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Hiroshima, Japan

Hiroshima (広島) is an industrial city of wide boulevards and crisscrossing rivers, located along the coast of the Seto Inland Sea. Although many only know it for the horrific split second on August 6, 1945, when it became the site of the world's first atomic bomb attack, it is now a modern cosmopolitan city with excellent cuisine and a bustling nightlife.

Those expecting to step off the ship into a pile of smoldering rubble will be in for a surprise, as Hiroshima has all the ferroconcrete and blinking neon of any other modern Japanese city. Teenagers stream in and out of the station, where McDonald's and the latest keitai (mobile phones) await; hapless salarymen rush down Aioi-dori to their next meeting, casting a bloodshot eye toward the seedy bars of Nagarekawa as they pass. At first glance, it can be hard to imagine that anything out of the ordinary ever happened here.

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Hiroshima, Japan

Destination:

Hiroshima (広島) is an industrial city of wide boulevards and crisscrossing rivers, located along the coast of the Seto Inland Sea. Although many only know it for the horrific split second on August 6, 1945, when it became the site of the world's first atomic bomb attack, it is now a modern cosmopolitan city with excellent cuisine and a bustling nightlife.

Those expecting to step off the ship into a pile of smoldering rubble will be in for a surprise, as Hiroshima has all the ferroconcrete and blinking neon of any other modern Japanese city. Teenagers stream in and out of the station, where McDonald's and the latest keitai (mobile phones) await; hapless salarymen rush down Aioi-dori to their next meeting, casting a bloodshot eye toward the seedy bars of Nagarekawa as they pass. At first glance, it can be hard to imagine that anything out of the ordinary ever happened here.

Hiroshima was founded in 1589 on the delta formed by the Ota River, flowing out to the Seto Inland Sea. The warlord Mori Terumoto built a castle there, only to lose it eleven years later to Tokugawa Ieyasu after the Battle of Sekigahara, which marked the beginning of the Tokugawa shogunate. Control of the area was given to the Asano clan of samurai, who ruled without much incident for the next two and a half centuries. Their descendants embraced the rapid modernization of the Meiji period, and Hiroshima became the seat of government for the region, a major industrial center, and a busy port.

By World War II, Hiroshima was one of the larger cities in Japan and a natural communications and supply center for the military. Forced laborers from Korea and China were shipped in by the tens of thousands, and local schoolchildren also spent part of their days working in munitions factories. Residents of the city must have felt curiously blessed for the first few years of the war, as Hiroshima had been left largely untouched by American bombing campaigns; that was, however, intended to ensure a more accurate measurement of the atomic bomb's effect on the candidate cities, which had been narrowed down to Hiroshima, Kokura, Kyoto, Nagasaki, and Niigata.

On 6 August 1945 at 8:15 AM the American B-29 bomber Enola Gay dropped an atomic bomb dubbed "Little Boy" on Hiroshima. It is estimated that at least 70,000 people were killed in the explosion and its immediate aftermath. Most of the city was built of wood, and fires raged out of control across nearly five square miles, leaving behind a charred plain with a few scattered concrete structures. Corpses lay piled in rivers; medical treatment was virtually non-existent, as most of the city's medical facilities had been located near the hypocenter, and the few doctors left standing had no idea what hit them. That evening, radioactive materials in the atmosphere caused a poisonous "black rain" to fall.

In the days ahead, many survivors began to come down with strange illnesses, such as skin lesions, hair loss, and fatigue. Between 70,000 and 140,000 people would eventually die from radiation-related diseases. Known as hibakusha, the survivors were also subject to severe discrimination from other Japanese, but have since been at the forefront of Japan's post-war pacifism and its campaign against the use of nuclear weapons.

Recovery was slow, given the scale of the devastation, and black markets thrived in the first few years after the war. However, the reconstruction of Hiroshima became a symbol of Japan's post-war pacifism. Today, Hiroshima has a population of more than 1.1 million. Automobiles are a major local industry, with Mazda's corporate headquarters nearby. There are three excellent art museums in the city center, some of Japan's most fanatical sports fans, and a wide range of culinary delights — most notably the city's towering contribution to bar cuisine, Hiroshima-style okonomiyaki.

Although many visitors, especially Americans, may feel apprehensive about visiting Hiroshima, it is a friendly, welcoming city, with as much interest in Western culture as anywhere else in Japan. Tourists are welcomed, and exhibits related to the atomic bomb are not concerned with blame or accusations. Bear in mind, though, that many hibakusha still live in the city, and even most of the young people in Hiroshima have family members who lived through the blast. As such, the average Hiroshima resident isn't likely to relish talking about it, although you needn't shy away from the topic if one of the chatty fellows around the Peace Park brings it up.
 

Climate

Unfortunately, most travelers experience Hiroshima during the worst weather of the year, in July and August, when days of heavy rain give way to brutal, muggy heat. Also note that in the latter half of September, warm and pleasant days are interspersed with typhoons powerful enough to wreck buildings (such as the one that nearly destroyed Itsukushima Shrine on Miyajima in 2004).

October and November are ideal, with less rain and cool, refreshing temperatures. The winter months are fine for a visit — the weather is dry, with very little rain or snow, and the temperatures are rarely cold enough to keep you indoors. As elsewhere in Japan, though, a number of museums are closed from 29 Dec to 1 Jan (or 3 Jan).

April and May also have excellent weather. The cherry blossoms come out in early April, and the parks around Hiroshima Castle turn into a mob scene with hanami parties. For sakura with a bit more solitude, go for a hike on Ushita-yama

 


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Hiroshima, Japan: Port Information


Cruise liners dock at Ujina Pier, about 2 miles from the city center. Many significant tourist landmarks are situated nearby.
Cruise terminal facilities include a tourist information center, Wi-Fi, shuttle buses, etc.
Larger vessels dock at Itsukaichi Wharf. Shuttle service is available.

