What to Do and See In and Around Hiroshima: Discover the Gems of Japan’s South

hiroshima japan travel

The floating torii gate of Miyajima Island in Hiroshima prefecture

Hiroshima, a city that represents resilience and rebirth, should be at the top of your list when it comes to exploring Japan. Known as the City of Peace, Hiroshima offers more than just a reminder of the tragic events of 1945. This vibrant city, with its rich historical past, delectable local cuisine, and stunning surroundings, is a must-visit destination in Japan’s south. Let’s dive into the complete guide of what to do and see in and around Hiroshima.

The Best Sights to See in Hiroshima

Shukkei-en Garden

Shukkei-en Garden

Shukkei-en Garden in Hiroshima City © Cookie Niyompong

Immerse yourself in tranquility at the Shukkei-en Garden, a perfect example of a traditional Japanese garden. This beautiful oasis offers an escape from the bustling city, inviting you to stroll along its charming paths, relax, and lose track of time. Built in 1620, this garden was originally a private retreat for the first feudal lord of Hiroshima. Whether you visit during the fall when the maple trees turn red or at night when the park is illuminated, the Shukkei-en Garden never fails to impress. Don’t forget to feed the colorful koï fish and witness their mesmerizing dance of colors!

Hiroshima Peace Memorial Park & Atomic Bomb Dome

Atomic Bomb Dome

The preserved A-Bomb Dome

A visit to Hiroshima is incomplete without paying homage to its past. Hiroshima Peace Memorial Park, established in 1954, stands as a powerful testament to resilience and peace. The park, built on the site of the atomic bombing, features striking white architecture surrounded by lush greenery. At the heart of the park lies the haunting Atomic Bomb Dome, frozen in time as a reminder of the city’s destruction and its commitment to a peaceful future. Explore the various museums within the park, including the Children’s Peace Museum and the Rest House, which preserves the atmosphere of the day of the bombing.

Mitaki-Dera Temple

Mitaki-Dera Temple

Mitaki-dera temple in the red of autumn

Escape the city and embark on a spiritual journey at Mitaki-Dera Temple. Located on the slopes of Mount Mitaki, this Buddhist temple dates back to 809 AD and offers breathtaking views of the surrounding area. As you wander through the temple grounds, adorned with statues, lush vegetation, and quaint rivers, you’ll feel a sense of peace and harmony with nature. Embrace the sounds of rustling leaves and rushing water as you connect with the region’s spiritual roots. Don’t forget to visit during the sakura (cherry blossoms in spring) or momiji (red maple leaves in autumn) seasons for an extra dose of beauty.

Hiroshima Castle

Hiroshima Castle

Hiroshima ‘Carp’ Castle with the cherry blossoms in bloom © Kenshi Kingami

Although the current Hiroshima Castle was reconstructed in 1958 after being destroyed during the bombing, it still holds historical significance. The castle serves as a museum, taking visitors on a journey through the city’s history and showcasing the art of Japanese castle construction. Learn about the castle’s restoration efforts and the original techniques used to rebuild it. Climb to the top floor for a panoramic view of Hiroshima, offering a picturesque sight of the city center just steps away from the Peace Memorial Park.

Ride on the old-time Hiroden vintage trolleys

Hiroden Vintage Trolley

A Hiroden vintage trolley running through Rijo Avenue in Hiroshima city

Step back in time and experience the nostalgia of Hiroshima’s vintage trolleys. These charming wooden-framed trolley cars, some of them dating back to before the atomic bombing, still run through the streets of Hiroshima, serving as iconic public transportation. Known as “hibaku densha” or atomic bomb cable cars, these trolleys carry the weight of history and provide a unique way to explore the city. Hop on one of these vintage trolleys, and let them take you on a journey through Hiroshima’s past while enjoying the convenience of modern public transportation. You can even use your Suica prepaid card to ride the Hiroden trolley network.

