For most people, only one thing springs to mind when they hear the name ‘Hiroshima’. As the first ever city to suffer a nuclear attack, it has a sad history for sure, but today’s Hiroshima is far from a depressing place.
I had no idea what to expect when we hopped on the 90 minute train from Osaka, but what greeted us was a lively city with some of the friendliest people (and wildlife!) ever. They also have great food (make sure you try Okinomiyaki, a local speciality which is a fried cabbage, egg, meat and noodle dish) and fantastic scenery. We spent 48 hours here at the end of our time in Japan.
Here’s how we filled it:
The Atomic Bomb Dome and Peace Memorial
Our first stop was the Atomic Bomb Dome, one of very few structures left standing after the nuclear attack. The iconic ruin is a natural place to start your visit as from here you can walk down the river to the Peace Memorial Park and museum.
This was an emotional morning, especially because we’d both completely fallen in love with Japan and the people who live here. Just the thought of what it must have been like during the aftermath of the bombing is unfathomable.
There are volunteers lined up on the side of the bank of the Ota River too, many of whom have personal connections to the tragedy. We listened to one lady who was born just after the blast. Her mother had gone back right afterwards to try and find her father. She told us about all the heath complications she’d had as a child as a result of being exposed to the radiation in utero. There are also lots of people there campaigning to end war and eliminate nuclear weapons.
This guy was just hanging out, taking photos of the birds on his phone. He gives me LIFE.
Rainbow paper cranes for peace…
The Peace Memorial Park and museum were very moving and we saw a lot of people crying as they visited the Cenotaph or walked around the museum. Within just four months of the bombing, something like 166,000 people had died either directly from the blast or from radiation. The museum doesn’t just give you the historical facts either, it takes you though everything that happened and also shares individual people’s stories.
I wouldn’t say it was a ‘fun’ way to spend a morning, but a visit to Hiroshima would not be complete without stopping by to pay your respects.
Afterwards we walked from the Memorial Park to Hiroshima Castle. Originally built in the 1590s, it was completely destroyed in the bombing. In 1958 a replica was rebuilt and it’s now a museum of Hiroshima’s pre-World War II history. Even if you don’t want to go inside the museum, its worth stopping by because the exterior is super beautiful.
My favourite, and the most surprising place we visited in Hiroshima was Miyajima Island. You catch the ferry from Miyajimaguchi and the fare is included in a JR Rail pass. As you approach the island you’ll see the ‘floating’ torii, an orange ‘gate’ protruding from the water. It’s the entrance to the Itsukushima Shrine.
When you get onto the Island, you can take a boat to go right up to it, but we didn’t bother and I’m glad because in the evening the tide went out and we could walk right under it!
As soon as we hit land we were greeted by the local residents, incredibly tame and utterly adorable miniature deer! Oh my goodness, I very nearly died of cuteness overload. Be careful if you have food on you though, they can sniff it out and have no shame in trying to take it out of your hand or sticking their noses in bags to find it!
So much chill…
“Hello, can I take you home with me please?”
Halfway through the day a parade started. We had no idea what was going on or what it was for but it was awesome to watch and the kids involved were very cute in their fancy outfits! We looked it up afterwards and it seems we caught the Kiyomori Festival!
There are plenty of shops and restaurants to explore here too. The island is famous for it’s BBQ oysters although we didn’t try them as there were plenty of other delights for us to sample.
And cute things to buy…
The Miyajima Ropeway (cable car) will take you up for an amazing view of the island and is definitely worth the effort. You take two cable cars up, and at the top you have the option of a 30-40 minute hike right to the peak of Mount Misen, the highest point on the island. Of course Gareth decided we should do this and although I wasn’t thrilled by the idea, it was actually pretty fun. It was steeper and harder than I expected, but the 360 degree panoramic view from the top was glorious.
“8 minute walk, (6 if run a little!)”
A little word of warning, the last cable car down is at 4.30pm and they let you know when you leave that if you don’t make it back on time you will have to walk back down the whole mountain!
I hope you’ve enjoyed sharing in our Japanese adventures. As you can probably tell we had the best holiday EVER, and we were so sad to leave at the end of it. In fact we’re already planning to go back as soon as we can!
Sayōnara, anata ga suki desu! (Goodbye, I love you!)