Get around Hiroshima, Japan


By tram

Hiroshima has an extensive tram (streetcar) network, which is operated by Hiroden (広電). It's a slow but reliable way of getting around. The trams themselves are a mix of old rattle-traps and sleek, new "Green Movers" — although they all run on the same lines for the same fares. There's no difference other than the smoothness of the ride. Because the trams were bought from other cities, you're getting a tour of Japanese transit history — some have been in service for more than fifty years, and that might be an old Kyoto tram taking you through Hiroshima.

Most lines originate from JR Hiroshima Station and run frequently during daytime and evening hours, approximately one tram every 10 minutes per line. Boarding and payment procedures vary by tram; however, the entrance and exit are clearly marked in English. (If in doubt, just follow the locals.) Pay as you exit. Change machines are usually available on board if you don't have exact change — check near the front or back of the car. 

By bus

Bus lines run through Hiroshima and out to the suburbs. Generally speaking, these serve areas more likely to be used by locals than visitors. Signs include English, and buses depart next to the tram depot in front of JR Hiroshima Station.

By metro

The modern Astram (アストラムライン) links the city center with the northern suburbs, although there aren't many tourist sights out that way. The underground station at the end of Hon-dōri, near the Peace Park, is the terminus in the city center.

By bike

Hiroshima is a great city for cycling. Most of the sidewalks are fairly wide by Japanese standards; the paths along the branches of the rivers offer a very pleasant ride, and if you're looking to test your legs, head up to the hills around Hijiyama Park. 

  • Nippon Rent-a-Car, 3-14 Kojin-machi, Minami-ku, ☎ +81 82-264-0919. 24 hours. And rent-a-bicycle as well, with rates by the hour or the day.
  • Hiroshima Navigator, ☎ +81 82-513-3389. Hiroshima Convention & Visitors Bureau maintains a list of bicycle rental outlets around the city.
  • Tourist information centers in JR Hiroshima station keep a map of associated rent-a-cycle outlets within downtown Hiroshima. Most of the outlets have their rental desks located in the lobbies of major hotels. The bikes can be rented from and returned to any of the associated outlets.

What to see in Hiroshima, Japan


Peace Memorial Park

Most of the memorials related to the atomic bomb are in and around the

Peace Memorial Park

(平和公園 Heiwa-kōen), reachable by tram line 2 or 6 to Genbaku Dome-mae. Once part of the busy Nakajima merchant district, this area was destroyed almost in its entirety by the bomb. Today, there are more than fifty memorials, statues, and other structures in the Park. Some will be obscure in their meaning; others are immediate and devastating. There is no entry fee, save for the

Peace Memorial Museum

, and access to the grounds is not restricted at night.
  • The skeletal remains of the A-Bomb Dome (原爆ドーム Genbaku Dōmu) are the most recognizable symbol of the atomic bombing in Hiroshima. In another lifetime, the building was one of the city's best-known sights for an entirely different reason; designed by Czech architect Jan Letzel in 1915, the Hiroshima Prefectural Commercial Exhibition Hall (and its fanciful green dome) had a bold European style in a grimy, crowded city with few modern flourishes. Because the explosion took place almost directly above the building, the walls remained largely intact, even as the dome shattered and the people inside were killed by the heat of the blast. Initially, as the city rebuilt, it was left alone simply because it was more difficult to demolish than other remains in the area; gradually, the A-Bomb Dome became the symbol it is today. The "Hiroshima Peace Memorial" was declared a UNESCO World Heritage site in 1996 amid some controversy — the United States and China both voted against the nomination for reasons related to the war. Today, the benches around the Dome are a favorite spot for Hiroshima natives to read, eat lunch, or simply relax.
  • One block east of the A-Bomb Dome (outside Shima Clinic) is a plaque which marks the hypocenter, the exact point above which the bomb exploded.
  • The

    Children's Peace Monument

    (原爆の子の像 Genbaku no ko no zō) is perennially draped in thousands of origami paper cranes folded by schoolchildren across Japan in the memory of the young bomb victim Sadako Sasaki.
  • The Memorial Tower to the Mobilized Students commemorates the 6,300 students who were conscripted to work in munitions factories and killed in the atomic bomb. There are statues of doves scattered throughout its five levels; at the base is a beautiful Kannon statue, always draped with origami cranes.
  • Tens of thousands of forced laborers from Korea were working in Hiroshima at the time of the attack. But the Monument in Memory of the Korean Victims of the A-Bomb was erected outside the Peace Park in 1970, and only moved within its boundaries in 1999. Today, the turtle at the base of the monument — symbolically carrying the dead to the afterlife — tends to be draped in his fair share of colorful origami cranes and flowers.
  • The Peace Bell is engraved with a world map, drawn without borders to symbolize unity. The public is welcomed to ring the bell — not coincidentally, the log is aimed to strike an atomic symbol. (Ring the bell gently, so as not to damage it.)
  • The Atomic Bomb Memorial Mound holds the ashes of 70,000 bomb victims who were unidentified or had no living relatives to claim them. Services are held in their memory on the 6th of every month.
  • The Rest House was known as the Taishoya Kimono Shop at the time of the explosion. Only one employee, who was in the basement at the time, survived. However, the reinforced concrete building stayed mostly intact. (The interior has been entirely refurbished, but the preserved basement is possible to visit with advance request.) Today, it holds a gift shop, some vending machines, a helpful tourist information office, and — as the name would suggest — a place to rest.
  • Inside the Cenotaph for the A-Bomb Victims is a stone chest with a registry that is intended to contain the names of every known person who died from the bombing, regardless of nationality. (Names are added as hibakusha pass away from diseases thought related to the radiation of the bomb.) The Japanese inscription reads, "Let all the souls here rest in peace, for the evil shall not be repeated." Note how the arch frames the A-Bomb Dome in the distance.
  • At the other end of the pond from the Cenotaph is the Flame of Peace (平和の灯 heiwa no tomoshibi). It is said that the fire will burn until the last nuclear weapon is gone from the earth.
  • Hiroshima National Peace Memorial Hall for the Atomic Bomb Victims, 1-6 Nakajima-chō, Naka-ku, ☎ +81 82-543-6271. Mar-Jul 8:30 AM-6 PM, Aug 8:30 AM-7 PM, Sep-Nov 8:30 AM-6 PM, Dec-Feb 8:30 AM-5 PM, closed Dec 29-Jan 1. The Peace Memorial Hall is dedicated to collecting names and photographs of people who died in the blast. The entrance of the museum leads downward to a quiet hall for contemplation, and then back up again to a set of kiosks with compelling stories and recollections from survivors (in English and Japanese). Like the Cenotaph and the Peace Memorial Museum, it was designed by architect Kenzo Tange. Free.
  • Peace Memorial Museum (平和記念資料館 Heiwa Kinen Shiryōkan), 1-2 Nakajima-chō, Naka-ku, ☎ +81 82-242-7798, e-mail: hpcf@pcf.city.hiroshima.jp. Mar-Jul 8:30 AM-6 PM, Aug 8:30 AM-7 PM, Sep-Nov 8:30 AM-6 PM, Dec-Feb 8:30 AM-5 PM, closed Dec 30-31. This heart-wrenching museum documents the atomic bomb and its aftermath, from scale models of the city "before" and "after" to melted tricycles and other displays and artifacts related to the blast. Some are extremely graphic, evocative, and quite disturbing. The rest of the museum describes the post-war struggles of the hibakusha and an appeal for the abolition of nuclear weapons in the world today. Be warned: a visit here, while absolutely worthwhile, will ruin your day. 
  • International Conference Center, 1-5 Nakajima-chō, Naka-ku, ☎ +81 82-242-7777. 9 AM-9 PM daily. At the south end of the Peace Park, this complex of buildings has an International Exchange Lounge with English-language publications and city information; it also has the Restaurant Serenade (☎ +81 82-240-7887, 10 AM-7 PM).
  • The Statue of Mother and Child in the Storm, completed in 1960 by artist Shin Hongo, is among the most powerful works of art created in response to the atomic bomb. It depicts a woman shielding her child from the black rain. It's in front of the Fountain of Prayer just south of the Peace Memorial Museum.
  • The Gates of Peace were installed in 2005 on Heiwa-o-dori, just south of the Peace Park, by a pair of French artists. On the sidewalk and the surface of the gates, the word "peace" is written in 49 languages. The ten gates are meant to represent the nine circles of hell from Dante's Inferno, plus a new one: the hell created by the atomic bombing.