A Dive into Hiroshima’s Rich Food Culture

Wood Egg Museum

Okonomiyaki

Okonomiyaki, Japanese savory pancakes and Hiroshima’s soul food

Hiroshima is synonymous with okonomiyaki, a savory Japanese pancake that represents the city’s soul. Okonomiyaki, meaning “cooked as you like,” allows for endless possibilities. The dish consists of a batter made with cabbage, flour, and egg, cooked on a flat-top grill. Various ingredients such as meat, seafood, and vegetables are added, creating a unique and mouthwatering combination. In Hiroshima-style okonomiyaki, grilled soba noodles are layered alongside other ingredients, giving it a distinctive touch. The Hiroshima Wood Egg Okonomiyaki Museum is a destination where you can fully immerse yourself in all things okonomiyaki. Explore the museum, learn about the dish’s history, and even participate in cooking workshops suitable for all ages and skill levels.

Okonomimura

For the ultimate okonomiyaki experience, head to Okonomimura. This bustling culinary destination is a mecca for food lovers, especially those seeking the iconic local dish. With three floors dedicated to okonomiyaki stalls, Okonomimura offers a variety of flavors and styles to satisfy every palate. As you enter, the aroma of sizzling okonomiyaki fills the air, tempting you to indulge in this Hiroshima street food delight. Take your time to choose a stall, sit down, and relish in the true essence of Hiroshima’s renowned cuisine. Every stall in Okonomimura is a winner, ensuring that you’ll have an unforgettable culinary adventure.

Yagenbori Hassho

Hiroshima-style okonomiyaki

Hiroshima-style okonomiyaki is distinguished by an added layer of soba or udon noodles © Hiroshima Tourism Association

If you’re looking for the best place to savor Hiroshima-style okonomiyaki, Yagenbori Hassho is the place to be. Locals and tourists alike line up for hours to experience the mouthwatering flavors served at this discreet restaurant. Watch as skilled chefs prepare the famed local okonomiyaki right before your eyes. From the blend of flour and eggs to the addition of batter-soaked udon noodles and fresh cabbage, each layer adds depth to the dish. While waiting for your Hiroshima food classic to arrive, don’t miss the opportunity to try another local favorite: grilled oysters. Creamy and fresh, these oysters make for a perfect appetizer. Yagenbori Hassho specializes in okonomiyaki but also offers a fine selection of teppanyaki recipes and other delectable dishes worth exploring.

Ekohiiki

Hiroshima grilled oysters

Hiroshima grilled oysters © Hiroshima Tourism Association

For a true taste of Hiroshima’s culinary scene, visit Ekohiiki in the Otemachi neighborhood. This hidden gem showcases the region’s locally cultivated oysters, a delicacy that defines Hiroshima’s gastronomy. Hiroshima is renowned for its large, briny oysters, and Ekohiiki offers a variety of preparations to tantalize your taste buds. Whether you prefer them raw, steamed, breaded and fried, or grilled with butter, Ekohiiki has it all. Indulge in these succulent oysters and experience the flavors of Hiroshima. Don’t forget to try another Hiroshima specialty: Anago (Conger Sea Eel). Sourced from the waters around Miyajima, Anago is served in various mouthwatering styles, including kabayaki style, grilled and glazed with a sweet and savory sauce, and even as sashimi.

Momijido

Momiji manju

Momiji manju, a maple leaf-shaped sweet pastry classically filled with red bean ‘azuki’ paste

Located near another food gem of Hiroshima, Kakiya, Momijido is a must-visit for those with a sweet tooth. This cozy corner shop serves a delicious twist on the traditional momiji manju, a maple leaf-shaped sweet pastry. While the original recipe consists of a soft cake filled with red bean paste, Momijido takes it to the next level by coating the pastry with batter and frying it! The result is a mouthwatering twist on an already delightful treat, known as age-momiji. The fried outer layer creates a perfect contrast with the warm and soft inside, adding a new dimension to this famous Japanese pastry. Indulge in this culinary staple and experience a tasty introduction to Hiroshima’s food culture.

