Japan City Guides: Hiroshima 広島
Hiroshima has earned a poignant place in the world's history and imagination as where the first atomic bomb was dropped, in 1945. But this modern, clean, open city offers more than just memories with its Peace Memorial Park. A bustling port city of over one million people, Hiroshima has numerous tourist attractions, including a reconstructed castle and famous gardens, and is easy to navigate, on foot or by streetcar.
Hiroshima was founded in 1589 by the feudal lord Terumoto Mori, who named the city Hiroshima ("broad island") and built Hiroshima Castle. The city became a garrison town for the Imperial army after 1868 and entered the history books forever on August 6th, 1945 when the US B29 bomber 'Enola Gay' dropped the world's first atomic bomb on Hiroshima which devastated the city and killed, at the time and subsequently, around 140,000 people.
Things to see and do in Hiroshima
Hiroshima has become a mecca for peace activists worldwide, so first on the list must be the the A-Bomb Dome and the nearby Hiroshima Peace Park. A later addition to the Peace Park area are the ten Gates of Peace - ten 9m glass arches inscribed with the word "peace" in 45 languages and completed in 2005.
Other places of interest include Hiroshima Museum of Art (Tel: 082 223 2530), Hiroshima City Manga Museum and the Hiroshima Prefectural Art Museum.
Hijiyama Park, on a slight hill south of Hiroshima Station contains the Hiroshima City Manga Library and the Hiroshima City Museum of Contemporary Art (Tel: 082 264 1121). Hijiyama Park is a popular cherry blossom viewing spot in spring.
Shukkeien Garden (Tel: 082 221 3620), modeled on Xi Hu (West Lake) in Hangzhou, southern China, was designed by Soko Ueda for the feudal lord of Hiroshima, Nagaakira Asano in 1620. Badly damaged by the bomb, the circular-tour garden has been restored to its original glory. Shukkeien is adjacent to Hiroshima Prefectural Art Museum (Tel: 082 223 2530), which exhibits works by Salvador Dali and Hirayama Ikuo.
Hiroshima Castle, or "Rijo" (Carp Castle), 2 km west of Hiroshima Station was completed in 1589 but completely destroyed in 1945 and rebuilt in 1958. There are great views over the city from the top. Gokoku Shrine in the castle grounds is a Shinto shrine dedicated to Japan's war dead.
Just to the south-west of Hiroshima Castle is Chuo Park, the city's largest open space, containing Hiroshima Baseball Stadium, Hiroshima Museum of Art (Tel: 082 223 2530), with works by Picasso, Matisse Monet, Van Gogh and Degas and Hiroshima Children's Museum (Tel: 082 222 1006).
Perched up on Futabayama behind Hiroshima Station is the silver Peace Pagoda, reached by the Futabanosato Historical Walking Trail from Toshogu Shrine and Kinko Inari Shrine, and with fine views of the city and the sea. Walkers can continue to Ushitayama (around 2-3 hours) and return to Hiroshima by bus. Fudoin Temple, also north of Hiroshima Station, is Hiroshima's oldest surviving building and dates originally to the 14th century.
The Yamato Museum or Kure Maritime Museum (Tel: 0823 25 3017), a 5 minute walk from JR Kure Station, is dedicated to the 'Yamato,' the world's largest battleship, which was built in Kure, the site of a former Imperial Navy shipyard and naval academy.
A 1/10 scale reproduction of the Yamato forms the centerpiece of the museum, which also displays guns, torpedoes, shells and aircraft of the WWII period including a Zero fighter. The giant ship was sunk by US aircraft in 1945 with the loss of 2,475 lives. Kure is east of Hiroshima and can be reached in about 30 minutes by JR Express trains. Adjacent is the Japanese Maritime Self Defense Force Museum. Entrance is free, and the highlight is entering the Akishio, a 76 meter long Yushio Class submarine built in 1985 in Kobe.
Other museums in Hiroshima include the Hiroshima City Transportation Museum with 2,000 model vehicles from around the world on display, the Hiroshima City Ebayama Museum of Meteorology housed in a building that has been preserved from the atom bombing, the Hiroshima Prefectural Art Museum and the Hiroshima City Museum of History & Traditional Crafts, which utilizes a red brick building dating from 1911 that was once a packing plant for the Imperial Japanese Army (IJA). There are displays on the area's local industries including oyster farming.
West of the city center is the Hiroshima Botanical Garden with over 10,000 varieties of plants.
East of Hiroshima is the Mazda Museum (Tel: 082 252 5050) which presents the history of the company since the 1920's, Mazda's rotary engine technology, the future of automobiles and takes the visitor through the production stages of a modern vehicle including a view of the assembly line from an observation deck. The Mazda Museum also includes a shop with Mazda company merchandise on sale. A 90 minute English tour of the Mazda plant takes place at 10am Monday-Friday and reservations can be made online here. To get to the Mazda Museum take an eastbound train on the Sanyo Line or Kure Line to Mukainada Station. The Mazda Museum is five minutes on foot from the south exit of the station.
