25 Amazing Things To Do in Hiroshima: A Complete Travel Guide to Enjoying Its History, Culture, and Nature
Hiroshima is best known abroad for the tragic events that happened in World War II, but it is actually a region with plenty to see and do. It is an amazing sightseeing destination with lovely weather, beautiful natural landscapes, and rich culture. From local foods like Hiroshima-style okonomiyaki to gorgeous historical sites like Itsukushima Shrine, here are 25 of the best sightseeing spots in Hiroshima Prefecture!
Aug 01 2019 (Sep 09 2020)
Hiroshima is located in west Japan and faces the Seto Inland Sea, which is known as the "Mediterranean Sea of Japan". You can reach it by plane in about 1.5 hours from Haneda Airport in Tokyo, or in about 1.5 hours by bullet train from Osaka. If you're travelling around Japan using the JR Pass, this is an ideal next stop after visiting Osaka.
First founded as a castle town in 1589, Hiroshima flourished as an important port city and industrial center after the Meiji Restoration in 1868. It fell victim to an atomic bombing by the United States in 1945, which resulted in countless civilian deaths and the devastation of the city center. After successful recovery efforts, today Hiroshima is a thriving area with a strong commitment to peace that welcomes sightseers from all over the world.
When in Hiroshima, Check out These Spots!
1. Itsukushima Shrine
One of the most unmissable sights in Japan is Itsukushima Shrine and its iconic floating torii gate. Located on Itsukushima Island (more commonly known as Miyajima, or "shrine island"), this shrine has been designated as a UNESCO World Heritage Site.
At high tide, both the shrine and its torii gate seem to float on the water. At low tide, you can walk along the shore to see the gate up close.
There are also some special events held by the shrine throughout the year. Its biggest festival, the Kangen-sai, is held between late July and early August. In 2019, it will be held on July 19th. This festival is based around traditional gozan boats that set sail on the shrine's surrounding waters. The sight of the torch-lit boats and sounds of classical music make this a unique event that you should make a point to see if you're in Hiroshima.
2. Miyajima Island
While Itsukushima Shrine may be its most iconic view, Miyajima Island itself has plenty to see and do, and you can easily spend a whole day here. Wild deer roam the streets, and there are many surrounding shrines, temples, pagodas, and gardens to visit.
You can easily reach Miyajima Island via the ferries and boats that depart from Hiroshima City. The boat ride past the surrounding small islands and blue waters of the Seto Inland Sea is a memorable experience in and of itself.
Popular foods to try on the island are oysters that have been freshly caught in the surrounding waters. You'll find plenty of stalls and restaurants selling these on the island, and you can eat them fresh, grilled, or battered and deep-fried.
Momiji manju are red bean-filled cakes shaped like the beautiful maple trees that cover the island. These are some of the most popular souvenirs from Hiroshima, so don't forget to pick up a box for your friends and family back home.
The Miyajima Water Fireworks Display is one of the most famous fireworks displays in Japan. The sight of the fireworks and illuminated torii gate together here is breathtaking. In 2019, it will be held from 7:30 pm on August 24, 2019.
If you're interested in exploring the surroundings of both Miyajima Island and Itsukushima Shrine in one day, consider joining Magicaltrip's Miyajima 1-Day Hidden Hiking Tour. You'll get shown around to the best hidden spots of the island by a local English-speaking guide!
3. Hiroshima Peace Walking Tour at World Heritage Sites
A visit to Hiroshima wouldn't be complete without visiting the peace sites built after the atomic bombing of the city in World War II. A recommended way to experience this part of Hiroshima's history is by taking a walking tour with a local Hiroshima resident, as it gives you an opportunity to learn from someone with a direct connection to the city's history.
On the Hiroshima Peace Walking Tour at World Heritage Sites, you'll see the Atomic Dome, pictured above, that withstood the blast despite being near its epicentre. Today, it serves as visceral evidence of the devastation wrought on the city. You'll also visit the newly-renovated Peace Memorial Museum and the surrounding park and monuments, all of which have been thoughtfully designed to be both informative and meditative spaces.