Outside the Peace Park

  • As you explore the city and outskirts, keep an eye out for maroon-colored marble historical markers such as the one outside the A-Bomb Dome or the one marking the Hypocenter, which has photographs and text in both Japanese and English. You'll come across markers as far as a few miles away from the Peace Park — which lends perspective to the distance and extent of the damage.
  • Honkawa Elementary School Peace Museum (本川小学校平和資料館), 1-5-39 Honkawa-chō, Naka-ku (Genbaku Dome-mae tram stop), ☎ +81 82-291-3396. Open during school hours. Of the more than 400 students and teachers who were in the school when the bomb exploded, only one student and one teacher survived. After a new school was built, this section of the original structure was kept as a museum, housing a small collection of photos and artifacts. Free.
  • Fukuro-machi Elementary School Museum (袋町小学校平和資料館), 6-36 Fukuro-machi, Naka-ku (Fukuro-machi tram stop), ☎ +81 82-541-5345. 9 AM-5 PM daily. Like Honkawa, part of the original school building that remained standing after the atomic bomb has been converted into a museum. In the days after the explosion, survivors used the school's chalk to leave messages for lost friends and family members on its blackened walls. Free.
  • After the A-Bomb Dome, the former Bank of Japan at 5-16 Fukuro-machi, Naka-ku (Fukuro-machi tram stop) is the best-known pre-bomb structure in Hiroshima. Built in 1936, the city's main branch of the Nippon Ginko was only 380 meters from the hypocenter; although its exterior remained intact, all 42 people inside the bank were killed by the heat of the blast. Remarkably, the bank was back in service only two days after the bomb and continued operation until 1992, when it was acquired by the city. Occasional art exhibitions are now held there. Hours of access are irregular, but it's worth stopping by to check.
  • Somewhat incongruously, the 1925 Hiroshima Mitsui Bank at 7-1 Hon-dori, Naka-ku (Hon-dōri tram stop) also survived the blast, and now serves as the home of a busy Andersen Bakery. The ground-level renovations and the ceiling of the Hon-dori arcade combine to obscure its age, but there's a historical marker on the corner. Stepping out of Hon-dori to the side street gives a better view of the building — and how the city rebuilt around it.
  • There is a fascinating, little-known pre-bomb house on the outskirts of Hijiyama Park. Walk up toward the park on the street branching upward from the Hijiyamashita tram stop. You'll see a temple on your left with a historical marker out front. Just past the temple is a set of stone steps, leading up to a small house and explanatory plaque. (Notice the vane at the top of the house, warped from the heat of the bomb.) Please note that while visitors are welcome in the front yard, the rest of the area is private property, including the house itself.
  • From the Shinkansen side of JR Hiroshima Station, you'll see an enigmatic silver tower on Futaba-yama, the mountain ahead. That's the Peace Pagoda (Busshari-to), built in 1966 in memory of those killed by the atomic bomb. To reach it, simply head uphill on the main street facing away from the station. You'll pass through a quiet, pleasant neighborhood of cafes and hillside houses, climb steps, and eventually reach Toshogu Shrine. Follow the road around the shrine and you'll reach the red lanterns and torii of Kinko Inari Shrine. Head through the gates and up the steps to reach the Peace Pagoda. It's an even more impressive sight from the top of the mountain; inside the Pagoda are two gifts containing ashes of the Buddha, which were a gift to Hiroshima from India and a group of Mongolian Buddhists, along with thousands of prayer stones. You'll also be able to see the whole jumble of the city below.