A more recent and rather unlikely tourist attraction is the Hiroshima City Naka Incineration Plant, a huge waste disposal facility on the waterfront designed by Japanese architect Yoshio Taniguchi.
Tourist Information in Hiroshima
A Tourist information center is at Hiroshima Station (Tel. 082-261-1877) and Hiroshima's Ujina Port. The Hiroshima International Conference Center (Tel. 082-247-6738) in Peace Park has cultural and other information available.
A very popular shopping mall is Hiroshima Diamond City (Aeon Mall Hiroshima Fuchu) in Fuchu, just east of central Hiroshima. Built on the site of a former Kirin Beer factory, and opened in 2004, this cathedral of consumption offers more than 65,000 square metres of retail space spread over three floors purveying all manner of goods and services in 200 establishments. There are 100 yen buses to the mall from the Shinkansen-guchi Exit of Hiroshima Station.
At the South Exit of Hiroshima Station are a couple of department stores: the ASSE department store and the Fukuya department store (Yale Yale A Shopping Center). The Hiroshima Ekimae Market (Aiyu market) is a small fresh produce market in the area.
Eating Out in Hiroshima
Try one of the more than 2000 Hiroshimayaki restaurants - a local variety of okonomiyaki - a kind of savory egg-based pancake. Hiroshima is also noted for its seafood, especially oysters.
Hiroshima's main entertainment areas are maze of narrow streets that make up Nagaregawa, Shintenchi and Yagenbori south of the Hatchobori tram stop in the east of the city. There's a multitude of bars, restaurants, pachinko parlors, hostess bars and soapland massage parlors that attract visitors from both Hiroshima city and the rest of the prefecture for a good night out.
Experience an authentic tea ceremony in a tranquil atmosphere wearing a kimono in Itsukaichi, just 15 minutes from Hiroshima Station.
This full day tour of Miyajima and Hiroshima visits two UNESCO World Heritage Sites: the Atomic Bomb Dome and Miyajima. Visit Itsukushima Shrine, Daishoin Temple and Maple Park on the island. If the weather is nice, take a cable car to the seventh station of Mt. Misen and enjoy viewing the Seto Inland Sea.
Explore local Hiroshima on an electric bicycle tour. 3-4 hours to see the main sights.
See the fall foliage at Itsukushima Shrine with a licensed guide.
Sport in Hiroshima
Baseball: Hiroshima Municipal Baseball Stadium
Home of the Hiroshima Toyo Carp of Japanese baseball's Central League. Access: across the road from the A-Bomb Dome.
Soccer: Sanfrecce Hiroshima
The J.League's Sanfrecce play their home games at either the 50,000 capacity Big Arch Stadium built for the 1994 Asian Games or the more homely Hiroshima Stadium near Nishi Airport. Sanfrecce were J-League champions in 2012 and 2013.
Getting Around Hiroshima
The Hiroshima Electric Railway or Hiroden runs the trams and buses in Hiroshima city and the wider prefecture.
There are six tram lines in downtown Hiroshima and over 270 trams from all over Japan as well as some from Europe. The Miyajima Line is a local train/tram line from Nishi-Hiroshima Station to Hatsukaishi and on to Miyajima-guchi.
The eight numbers for the trams are:
# 1 (Orange) runs from Hiroshima Station to Hiroshima Port
# 2 (Red) runs from Hiroshima Station to Miyajima-guchi
# 3 (Blue) runs from Nishi-Hiroshima Station to Hiroshima Port
# 5 (Green) runs from Hiroshima Station to Hiroshima Port
# 6 (Yellow) runs from Hiroshima Station to Eba
# 7 (Dark Green) runs from Yokogawa Station to Hiroden honsha-mae
# 8 (Pink) runs from Yokogawa Station to Eba
# 7 (Gray) runs from Hachobori to Hakushima
A one day "Trip Card" for the streetcar costs 600 yen or 840 yen with the Miyajima Matsudai Kisen tourist ferry to Miyajima (*not valid on the JR ferry).
A two day "Trip Card" for streetcars, ferry and ropeway from Momijidani to Shishi-iwa is 2000 yen.
IC cards such as PASPY and JR West's ICOCA can be used on Hiroshima's trams.
"Trip Cards" can be purchased at Hiroshima Station, various hotels around town or from the tram driver.
Inner city flat fare for the streetcar is 150 yen.
