Hiroshima Peace Memorial + Peace Park
This is the reason why you came. Besides this park and memorial, there is little left of the disasters that happened not that long ago. Hiroshima is a bustling city but stepping into the Peace Park is a reminder of the catastrophe of 1945. Spend time walking around the Memorial and taking in the gravity of what happened. There are various people standing around with information of the casualties and some relatives of those that survived can provide information as well as accept donation. Be careful that they are genuine and use your wits about where you are giving money.
As you will see, this is the only standing structure that survived the bombing and it has been well-preserved and parts have been reconstructed to preserve the memories. This was not crowded in the morning and there was ample space to get photos, stand and contemplate as well as reflect on what occurred on that tragic day.
You can easily spend more than 20 minutes at the Peace Park and then look at the map to decide where you would like to visit next. The Peace Park is well laid out with everything you need to see in one area. The last stop in the park will be the museum.
After reading the story of Sadako and the Thousand Paper Cranes, I decided to visit the children’s monument where a statue of Sadako stands. This statue is visited by thousands of school children each day and each groups come to pay respect with paper cranes that can be left to hang in cabinets. You can also write thoughts and notes before leaving. Each school group took turns standing in front of the monument by singing songs, praying and offering their wishes for a peaceful world. It was amazing to watch these children pay their respects in hope of a better tomorrow for their lives. They had clearly learned about this in school and their study of Hiroshima was culminating in their visit to the memorial of all children who died in the bombing.
After visiting the Children’s Memorial, continue walking North past other memorials and undoubtedly you will be stopped by Japanese school children who will want to practice their English. Often they have been assigned by their teacher to ask certain questions in English and write your response on their paper.
You will head down to the Hiroshima Peace Memorial where you line up and purchase a ticket for 50Yen (about 50c in USD)! Spend time following the crowds through the memorial and learn all about what happened on the day of the bombing. For me, it was fascinating and heartbreaking to read the individual stories of people who died in the tragedy.
In total I probably spent about 2.5 hours at the Peace Park and enjoyed every minute. After the Peace Park, walk toward the Hiroshima Castle which is easy to find if you have a simple map which you can pick up at the train station or in the park itself.
2. Hiroshima Castle
The Hiroshima castle was built to house one of the feudal lords of Hiroshima. It was constructed sometime in the 1590s but was completely destroyed in the bombing of 1945 but later rebuilt in 1958. Strangely enough, 3 trees survived the bombing and are located inside the castle. Also inside the castle is the concrete bunker that was the location of the first radio broadcast after the bombing!
Spending an hour is enough time to take in the beauty and get some good photographs. Next, head towards the Shukkei-en Botanical Gardens. You will want to get here by at least 4pm, since it closes near 5pm and you will definitely want at least an hour to wander around and enjoy the stunning grounds.
3. Shukkei-en Botanical Gardens
The Shukkei-en Botanical Garden is a historic and traditional Japanese garden in the middle of the city. It was constructed in 1620 during the Edo period and has been home to some of the emperors of the day. This was one of my favorite gardens I have ever visited. I am not a big fan of walking around aimlessly looking at greenery but these gardens are really spectacular and worth a visit. I also had lots of fun trying out more photography on my new camera!
After being told to leave the gardens since it was closing time I headed toward the area where I was staying that night. Keep reading to learn more about one of the most unique kinds of accommodation you can stay in during your time in Japan.
WHERE TO STAY
During my week in the Kansai region, I mostly stayed in budget accommodation which included hostels and cheaper hotels under $50 / night. For my night in Hiroshima I decided to check out the Capsule Hotel scene. There are many things you should know about Capsule hotels before you stay here. Capsule hotels are hotels, typically for men only, that consists of a floor for bathing, a floor for eating and the accommodations themselves which remind one of stacked coffins.
These “rooms” are very small and are generally designed for you to sleep in and that’s about it. They are longer than the average body length with ample space to sit up. There is usually a small TV, some controls for light and a pull down screen in the front for privacy. It was a really great experience and a very reasonable price of around $45usd. I used agoda.com and booked Grand Sauna Hiroshima which is one of 3 major Capsule Hotels in Hiroshima. This one, in fact, also accepts women who have their own floor for bathing and sleeping. As I said before, this is not typical.
WHAT TO EAT
Rather than suggesting specific restaurants since I was only in Hiroshima for 1 night, I’ll spend time telling you about the one food that you must try when in this region. Okonomyaki is a Japanese favorite. It has also become a favorite of mine since having Japanese friends back in University that use to come over to my apartment and cook this delicious snack. It is essentially a Japanese savoury pancake that contains many ingredients including cabbage, flour, vegetables, seafood, pork etc… The secret is really in the sauce which each restaurant claims to have the best of. What makes Okonomyaki so good in this region is that it is made a little differently than the rest of the Kansai region. Only in Hiroshima can you find Okonomyaki made with noodles. I tried this at a local restaurant and found it to be soo delicious. There is no shortage of Okonomyaki and you should be able to find one that sells it for around 900 Yen (around $8.00). Enjoy!
Thanks for reading to the end of the Mini Guide to Hiroshima in 24 hours. I highly recommend visiting if you are in the Kansai region and hope that you enjoy the sights, smells and sounds that this city has to offer. I did not write about my side trip to Miyajima island, but this will, of course, accompany a trip to Hiroshima since it is so close. Enjoy!
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Please leave a comment below if you found this helpful. Also, if you find other great things to do, places to stay and things to eat, please leave them in the comment section as well.