Scenic Spots in the Hiroshima Bay

Itsukushima Shrine/Miyajima Island

The floating torii gate of Itsukushima Shrine

Very few scenes are as iconic as the torii gate at Itsukushima Shrine. This shrine, named after the island itself, holds a mystical ambiance that captivates all who visit. During high tide, the torii gate appears to be floating, creating a breathtaking sight. Itsukushima Shrine was initially built in 593 AD and has since undergone several changes. In 1996, it was declared a UNESCO World Heritage Site. Apart from the torii gate, the shrine’s main buildings are constructed on the water, further enhancing its ethereal beauty. Take a ferry to Miyajima Island and explore this remarkable shrine, immersing yourself in its history and natural wonders. Access to the shrine is included with the Japan Rail Pass.

Haigamine Observatory

The view of Kure city from Haigamine Observatory

Often hailed as one of Japan’s top 100 views, Haigamine Observatory offers a breathtaking panorama. Rising over 700 meters above ground, this mountaintop observatory provides a unique perspective of Kure city, Hiroshima Bay, and the islands of the Seto Inland Sea. While the drive up to the observatory can be challenging for inexperienced drivers, a 1.5-hour scenic walk is a rewarding alternative. Accessible from Japan Rail Kure station with the Japan Rail Pass, Haigamine Observatory is best enjoyed during sunrise or sunset. Witness the colors of the sky blending with the city lights as you take in the mesmerizing beauty of Hiroshima Bay.

Onomichi/Senkoji Temple

The cable car up to Senkoji Temple

Discover the charming town of Onomichi, located in eastern Hiroshima Prefecture. This hidden gem is just a one-hour Shinkansen ride from Hiroshima and offers a unique blend of history and picturesque scenery. Explore the hillside of Daihozan, where Senkoji Temple stands, providing a stunning view of Onomichi Port and the city. To reach the temple, take a cable car ride from the base of the hill or climb the stairs for a more rewarding experience. After immersing yourself in the temple’s serene atmosphere, indulge in a sweet treat at Karasawa Ice Cream Shop. Enjoy traditional Japanese Monaka, an ice cream-filled rice cake shell resembling an ice cream sandwich.

Tomonoura Port

The quaint port of Tomonoura during sunset hours

The quaint port of Tomonoura during sunset hours ©Hiroshima Tourism Association

Step into the world of Studio Ghibli as you set foot in the picturesque town of Tomonoura. This charming seaside town served as the inspiration for Hayao Miyazaki’s film “Ponyo on a Cliff by the Sea.” Nestled within the Setonaikai National Park and overlooking the Seto Inland Sea, Tomonoura offers one of the most scenic spots in Hiroshima Bay. Stroll through its streets lined with old wooden houses, local cafes, historic temples, and shrines. Don’t miss the Joya-to lighthouse, which has guided ships since 1859. A short Shinkansen ride from Hiroshima station, followed by a bus journey, will transport you to this enchanting village, allowing you to explore both the past and the mind of Miyazaki.

Shimanami Kaido Scenic Route

Ikuchi bridge

Ikuchi bridge, one of the many bridges that make up the Shimanami Kaido Cycling Route

For cycling enthusiasts, the Shimanami Kaido Cycling Scenic Route is a dream come true. Spanning from Onomichi in Hiroshima to Imabari in Ehime Prefecture, this renowned cycling route crosses islands throughout the Seto Inland Sea. Embark on a cycling adventure and immerse yourself in the stunning coastal views and refreshing sea air. Indicated by a sky-blue line, the route caters to cyclists of all experience levels. Along the way, you’ll find numerous cyclist oases for resting and facilities for repairs. If you don’t have your own bike, no worries. Rentals are available for your convenience.