This 4.5 hour walking tour gives you enough time to take in the scale of what there is to see here. While learning about the extent of the suffering the people of Hiroshima endured can be a sobering experience, the strength of the city and its commitment to peace is sure to leave you with a sense of hope.
This tour is a truly humbling experience that everyone should experience at least once while in Japan. If it sounds like something you or someone you know would be interested in, you can find more information on the tour and how to book it through the orange button below.
4. Hiroshima Castle
Originally built in the 1590s, Hiroshima Castle's exterior was rebuilt after the war in 1958, and its interior was reconstructed in 1989. While the original castle collapsed due to damage from the atomic bomb, today the reconstructed main castle is open to the public as a museum. The five-storey-tall castle also has an observation platform that offers a beautiful view of the grounds and the surrounding city.
While the main keep itself was mainly rebuilt with concrete, some of the castle's structures, including a gate and turret, have been reconstructed using traditional Japanese building techniques and materials, which makes for an interesting stop for architecture fans.
The surrounding gardens also have two examples of Hiroshima's hibaku jumoku, which is the Japanese name for trees that survived the atomic bomb. A eucalyptus tree and willow tree that were only around 700 meters from the bomb's epicentre still grow here, and serve as a symbol of hope for the people of Hiroshima.
5. Hiroshima Bar Hopping Food Tour
Hiroshima's friendly and welcoming atmosphere makes it a great place to relax and enjoy the nightlife. Of course, it can be hard to know where to go if you're new in town, particularly if you're not used to the Japanese-style pubs called "izakaya" where some of the best local food is served.
The best way to experience Hiroshima's food and sake is to enlist a local guide who will take you to some great places to eat and drink. It's a great opportunity to explore places off the beaten track, making for a really fun and authentic experience of the city. Even better, they can handle all the Japanese for you, too!
If this tour has got you excited to eat your way through Hiroshima, make sure you click on the orange button below for more information on the tour and how to book it!
6. Sandankyo Gorge
Hiroshima Prefecture is known for its stunning natural scenery, and if you're looking to get out of the city, Sandankyo Gorge makes for a great day trip thanks to its easy access via bus from Hiroshima Station. This gorge is known for its clear water and gorgeous cherry blossoms and autumn foliage. In the summer, the cooler climate and lush greenery here gives a welcome respite from the heat.
If you like to hike, the 13km-long valley has a number of sights to see on routes that range from 30 minutes to 5 hours. This area is a popular hiking destination, and walking trails are clearly marked. You can also hire rental kayaks if you'd prefer to explore on the water.
Sights to see here include the Sandan Falls, the three-tiered waterfall the gorge is named for, and Kurofuchi Pool, known for its stunningly clear emerald-colored water. A ferry boat is available to take you through Sarutobi, a narrow point in the ravine where the cliff walls are only around two meters apart. You can also catch a ferry at Kurofuchi to visit Kurofuchi-So, a small restaurant that serves fresh-caught fish grilled over open coals. After your hike, stop by Sandankyo Hotel, located near the entrance to the gorge, to soak in their hot springs for only 500 yen.
There are two types of okonomiyaki that are well known in Japan: Hiroshima-style and Osaka-style. If you want to try Hiroshima's okonomiyaki for yourself, make a visit to Okonomimura, or Okonomi Village. Originating as a collection of food stalls that once assembled in a plaza in the Shintenchi area after the war, the name lives on in the around 25 okonomiyaki restaurants now located here. (For more options, check out this article.)
What distinguishes Hiroshima-style okonomiyaki is the addition of ingredients like noodles and a fried egg, and the fact that the ingredients are layered rather than mixed together. Also, Kansai-style okonomiyaki is usually cooked by the customer, while the chef will usually cook the dish for you in Hiroshima.
8. Taishakukyo Gorge
Taishakukyo Gorge is most famous for its vast limestone Onbashi Bridge. At 90 meters long, 18 meters wide, and 40 meters high, this is one of the biggest natural stone bridge formations in the world. In the past, it was used as a functioning bridge by pedestrians, horses, and carts, but today you'll see many people approach from under the bridge to get a true sense of its scale. To reach the bridge, you can follow a walking path that will take you past some of the area's limestone caves, including Hakuundo Cave, which is open to visitors for a small fee (250 yen). Bikes are also available for hire by the trail head.
