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What it’s really like to… visit Hiroshima in Japan

When I first began planning my trip to Japan, I was constantly told of peoples uncomfortable experiences visiting Hiroshima; with many likening it to an eerie visit to a concentration camp. Against their warnings, I arranged a date to let the city introduce itself to me personally and I cannot understate how glad I am that I did. Due to an AirBNB mix-up the previous night that left me looking for a new place to stay in the pouring rain at 11pm the night before (and having to deal with sorting out where I was going to live for the next 4 nights that morning), I didn’t arrive to Hiroshima until after midday. Despite only having 7 hours to spend with the city, I found it impossible not to be distracted by the many embodiments of beauty that presented themselves to me as I wandered around the city.

The Atomic Bomb Dome

Things to do in Hiroshima, Japan - Visit the Atomic Bomb Dome

My first stop in Hiroshima was the Atomic Bomb Dome located in the Hiroshima Peace Memorial Park. The skeletal domed building, once Hiroshima’s lively Prefectural Industrial Promotional Hall, was the only building left standing near the hypocenter of the first atomic bomb when it exploded a mere 160 meters southeast of the building back in August 1945. The damaged building remains preserved today in the same condition as just after the explosion, as a reminder of that fateful day and the importance of peace. While it is easy to become overwhelmed by this site at first sight, continue to the front gate of the site where you will find kind-hearted second-generation atomic bomb survivors teaching visitors to make origami paper cranes whilst opening their heart and sharing their stories in the name of peace on Earth. I must have sat down with them for over an hour experiencing first hand the joy of peace and the beauty of the human spirit.

Getting there:

  • Take tram line 2 or 6 from Hiroshima station and alight at Genbaku-Domu Mae station. The ride takes a mere 15 minutes and costs 160 yen (remember to pay when alighting rather than boarding).

    Hiroshima Castle

Places to visit in Hiroshima - Hiroshima Castle

Next I made my way to the Hiroshima Castle. Constructed in 1590, this wooden castle was entirely destroyed by the atomic bomb, much like everything else in Hiroshima. In the years since however, the castle has been restored and today stands tall and proud as a physical embodiment of resilience. Between 9am and 6pm (5pm during winter), you can live out your wildest tree house fantasies by entering inside the castle and wandering right up to the top balcony to get a breathtaking view out over the rest of the city.

Getting there:

  • Take tram line 1, 2 or 6 from Hiroshima Station and alight at either Kamiyacho-nishi or Kamiyacho-higashi tram stop. The journey takes just 12 minutes and costs just 160 yen. The castle is then a ten minute walk from either stop.
  • From the Atomic Bomb Dome you can reach the castle in a leisurely 15 minute walk.

Miyajima Island

Things to do in Hiroshima - Sunset at Miyajima Island

It is best to save a visit to Miyajima Island for last, as there is no better place to reflect upon the many kinds of beauty that Hiroshima has introduced to you than sitting by the Itsukushima Shrine surrounding by wild deer, smiling people and skies so orange that you are forced to wonder if you’ve been teleported inside a pumpkin. Here the beauty of peace, the beauty of the human spirit and the beauty of nature align to create an experience more magical than any Harry Potter novel.

Getting there:

  • Take the San-yo Line train towards Iwakuni from either Hiroshima Station or Shin-Hakushiam Station (if you are coming from Hiroshima Castle). After 25-30 minutes of enjoying ease-dropping on the local train, it is time to alight the train at Miyajimaguchi Station. From there, just follow the signs to the ferry terminal which is located a short walk from the station. It takes about 10 minutes by the JR Miyajima ferry to travel from Miyajimaguchi pier to the world cultural heritage site of Miyajima, with ferries running frequently at 20 minute intervals.

Have you been to Hiroshima? I’d love to hear about your experience in the city – leave me a comment below or over on my Facebook page. 

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  • TravelWithNanoB

    What a great guide! Do mind sharing, did you hit all the above spots in one day? I’ll be traveling ti Osaka in Fall and am considering visiting Hiroshima as well. I was wondering if it is possible to do it in ine day, if I also want to go to Miyajima. Thanks in advance! 🙂 xoxo, nano

    • Thanks for your comment Nano! Oh I am so jealous – I hear Japan in the fall is absolutely breathtaking! I actually visited on a half day trip from Kyoto (even further away from Hiroshima than Osaka) so you could definitely fit it into a day trip from Osaka – especially if you do it in the above order. If you tell me what date you are planning to go I can email you an itinerary for the transport. =)
      Cheers, Elle

      • TravelWithNanoB

        Elle, you are so sweet! Thank you very much for the information. I will make sure to go there then. I am using Hyperdia so I believe I should be set with transportation schedules and all. I’ll be going during the last week of November to chase those beautiful fall colors. Cannot wait! 🙂 Thanks bunches, will ardently follow your blog for more wanderlust inspiration! Hope to make it to Australia next year! xoxo, nano

  • My highlight in Hiroshima was definitely Miyajima — the city of Hiroshima itself is unremarkable (I guess it was rebuilt quickly at an unfortunate time in global architecture style). BUT taking the ropeline on Miyajima, hiking up Mt. Misen, and seeing the view over the bay — that was amazing! One of the best “vistas” I saw in Japan (if a bit cloudy). Such untamed forestland, as we saw under the cable car, it’s crazy that it can still exist given Japan’s population density. You could hear the river but not see it because of how thick the forest is. Next time, I would probably stay on Miyajima Island itself and skip Hiroshima entirely.

    • I cannot wait to one day explore more of Miyajima Island. Unfortunately my shortened day meant I could only fit in sunset at the Itsukushima Shrine (which was a highlight of not only my Japan trip but my life for sure!)

      Thanks for your comments Monica,
      x Elle