Chuo Park area

  • Chuo Park (中央公園), Naka-ku (Genbaku dome-mae tram stop). A big, sprawling green space in the middle of the city. Broadly defined, the park grounds include many of the attractions below, including the castle and the Carp's old baseball stadium (scheduled for demolition). But Chuo Park is worthy of note in its own right, with nice, long walking paths and athletic fields — there are quite a lot of open-invitation soccer, football, and ultimate frisbee games that are regularly held here, so don't be shy about showing up with athletic shoes and seeing if anyone needs an extra.
  • Hiroshima Castle (広島城 Hiroshima-jō), 21-1 Moto-machi, Naka-ku (Genbaku dome-mae tram stop), ☎ +81 82-221-7512. Mar-Nov 9 AM-6 PM, Dec-Feb 9 AM-5 PM. The original Carp Castle (Rijō) was built in the 1590s by Hideyoshi's warlord Terumoto Mōri, predating the city itself. It was destroyed by the atomic bomb, by which time it was serving as a military headquarters, and reconstructed in 1958. Some of the original concrete foundations can still be seen. Today, the castle grounds are a nice place for a walk, and definitely Hiroshima's favorite place for hanami (cherry blossom parties), with more than 350 sakura trees. The five-story castle museum is an attractive reconstruction of the 16th-century donjon, with interesting relics and armor to see (and try on), as well as some informative displays about the history of the castle and the city. The view from the top is worth the entrance fee all by itself.
  • Gokoku Shrine (護国神社 Gokoku-jinja), 2-21 Motomachi, Naka-ku (Genbaku dome-mae tram stop), ☎ +81 82-221-5590. Located on the castle grounds, this concrete shrine has great significance to locals, having been rebuilt after the atomic blast and now the center for most annual Shinto traditions in the city. But other than a historical marker, there's not much to see for travelers, other than festivals (especially New Year's Eve).
  • Hiroshima Children's Museum (広島市こども文化科学館), 5-83 Motomachi, Naka-ku (Genbaku dome-mae tram stop), ☎ +81 82-222-5346. Tu-Su 9 AM-5 PM. Great fun for kids, with hands-on science exhibits and a planetarium on the top floor. There's also a library with a few shelves of English language books.
  • Hiroshima Museum of Art (ひろしま美術館), 3-2 Motomachi, Naka-ku (Kamiya-cho nishi/higashi tram stops), ☎ +81 82-223-2530. 9 AM-5 PM daily. Established by the Hiroshima Bank in 1978. The permanent collection covers European art from late Romanticism to early Picasso, including a couple of Japanese painters who painted in Western styles. There's at least one painting by every famous artist of the period, but no major works by any of them.

Hijiyama Park area

  • Hijiyama Park (比治山公園), Minami-ku (Hijiyamashita tram stop). A huge park to the south of JR Hiroshima Station, between two branches of the river. (Follow Ekimae-dori from the station to the southeast, and you'll walk directly into it.) There are the usual areas for sitting in the sun (and rather a lot of stray cats), but much of the park remains refreshingly undeveloped forest, save for a futuristic tunnel to SATY, a neighboring shopping complex and movie theater.
  • Hiroshima City Manga Library (広島市立まんが図書館), 1-4 Hijiyama-koen, Minami-ku (Hijiyamashita tram stop), ☎ +81 82-261-0330. Tu-Su 10 AM-5 PM. Around the corner from the Museum of Contemporary Art (below). The vast majority of the manga are in Japanese, of course, but they do have a selection of Western superhero comics. Free.
  • Hiroshima City Museum of Contemporary Art (広島市現代美術館), 1-1 Hijiyama-koen, Minami-ku (Hijiyamashita tram stop), ☎ +81 82-264-1121. Tu-Su 10 AM-5 PM. Probably the most deserving of a visit among Hiroshima's art museums. There are a few famous Western names in its collection, including Andy Warhol and Frank Stella, but the real focus is on interesting modern Japanese artists working in their own styles, and the exhibition designers make creative use of the museum space. Special exhibitions cost extra. There is a sculpture garden outside that can be visited for free, and a decent city-view from the plaza near the museum's front steps.

Other sights

  • Fudoin (不動院), 3-4-9 Ushita Shin-machi, Higashi-ku (Astram to Fudoin-mae), ☎ +81 82-221-6923. Only a short trip north of the city, this 14th-century temple is another of the few structures in the area to have survived the atomic blast. The Main Hall is an impressive sight, and both the bell tower and the two-story gate are regarded as cultural treasures. Free.
  • Hiroshima City Transportation Museum (広島市交通科学館), 2-12-2 Chorakuji, Asaminami-ku (Astram to Chorakuji Station), ☎ +81 82-878-6211. Tu-Su 9 AM-5 PM. Located on the outskirts of the city, the Transportation Museum has exhibits and interactive games about planes, trains, ships, and cars of the past, present, and future — and a transit nerd's treasure trove of details about the history and model numbers of Hiroshima's streetcars. (Tram #654, which remained in service after the atomic blast, is on display.) Outside, behind the museum, there is a track with odd bicycles to ride. It's great fun for children. Free on the first floor.
  • Hiroshima Prefectural Museum of Art (広島県立美術館), 2-22 Kaminobori-cho, Naka-ku (Shukkeien-mae tram stop), ☎ +81 82-221-6246. Tu-Su 9 AM-5 PM, Sa to 7 PM. Has a good permanent collection of modern European art, including major works by Dali and Magritte, and a few modern Japanese artists as well. Special exhibitions are of a generally high quality, ranging from Persian carpets to The Legend of Ultraman. It's located in front of Shukkeien.
  • Mazda Museum (マツダミュージアム), 3-1 Mukainada-chō, Fuchū, ☎ +81 82-252-5050. Tours weekdays 9:30 AM and 1 PM in Japanese, 10 AM in English, lasting around 90 minutes. Space is limited, and they ask that you call first to make a reservation. Bookings can be made in English. Mazda's corporate headquarters are a short distance outside of Hiroshima. The tour is a must for any automobile fan, but if you have any serious technical questions, then you should go on the Japanese tour and bring along your own interpreter, as there's less detail on the English tour. Highlights include the Mazda Cosmos (the world's first car with a rotary engine) and the 4-Rotor Mazda 787B, which is the only Japanese car to win at Le Mans. From there you will be taken to their Ujina plant and the actual assembly line, with a look at some of their concept vehicles. From JR Hiroshima Station, take the San'yo Line in the direction of Saijō or Mihara to JR Mukainada Station (two stops); cross the rails and exit through the south exit. From the train station exit, head straight on the street a little to the right of the exit until you see the confusingly labeled pharmacy, called "Zoom-Zoom". Head down the stairs opposite Zoom-Zoom into an underpass and you'll exit in the Mazda Admin building's parking lot. Free.
  • Mitaki-dera (三瀧寺), 411 Mitaki-yama, Nishi-ku, ☎ +81 82-237-0811. Originally founded in 809 AD, Mitaki-dera is a tranquil, lovely temple to the west of Hiroshima, known for its three waterfalls, which supply the water for the annual Peace Memorial Ceremony (see Festivals), as well as its gorgeous autumn colors and fascinating statues. The tahoto (treasure pagoda) was moved here from Wakayama in 1951 and consecrated in memory of the victims of the atomic bomb. From JR Hiroshima Station, take the Kabe Line to JR Mitaki Station. It's a short walk and hike from there. Free.
  • Shukkei-en (縮景園), 2-11 Kami-noborimachi, Naka-ku (Shukkeien-mae tram stop), ☎ +81 82-221-3620. 9AM-5PM daily, April to 6 PM. While not officially one of Japan's Top 3, this compact and beautifully landscaped Japanese garden is well worth a visit, and an ideal place to decompress from the atomic bomb sites. Despite more and more high-rises peeping over the trees recently, Shukkeien can feel like an entirely different world, with little paths crossing ponds on bridges and winding their way around graceful teahouses and waterfalls. It's directly behind the Prefectural Art Museum, and combined admission tickets are available.