The Hiroshima Sightseeing Loop Bus (Hiroshima meipuru-pu) starts from Hiroshima Station's Shinkansen-guchi exit outside the Hotel Granvia Hiroshima and passes eight major tourist attractions in the city including Hiroshima Castle, the Atomic Bomb Dome and the Peace Memorial Park. A one-day pass is 400 yen or use your Japan Rail Pass. Buses depart every 30 minutes from 9am-5.30pm and the bus takes around 50 minutes to complete the circuit.
The Astram Line is a rubber-tired transport system that runs 18km from Hondori Station in downtown Hiroshima to Koiki-koen-mae Station near to the Big Arch Stadium.
Day Trips From Hiroshima
The sacred island of Miyajima (Itsukushima) is known as one of Japan's top three views famous for its Shinto torii gate rising from the sea.
Miyajima also has an aquarium, a pleasant beach and local crafts on display. Take streetcar #2 to the ferry terminal at Miyajima-guchi or a direct ferry from Hiroshima Port, reached by streetcars #5 and #3.
Stroll along the banks or take a cruise on any of the 6 rivers that flow through the city. Hiroshima is also the starting point for many cruises around the Inland Sea. It is also possible to take a river boat between two UNESCO World Heritage sites from Peace Park out to Miyajima. The journey costs 1,900 yen one-way for adults and there are nine trips a day beginning at 8.50am with the last departure at 2.35pm.
Hiroshima is a good base for excursions to the traditional rural areas of Shimane, the prefecture just to the north, including Izumo Taisha Shrine (reputedly the oldest Shinto shrine in Japan); the Tottori sand dunes; Iwakuni (famous for its castle and Kintai Bridge) and the scenic islands of Shikoku and Kyushu. Okunoshima Island in Hiroshima Prefecture is famous for its cute rabbits, Japan's tallest electricity pylon and a Poison Gas Museum.
Accommodation in Hiroshima runs a gamut from international class, five star, luxury hotels to more budget hostels, as well as Japanese-style ryokan and minshuku.
Top end accommodation options in Hiroshima include the Hotel Granvia Hiroshima, the 238-room Sheraton Hiroshima Hotel and the Grand Prince Hotel. More business orientated hotels are the Hiroshima Garden Palace, the 90-room APA Hotel Hiroshima Ekimae, and the Hiroshima Intelligent Hotel - all within easy reach of Hiroshima Station.
View Hiroshima Map in a larger map
Hiroshima Airport (for Tokyo - Haneda & Narita airports - Sapporo, Sendai, Okinawa and international destinations including Taipei, Chengdu, Shanghai, Siem Reap and Beijing).
There is an Airport Limousine bus service from outside Hiroshima Station to Hiroshima Airport which takes 45 minutes and presently costs 1300 yen. There are also buses to Hiroshima Airport from JR Fukuyama Station, Mihara Station and Kure Station.
Hiroshima Nishi Airport is a small heliport in Hiroshima Bay only 6km from the city center.
Hiroshima Station is served by the Sanyo Shinkansen line to Osaka (2 hours 10 mins), Tokyo (4 hours 30 minutes to five hours), Kyoto, Nagoya and Fukuoka/Hakata. Other railway lines connecting from Hiroshima are the Sanyo Main Line for Miyajimaguchi, the historic town of Iwakuni and Tokuyama, the Geibi Line for Shiwaguchi and Miyoshi, the commuter Kabe Line for Omachi, Midorii and Kabe and the Kure Line for the port city of Kure, Hiro, and Takehara.
There are long distance bus services from outside Hiroshima Station to Tokyo, Kyoto, Osaka, Nagoya, Takamatsu, Fukuoka and Nagasaki.
There are ferry connections from Hiroshima Port (Ujina Port) to various outlying islands in the Inland Sea and Shikoku.
Boats to Miyajima for Itsukushima Shrine cost 180 yen from Miyajimaguchi Port with either JR Miyajima Ferry or Miyajima Matsudai Kisen.
Boats to Etajima cost 1,060 yen from Hiroshima Port; ferries to Innoshima are 620 yen from Mihara Port and Okunoshima is 310 yen from Tadanoumi Port in Takehara.
Hiroshima - Matsuyama Tourist Port in Matsuyama with Ishizaki Kisen (www.ishizakikisen.co.jp) and Setonaikai Kisen (setonaikaikisen.co.jp) in 2 hours, 40 minutes by car ferry or 1 hour, 8 minutes by direct high speed boat.
More information including full timetable and fares for Hiroshima-Kure-Matsuyama ferries.
There are lunch and dinner cruises in the Inland Sea offered by Hiroshima Bay Cruise Ginga (Galaxy) - Tel: 082 253 1212.
Read more on transport in Hiroshima
Hiroshima YouTube Video
Watch a brief video overview on YouTube of life and attractions in Hiroshima.