Hiroshima city is the capital of Hiroshima Prefecture in Japan and was founded in 1598 as a castle town on the Ōta River delta.
If you’re familiar with Hiroshima, it’s most likely because you associate it with the atomic bombing of the city in 1945, which directly killed at least 70,000 people, including thousands of Korean slave laborers.
Most of the city was destroyed during the bombing, and by the end of the year between 90,000 and 166,000 people had died as a result of the bomb and its knock-on effects.
Hiroshima has steadily rebuilt itself and today is a thriving modern city which offers a rich history and a myriad of tourist attractions.
In this article, we’ll be exploring the best things to do while you visit Hiroshima, from inspiring museums to scenic hikes and bustling local towns.
The Hiroshima Peace Memorial
The Hiroshima Peace Memorial is one of the most iconic symbols of Hiroshima and is a must-see for every visitor.
The site is part of the Hiroshima Peace Memorial Park and has been a UNESCO World Heritage Site since 1966, serving as a memorial to the many thousands of people who were killed by the atomic bomb on the 6 August 1945.
The memorial serves as a reminder of the destruction of nuclear weapons and war, and the site has been left untouched to represent this: the rubble and twisted metal have been left in the same state they were found in in the immediate aftermath of the bombing, and the surroundings have also been left the same.
You can also view the paper cranes made by children from all over Japan that are dedicated to peace and are a representation of Japan’s slow journey of healing and recovery.
Peace Memorial Museum
If you want to further explore the pain and deeper consequences of the dropping of the atomic bomb on Hiroshima, the peace memorial museum provides the necessary context to illustrate the lasting implications of that fateful morning in August 1945.
While none of us can ever fully understand the pain wrought by an atomic bombing, the museum is recommended as a way of better understanding the consequences of nuclear weapons and the effect the bombing had on Hiroshima and Japan as a whole.
It’s worth bearing in mind that this will be an intense experience that contains detailed accounts from the immediate aftermath, so it can be pretty upsetting but eye-opening.
It also provides an in-depth chronology of the events preceding and succeeding the bombing.
The museum is open daily and costs 50 Yen for adults and is free for children.
While the original construction was destroyed during the atomic blast in 1945, the construction that stands today is a very accurate and impressive imitation of the original 1589 Hiroshima Castle.
Traditionally the castle was a centre for governance and the facade is a perfect example of traditional Japanese architecture. Inside the castle, you’ll find traditional Japanese artefacts and artwork from ancient times which further illustrate the country’s rich history.
From the top you’ll find an awe-inspiring panoramic view of the skyline, while a walk in the castle grounds allows you to appreciate the picture-perfect flowers which bloom seasonally.
You can also learn all about samurai culture in the castle’s museum, and watch the daily historical play enacted at the castle’s entrance.
The castle is open daily (but may close earlier in Winter), and tickets cost 370 Yen for adults and are free for children.
Miyajima island is a ten-minute boat ride from Miyajimaguchi, which you can reach via an hourly express passenger ferry from Hiroshima harbour.
Miyajima offers a wealth of exquisite Japanese architecture and ancient culture, as well as beautifully-preserved Buddhist temples.
Stroll through the rich, green forests which are even more breath-taking in the fall, or take in the views of Hiroshima’s annual Water Fireworks which take place every August - which is pretty breath-taking set against the backdrop of the floating Itsukushima shrine.
The Itsukushima Shrine (which we’ll cover later on) is believed by locals to be the place where God dwells, giving the island a mystical and unique feel to it.
This is further enhanced by the magnificent sunrises and sunsets experienced from the island, which provide the perfect landscape for a romantic getaway.
The Itsukushima Shrine is a floating Shinto shrine on the island of Miyajima and is listed as a UNESCO World Heritage Site. It’s one of Japan’s most popular and famous tourist attractions.
Itsukushima is most famous for its dramatic floating gate, or torii, on the outskirts of the shrine, as well as the sacred peaks of Mount Misen, the deep, mysterious forests, and the breath-taking ocean view.
The shrine complex consists of two main buildings: the Honsha shrine and the Sessha Marodo-jinja, as well as 17 other buildings and structures that mark it.
Try to get to the shrine in the early morning (it opens at 06:30 AM), as it gets busy later on in the day, and is best experienced at off-peak times so you can take in the sense of calm and serenity intended.
The shrine is open daily, and is 300 Yen for adults and 100 Yen for children.
Shimanami Kaido Expressway
The Shimanami Kaido is a 60-kilometer long toll road that connects Japan's main island of Honshu to the island of Shikoku, passing over six small islands in the Seto Inland Sea.
It’s only traversable by foot or bike, making it the perfect opportunity to escape and get some fresh air while taking in the magnificent scenery of Hiroshima.
There are numerous bike rental shops along the route and it’s perfectly built for cyclists and pedestrians. Whether you decide to stop off and stay overnight on an island or you simply want to take some photographs of the breathtaking views, the expressway is the perfect opportunity to explore Hiroshima from a different standpoint!
The panoramic view from Mount Haigamine will take your breath away, especially at night: it gives you a bird’s eye view of Hiroshima City, and the city’s lights sparkle like jewels.
The only high view in the area, the mountain provides the best view of the surrounding islands and the city: perfect for a romantic stroll or some photography.
Onomichi is a small charming town located along the coast of the Seto Inland Sea, situated between mountains and amongst various ancient temples and buildings.
This town is small but thriving, and has been a commercial hub since ancient times, with vibrant local people who embrace visitors and welcome them into their community.
Given its vibrant artistic history, it’s no surprise that Onomichi has featured in several movies, and is also home to many critically-acclaimed Japanese poets, artists, and writers.
There are also numerous ways to relax: from the enticing hot springs to the scenic beaches.
Onomichi is diverse and versatile, offering a wealth of attractions: whether you wish to wander around the ancient buildings and museums, relax at Senkoji park with its famous cats, or kick back and relax on the beach.
While there’s no specific opening times for the town, most of the attractions will be open between 9am and 5pm, so it’s best to schedule your trip between these times to get the most from your visit.
In downtown Hiroshima, you’ll find the ancient Buddist temple of Mitaki-Dera, founded in 809 during the Daidō era.
If you’re looking to experience a sense of calm and tranquility, the Mitaki-Dera won’t disappoint. It’s best to visit during the fall season, when you can experience the deep red hues of the trees, but this temple is beautiful year-round.
The grounds are adorned with Buddhist statues and waterfalls - perfect for escaping the city and finding time to breathe.
Mitaki-Dera is open daily, year-round; operating from 8:00 AM to 5:30 PM from March to November, and closing at 5:00 PM December to February. It’s free for everyone to enter.
The Miyajima Ropeway
The aerial lift lines of the Miyajima ropeway are the perfect way to take in Hiroshima from 500 meters above: looking out on the magnificent views of the Miyajima ancient forest and the Seto Inland Sea.
You can access the aerial lifts from a one-hour hike to the top of Mt. Misen, and from here you can take a cable car across the sea, before taking in the views from the observatory at Shishiiwa Station.
Senko-Ji Temple And Park
One of the top tourist attractions in Japan, the Senko-Ji park and temple are situated on Mt. Senko-Ji from the middle to its summit.
Take in the awe-inspiring view from the temple, and witness the Japanese cliche of cherry blossoms.
The night view is equally (if not even more) inspiring, and this panoramic view, set against the soundtracks of bells tolling in the temple, makes for a soothing and humbling experience.