What to do in Hiroshima, Japan


Festivals

  • Flower Festival (フラワーフェスティバル). First weekend of May. This is Hiroshima's biggest festival, begun in 1975 to celebrate the Carp's first baseball championship. There are food vendors and things for sale, but live performances now dominate the program, with comedians and J-pop bands on stages along Heiwa-o-dori. It's the smaller performances that make the Flower Festival worthwhile, though, particularly in the stalls near Jizo-dori, where you might stumble across a phenomenal Okinawan band or a local jazz combo. Free.
  • Peace Memorial Ceremony (広島平和記念式典 Heiwa Kinen Shikiten), Peace Memorial Park, ☎ +81 82-504-2103. 6 August. Held each year on the anniversary of the atomic bombing, with many hibakusha in attendance. Ceremonies are held in the morning (8:15 AM, the time the bomb was dropped). The air raid sirens sound, followed by a minute of silence, and then appeals for peace by the mayor of Hiroshima. There's also a ceremony in the evening (8 PM) when a thousand colorful lanterns are floated down the river. Free.
  • Sake Festival (酒まつり Sake Matsuri). Early October. The suburb of Saijo is famous for its sake breweries and this annual boozy blow-out. For the price of entry, attendees can drink their fill of sake from local breweries. In short order, the festival area turns into a wild (yet reasonably well-behaved) display of public drunkenness involving people of all ages. Outside the festival area, tours of sake breweries are also available, with wood sake cups are available as souvenirs for your visit. JR Saijo Station is just a couple of stops from Hiroshima — you'll be swept up in the crowds as soon as you arrive.
  • Food Festival. Last weekend in October. This one's pretty simple — food, glorious food of all kinds, from international delicacies to local favorites, from roasted slabs of meat and seafood to delicious vegetarian-friendly dishes and desserts, served in stalls lining the moat of Hiroshima Castle and parts of Chuo Park. There's a flea market as well, and usually some cultural performances at the castle in the evening. Free — pay for what you eat.

Recreation

  • Hiroshima Toyo Carp Baseball, Mazda Zoom Zoom Stadium, 2-3-1 Minami-Kaniya, Minami-ku (10-minute walk east from JR Hiroshima Station, or a shorter walk from the Enkobashi-cho tram stop), ☎ +81 82-223-2141. The much-beloved and much-bemoaned Carp are Hiroshima's entry in the Central League of Nippon Professional Baseball. After more than fifty years in a stadium across the street from the Peace Park, the Carp moved to the new Mazda Zoom Zoom Stadium in the 2009 season. While the team doesn't win much, the enthusiasm of the fans can hardly be faulted, and Hiroshima is as good a place as any to witness the fervor of Japanese baseball fandom. Ask for the Carp Performance (カープ パフォーマンス) tickets — that's where the drums, chants, and excitement are. Tickets are sold at the stadium starting at 10 AM, the "Green Window" at JR Hiroshima Station, and a number of convenience stores.
  • Hiroshima Sanfrecce Soccer, Big Arch Stadium, 5-1-1 Ozukanishi, Numata-cho, Asa-Minami-ku (Astram to Koiki Koen-mae), ☎ +81 82-233-3233. Sanfrecce (Japanese/Italian for "three arrows", from a Japanese folk tale) are Hiroshima's entry in the J-League, although they date back to 1938 as a semi-pro team. Though coming off consecutive J-League championships, Sanfrecce struggle for attention in Carp-town, but the fans are great. 201 Tickets are available at most convenience stores.
  • And if you're on a quest to complete the whole set of Hiroshima professional sports, visit the JT Thunders of the V-League (volleyball), who hold court at the Nekoda Kinen Gymnasium, and the Hiroshima Maple Reds of the Japanese Handball League, Women's Division, who play at the Hirogin no mori Gymnasium.
  • Family Pool, 4-41 Moto-machi, Naka-ku (Genbaku dome-mae tram stop), ☎ +81 82-228-0811. 9 AM-6 PM daily. Open from 1 July-31 August, right when it's needed most, this huge, open-air pool/water park is a popular place for kids and families to beat the heat. And it's easy to find — in Chuo Park, right in the center of town.
  • Big Wave (Astram to Ushita), ☎ +81 82-222-1860. 9 AM-9 PM daily, except 8:30 AM-9:30 PM July-early September. On the other hand, if you're a serious swimmer, Big Wave offers longer hours and Olympic-size 50 meter swim lanes from July to early September. Then, from November to April, it turns into an ice-skating rink. (Rental skates are available, although people with big feet may not manage.) 
  • Shimizu Theater (清水劇場 Shimizu Gekijo), 2-1-15 Matoba-cho, Minami-ku (Matoba-cho tram stop), ☎ +81 82-262-3636. Classical dramas alternate with classical bondage porn at this strange theater — check out the posters in the lobby for the range of shows they do. Performances are in Japanese only, with no English supplements available. The respectable side of the house performs two shows per day, excluding Sundays, from noon-3 PM (quite popular with old folks) and 6-9 PM; after the shows, the performers (still clad in their rather impressive costumes and makeup) head out to the street to wave goodbye and pose for pictures with exiting audience members. 