Day Trips from Hiroshima

Sandankyo Gorge

The dramatic cliffs and rock faces of Sandankyo Gorge

Discover the natural beauty of Sandankyo Gorge, just a short bus ride away from Hiroshima. This stunning gorge offers a breathtaking experience with its waterfalls, forests, and crystal-clear waters. Choose from several hiking paths that range from 30 minutes to 4 hours, allowing you to explore cliffs, hanging bridges, ravines, and rushing streams. For those seeking an adventure, rent a kayak at the entrance of the Sandan Valley and witness the breathtaking beauty of Sandankyo Gorge from the water. As you journey deeper into the park, you’ll be rewarded with the emerald green pool of water known as Kurobuchi. Take a boat across the pond and visit Kurofuchi-so, a family restaurant serving fresh grilled salmon. If you wish to extend your trip, Sandankyo Gorge offers a hotel with a relaxing onsen.

Okunoshima Island

The rabbits of Okunoshima Island

Visit Okunoshima Island, also known as “Rabbit Island,” to experience a unique encounter with nature. Just a 15-minute ferry ride from Hiroshima’s coast, this small island is home to over 1,000 wild rabbits that roam freely. Enjoy the company of these adorable creatures as they approach you for food. While the rabbits are the main attraction, the island offers more to explore. Visit the island’s museum, engage in water sports, relax on the beach, and grab a drink at the island’s cafe. Okunoshima Island serves as a popular day trip destination, but if you want to extend your stay, there is a hotel available on the island.

Serakogen Farm/Hiroshima Miyoshi Winery

The entrance to Serakogen Farm lined with sunflowers

In the town of Sera, located in the center of Hiroshima Prefecture, lies Serakogen Farm. This region boasts a warm climate that nurtures lush flower fields. From April to December, different seasonal flowers take center stage at various locations, including Serakogen Farm, Kamuno Sato Flower Village, and Sera Kogen Flower Forest. During winter, Sera Kogen Flower Forest illuminates the night with a beautiful candle display. Apart from its floral beauty, Sera is known for its culinary delights. Sera Burgers, made from locally sourced ingredients, are a favorite among locals. Additionally, Miyoshi Winery produces high-quality wines, with “Fuki Wine” being the most distinct. Made from Fuki Grapes known for their high sugar content, these wines offer a unique taste. After admiring the stunning scenery, visit the winery for a tasting experience.

Takehara

The stunning view of the Seto Inland Sea at the top of Mount Kurotaki

Once a thriving hub for salt and sake production, Takehara captivates visitors with its preserved architecture and timeless atmosphere. This bucolic seaside town offers a captivating journey to the Edo period (1603-1867), with its streets lined with old wooden buildings. A 45-minute uphill climb, accompanied by Buddhist statues, rewards you with breathtaking views of the Seto Inland Sea from the top of Mount Kurotaki. Nicknamed “Little Kyoto” due to its historic ambiance and bamboo forests, Takehara is accessible via JR trains on the Kure line.

How to Get to Hiroshima

Access to Hiroshima by Train

Hiroshima can be easily accessed from Tokyo through a direct Shinkansen ride. The journey takes approximately 5 hours, passing through major cities such as Nagoya, Kyoto, and Osaka. The Tokaido Shinkansen and Sanyo Shinkansen lines are included in the national Japan Rail Pass. The train stops at Hiroshima Station, giving you convenient access to all that the city has to offer.

Access to Hiroshima by Plane

While there are no direct flights from Europe and the Americas to Hiroshima airport, Japan’s domestic flight network provides extensive options. Flights to Hiroshima depart from both Tokyo airports, Okinawa, Sapporo, and Sendai airport. Upon arrival, you can take a limousine bus transfer or regional JR Sanyo train line to reach Hiroshima Station, which is included in the Japan Rail Pass.

Access to Hiroshima by Car

If you prefer the freedom of a road trip, Hiroshima is approximately 800 kilometers away from Tokyo, with a journey time of a little over 8.5 hours. Rental car options are available in Japan, allowing you to explore the city and its surroundings at your own pace.

Hiroshima offers a diverse range of attractions and experiences that cater to various interests. Whether you’re seeking historical landmarks, spiritual journeys, delicious cuisine, or stunning landscapes, Hiroshima has it all. Plan your visit and immerse yourself in the wonders of this enchanting city!

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