What to eat and drink in Hiroshima, Japan


Eat

Hiroshima is famous for its style of okonomiyaki (お好み焼き), which literally means "cook it as you like it". Often (and somewhat misleadingly) called "Japanese pizza," it is better described as a type of savory pancake made with egg, cabbage, soba noodles, and meat, seafood or cheese. It is grilled in layers on a hot plate in front of you and slathered liberally with okonomiyaki sauce, with optional extras such as mayonnaise, pickled ginger, and seaweed. It sounds and looks like a mess, but is very tasty and filling. To give you a sense of the civic pride involved here, the Hiroshima tourist information office offers a map with a whopping 97 shops serving okonomiyaki within city limits, and reports have several hundred more in the area. Micchan (みっちゃん) is the most famous of the Hiroshima- style okonomiyaki restaurants with long histories. It has a few branches in and around the center of Hiroshima.

Hiroshima style and Osaka style are the two competing types of okonomiyaki, and if you raise the subject of okonomiyaki with a local, be ready to state your preference between the two! Basically, in Hiroshima, the ingredients are layered and pressed together while cooking, while in Osaka the batter is mixed together first, and the ingredients do not include soba noodles. According to local legend, both dishes originate from a cheap snack called issen yōshoku (一銭洋食) or "one-cent Western meal", which consisted of a wheat and water pancake served with scallions and sauce. Representing the other side of the pancake divide, Tokunaga (徳永) is the bext-known Kansai-style okonomiyaki restaurant in Hiroshima.

A row of excellent, informal okonomiyaki restaurants have sprung up on the second floor of JR Hiroshima Station (the ASSE Dept. Store). If you don't know what to order, ask for "niku-tama soba" and that will be all they need to know. There are Japanese and American chain restaurants clustered near the station, including Starbucks on the third floor (south exit), McDonald's on both sides of the station, a Lotteria burger shop in the underground plaza between sides of the station, a couple of sushi shops past the okonomiyaki joints on the second floor (south exit), yet another okonomiyaki shop on the second floor (north exit, by the shinkansen gates), and an Indian restaurant on the sixth floor (south exit), among many others. Most will serve until 10 PM, though McDonalds stays open later.

Hiroshima is also famous for its oysters (available between October and March) and a maple-leaf-shaped pastry called momiji manjū (もみじ饅頭). (Momiji is the leaf of a Japanese maple tree.) Momiji manjū are available with a variety of fillings, including the more traditional anko (あんこ), red bean and matcha (抹茶), or green tea; it's also available in cream cheese, custard, apple, and chocolate flavors. Boxes of momiji manjū are considered the quintessential Hiroshima souvenir, but Miyajima is the best place to buy it fresh.

Budget

  • Okonomi-mura (お好み村), 3-3 Nakamachi, Naka-ku (Hatchobori tram stop), ☎ +81 82-241-2210. The shops keep their own hours, but most will be open around 11 AM, and a few stay open until 2-3 AM. Three floors packed with no less than 27 okonomiyaki shops. This, indeed, is Hiroshima culinary nirvana. They all serve beer and okonomiyaki with some variations (kim-chee oysters, etc.), and they'll all start clamoring for your business as soon as you walk through the door. It's right behind PARCO, with a distinctive 'Okonomi-mura' arch out front.
  • Organ-za, 1-4-32 Tokaichi-machi, Naka-ku (Morimoto Building, 2F) (Tokaichi-machi tram stop), ☎ +81 82-295-1553. M-F 5:30 PM-2 AM, Sa 11:30 AM-2 AM, Su 11:30 AM-midnight. If you and your companion have completely different tastes in mind, Organ-za offers dishes from India, Japan, Thailand, Vietnam, and others direct from the imagination of a capable and creative chef. English menus are available. There's also a full bar (tended sometimes by Chie from the late, lamented Alcoholiday) and frequent live music. 
  • Otis!, 1-20 Kako-machi, Naka-ku, ☎ +81 82-249-3885. M-Sa noon-11 PM, Su 5 PM-11 PM. Serving Tex-Mex in Hiroshima for more than twenty years, Otis! is the most vegetarian/vegan/organic-friendly restaurant in town, with items clearly marked on their English menu. In addition to tacos, burritos, enchiladas, and nachos, they have a varied of made-from-scratch bakery items including muffins, brownies, and rye bread, as well as a handful of other items not easy to find in Japan such as jambalaya and lentil curry with brown rice. The atmosphere is more that of a small live house or indie cafe than a restaurant, with the walls covered in graffiti messages from passing musicians, and the corners stacked with audio equipment and unusual stringed instruments-- they also have a fairly busy schedule of live music, both Japanese and international.
  • Sankanou (三冠王), 11-2 Ōsuga-cho, Higashi-ku. M,W-Sa 5:30-11:30 PM, Su to 10:30 PM. A tiny okonomi shop in a little back alley near the railroad tracks and beside Hiroshima Station. The shopkeep speaks English and is a friendly, enthusiastic young manga fan. He's decorated his shop with Gundam models, moe-moe figurines, manga posters, and baseball and wrestling action figures. This shop serves okonomiyaki in the traditional method, directly on the hot griddle built into the table in front of you. Highly recommended for a visiting anime/manga nerd in search of true Hiroshima okonomiyaki (the same way Ukyo serves it in Ranma ½!)
  • Tachikoma (たちこま), 1-3-9 Dambara, Minami-ku (Dambara 1-chome tram stop), ☎ +81 82-262-7635. F-W 5-11:30 PM. A tiny okonomoyaki shop where locals go, with very friendly owners. The okonomiyaki is quite good and filling, and there's beer to enjoy with it. 

Mid-range

  • Cusco Cafe, 5-23 Hatchobori, Naka-ku (Jogakuin-mae tram stop), ☎ +81 82-502-7366. Su-Th 11 AM-midnight, F-Sa 11 AM-1 AM. Spanish and Peruvian cuisine including paella and ceviche, plus a smattering of other dishes such as pizza and pasta. There's a pleasant, eclectic ambiance to the decor and the menu, and a full bar if you're not in a hurry. 
  • Caffe Ponte, Motoyasu-bashi, Ote-machi (5 minutes walk downriver from the A-bomb dome), ☎ +81 82-2477471. Weekdays 10 AM-10 PM, Weekends 8 AM-10 PM. Italian Restaurant and Cafe just next to Peace Memorial Park. Indoor seating for up to 30, but when the weather is not too hot or too cold there's a nice view of the Park and Motoyasu river outside on the terrace. Menus in English, and there's usually some English speaking staff on hand.
  • J Cafe, 4-20 Fujimi-cho, ☎ +81 82-242-1234. Su-Th noon-2 AM, F-Sa to 3 AM. A stylish cafe with a menu of lighter fare such as waffles, sandwiches, and crepes. The comfy red couches make it a place to hang out for a while, which locals do — note the late hours. It's just off the intersection of Heiwa-o-dori and Jizo-dori. (The circle 'J' logo is easily mistaken for an @ sign.) 
  • Kurobutaya (黒豚屋), 1-5-14 Funairi-dori, Naka-ku (Dobashi-cho tram stop), ☎ +81 82-295-9510. 11:30 AM-2 PM, 5:30 PM-11 PM. Offers an English menu and a variety of small dishes. Perfect to have a taste of many things. Nice izakaya-like ambiance with jazzy tunes and friendly staff. 
  • Maison de Croissant, Nishi Kannon-machi, 18-4 Nishi-ku, ☎ +81 82-297-4655. M-Sa 10:30 AM-6:30 PM. Lovely little macrobiotic cafe with a health food store downstairs. Limited menu, lots of drinks. Try the pita sandwich set. Lunch is only served until 2:30 PM; after that, it's desserts and drinks only. From the Peace Park on Heiwa-Odori, go west (away from downtown and JR Hiroshima Station) — after the second bridge, turn left at the third traffic light, and it's on the right side of the road (between a post office and a gas station).
  • Nanak, 2-2 Fukuro-machi, Naka-ku (Fukuro-machi tram stop), ☎ +81 82-243-7900. 10 AM-3 PM, 5 PM-10 PM. Probably the biggest of Hiroshima's many good Indian restaurants. Individual sets are available, but ordering as a group is the best value. It's easily recognized by the uninformed fellow in the window booth facing the street, hard at work on the day's curry and oblivious to the passersby. English menus are available.
  • No-no Budou, 78-6 Moto-machi (Sogo-Pacela Credo Building, 7F) (Kamiya-cho nishi tram stop), ☎ +81 82-502-3340. 11 AM-3 PM, 5:30 PM-9 PM daily. A non-smoking, healthy "viking" buffet style restaurant with a wide selection of curries, tempura, and other Japanese dishes, some of which are made with locally-grown and organic ingredients. They have a great selection of juices, tea, and coffee, too.
  • Roopali, 14-32 Wakakusa-cho, Higashi-ku, ☎ +81 82-264-1333. M-Sa 11:30AM-2:30PM, 5PM-9:30PM; Su 11:30AM-9:30PM. Good food on the quieter Shinkansen side of JR Hiroshima station. A wide range of curries are on offer, and there is plenty to eat for vegetarians. The thali sets are good and filling. Comprehensive English menus are available, and it's kid-friendly to boot. If you're just arriving in Hiroshima on an empty stomach, you can't do much better than this. Sets from ¥2000.
  • Shichida Life Cafe, 2-3 Mikawa-cho, Naka-ku, ☎ +81 82-246-0700. M-Th 11 AM-10:30 PM, F-Sa 11 AM-11:30 PM, Su 11 AM-9:30 PM. Offers numerous organic and vegetarian options, such as salads, sandwiches, veggie burger, rice and noodle dishes; also a good selection of teas, coffee, and other beverages.
  • Spicy Bar Lal's, 5-12 Tate-machi, Naka-ku (Tate-machi tram stop), ☎ +81 82-504-6328. 11 AM-2:30 PM, 5 PM-10 PM daily. Indian and Nepali cuisine, with several good course dinners for individuals and pairs. Befitting the name, they're specific about their spiciness: you can choose a strength from 1-100! Basic English menus are available. It's just off Hon-dori, near the post office.
  • Graffity Mexican Diner, 4F Exa Bldg 6-4 Fukuromachi, Naka-ku, Hiroshima-shi, ☎ +81 82 243-3669. 11:30-14:00 18:00-01:00. Yes - good Mexican food does exist in Japan. The owner and chef worked in San Diego for many years, and the food is tasty, traditional mixed with experimental, and they even have hot sauces. Open for lunch and dinner, English spoken. Large groups welcome, call ahead. 

Splurge

  • Kanawa (Oyster Boat) (かなわ), Moored across from the Otemachi Building, Naka-ku (Chuden-mae tram stop), ☎ +81 82-241-7416. M-Sa 11 AM-2 PM, 5 PM-9 PM; Su to 8:30 PM. Docked just south of the Peace Park, this floating restaurant offers some of the tastiest oysters in Hiroshima, along with lovely traditional decor and nice river views (more so at night). There's plenty of room aboard, but it does fill up, so reservations are suggested.
  • Sumojaya Takabayama, 15-2 Nobori-cho, Naka-ku (Ebisu-cho tram stop), ☎ +81 82-223-0400. M-Sa 11:30 AM-1 PM, 5-10:30 PM. Chanko nabe, the food of sumo wrestlers, is a filling, fun, and healthy dish for anyone to enjoy, especially on colder days.

Drink

Nagarekawa has the highest concentration of bars in Hiroshima — the good, the bad, and the hostess — but there are many good, quiet wine bars on Hakushima-dori, and plenty of foreigner-friendly pubs clustered around the giant PARCO building 1. Yagenbori-dori is full of bars and clubs that are spread across floors of the various high-rise buildings.

Sake enthusiasts should not miss the chance to visit the breweries of Saijo, particularly during the annual festival in October.

Shopping in Hiroshima, Japan


Shopping in Hiroshima is dominated by a few huge department stores; in fact, trains deliver you directly into a fairly bland one called ASSE, which occupies the floors above the south exit of JR Hiroshima Station. Hon-dori (本通り), a covered shopping arcade in the city center, is the place to wander with a wallet you'd like to empty.

In terms of souvenirs, Hiroshima Carp memorabilia is the most widely found, although there's some spillover from the super-powered knick-knack engine that is Miyajima.

  • Best Denki, 1-1-7 Nishikaniya, Minami-ku (Enkobashi-cho tram stop), ☎ +81 82-567-8000. 10 AM-8 PM daily. A serene megastore chock full of Japanese video games, digital cameras, manga/anime videos and toys, and electronics in general. Just follow the river east from JR Hiroshima Station.
  • ED ON (formerly DeoDeo), 2-1-18 Kamiya-cho, Naka-ku (Kamiya-cho nishi tram stop), ☎ +81 82-247-5111. 10 AM-8 PM daily. This is the headquarters of the Hiroshima-based electronics giant, with an appropriately huge selection of computer and camera equipment, music and DVDs, and — somewhat incongruously — imported designer watches.
  • ED ON (formerly DeoDeo Neverland), 2-3-3 Ote-machi, Naka-ku (Hondori tram stop), ☎ +81 82-247-3911. 10 AM-8 PM daily. This branch focuses on the important things in life, such as video games, giant fighting robots, and spaceships from the future.
  • Fukuya (Ekimae), 9-1 Matsubara-cho, Minami-ku, ☎ +81 82-568-3111. 10 AM-8 PM daily. Aside from upscale boutiques like Chanel, Armani, and Dior, Fukuya has a good bookstore, Junkudo, on the 10th floor. Junkudo has two aisles of English language fiction and non-fiction, a few shelves of travel books, some interesting Japanese art and photography books directly facing the elevator, and a nice set of writing-oriented souvenirs toward the back — distinctly Japanese cards, stationary, pens, and the like. It's across the street from the south exit of JR Hiroshima Station, and the underground walkway leads directly into it.
  • PARCO, 10-1 Hon-dori, Naka-ku (Hatchobori tram stop), ☎ +81 82-542-2111. 10 AM-8:30 PM daily; food court to 10:30 PM. For the latest in Japanese teen fashion, this is the place to look, with eight floors of clothes boutiques, and beauty supplies in the basement. There are also several music shops for a J-pop fix and a good shop for soccer fans on the ninth floor. The concrete shape-jumble square behind the store is a popular hang-out space.
  • SOGO, 6-27 Moto-machi, Naka-ku (Genbaku dome-mae tram stop), ☎ +81 82-225-2111. 10 AM-8 PM daily. This concrete behemoth is on the other side of the street from the Peace Park, and the Hiroshima Bus Center is on its third floor. There are groceries and coin lockers in the basement, and a food court on the 10th floor. If you make it past all of the toys on the 6th floor, you'll find a Kinokuniya bookstore, with foreign titles (not just English) and a good selection of Japanese language study books.
  • SunMall, 2-2-18 Kamiya-cho, Naka-ku (Hondori tram stop), ☎ +81 82-245-6000. 10:30 AM-8:30 PM daily. Another teen fashion favorite, with five floors of boutiques and a great secondhand shop on the top floor. Of note for travelers will be the Uniqlo on the 2nd floor, which has good, cheap clothing at foreigner-friendly sizes.
  • Tokyu Hands, 16-10 Hatchobori, Naka-ku (Hatchobori tram stop), ☎ +81 82-228-3011. 10 AM-8 PM daily. Mostly Japanese home goods and appliances, but the first floor is full of travel and camping supplies, and the second floor has some fun party supplies (along with a great selection of Halloween gear, when in season). If you scout around on the upper floors, you'll find some reasonably-priced traditional souvenirs like miniature sake barrels and tea sets.

Safety in Hiroshima, Japan


Hiroshima has a rough reputation among Japanese people from other cities, thanks largely to the yakuza movies that were filmed in town. In reality, though, it's much safer than any large Western city. As with most places in Japan, petty theft is virtually non-existent. Nagarekawa, the nightlife district, does have its share of prostitutes, sex clubs, and rip-off hostess bars, but to no greater extent than Tokyo or Osaka.

There have been a few surprise police raids on bars that offer dancing after 1 AM, in accordance with a semi-obscure local law about public immorality that Hiroshima occasionally feels compelled to enforce — probably in order to catch people who are in the country illegally. Japanese citizens are generally allowed to leave right away, but foreigners have been made to stand in line to have their paperwork checked. If you find yourself in one of these situations, just stay calm, show the police your passport, and you'll eventually be allowed to leave without any trouble.

Language spoken in Hiroshima, Japan


Japanese is the national language. English is widely spoken in tourist places.

LOCAL TIME

8:51 am
September 22, 2019
Asia/Tokyo

CURRENT WEATHER

21.8 °C / 71.24 °F
heavy intensity rain
Mon

15.51 °C/60 °F
light rain
Tue

13.45 °C/56 °F
light rain
Wed

15.05 °C/59 °F
broken clouds
Thu

16.76 °C/62 °F
sky is clear

LOCAL CURRENCY

JPY

1 USD = 0 JPY
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1 AUD = 0 JPY
1 CAD = 0 JPY

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