Another attraction in this gorge is the stunning Lake Shinryu-ko, which is particularly popular in the autumn. Here you can take a boat tour, hire kayaks, or follow the walking path that takes you past its three bridges.
Limited public transport is available, so it's better to come by car. Parking is available around a 30-minute walk from Onbashi Bridge.
9. Mitaki Temple
Known as one of Hiroshima's hidden gems, Mitaki Temple and the forested hiking trails that surround it make for a wonderful escape to nature. It is just a 10-minute train ride from Hiroshima Station.
The steep path up to the temple is part of the charm of a visit here. On your way, you'll find waterfalls, ponds, stone Buddhist statues, and plenty of lush forest to enjoy.
Once you reach the two-storey pagoda, you'll find a great view of Hiroshima and beyond. If you'd like to continue your walk, a trail behind the pagoda takes you further through the mountain ridge into a peaceful bamboo forest.
10. Hirata Tourist Farm
Enjoy fruit picking and a range of other fun activities at Hirata Tourist Farm. Kids in particular are sure to enjoy the seasonal hands-on workshops available, including making liquid nitrogen ice cream or tinned fruits from scratch. The wide variety of fruit grown here means you can enjoy fruit picking almost year-round, including cherries, strawberries, grapes, plums, and peaches.
A cafe with sweets like shaved ice and other treats is available on-site, but for the full farm experience, consider trying Japanese-style BBQ or dutch oven camp cooking. You can bring your own ingredients and rent a grill, or save yourself the hassle by choosing from one of the many barbecue platters available to buy at the farm.
11. Shukkei-en Garden
Located around a 15-minute walk from Hiroshima Station, Shukkei-en Garden was created in 1619 by tea master Ueda Soko, who also designed the Ni no Maru and Wafudo gardens at Hiroshima Castle. It was reopened in 1951 after being destroyed by the atomic bomb, but restoration was not completely finished until 1970.
The name of the garden translates literally to "condensed scenery", and as the name suggests, you'll see miniaturized renderings of natural scenic landscapes, including mountains, cliffs, and lakes. This garden is also a popular spot for viewing peach, plum, and cherry blossoms, so be sure to check their website for details of the special tea ceremony events held when these flowers are in bloom.
12. Sakagura-Dori Sake Brewery District
Sake lovers shouldn't miss the opportunity to tour Sakagura-Dori, a famous street just by JR Saijo Station in Hiroshima that houses a cluster of eight traditional breweries. You can spot the breweries by their red brick chimneys and distinctive black tiled walls. On top of tasting and buying the renowned Saijo sake, known for its beautifully subtle taste, visitors can join free guided tours that are offered on the 10th of each month. You can take part in the tour by visiting the Saijo Sakagura-Dori Tourist Information Center. Please see the link below for up-to-date information about the tours and schedules in English.
While you're in the area, make sure to try the local specialty, bishunabe, which is a simple hot pot style dish originally developed as a staff meal for brewery workers. Made by simmering vegetables, chicken, pork, and aromatics like garlic and leek with sake, salt, and pepper, this hearty dish makes full use of the delicious flavor of sake and is worth a taste.
13. Takehara Townscape Preservation Area
The preserved townscape of Takehara is a great spot to pair with a visit to Okunoshima Island, which will be featured next. The streets here are lined with buildings once owned by the salt and sake merchants who flourished in the area around 350 years ago, providing a fascinating look at the Hiroshima of old. Be sure to keep your eye out for some of the unique architectural touches here, including the delicate Takehara lattice around the windows.
If you're a fan of Japanese pop culture, you may have heard of Massan, a popular morning drama broadcast on NHK in 2014 and 2015. The drama is based on the life of Masataka Taketsuru, who is considered the father of Japanese whiskey after studying scotch brewing in Scotland and going on to found the industry in Japan. Taketsuru Brewery, his family's sake brewery, can still be found in this area.
Saihoji Temple, located on the mountainside beside the town, is said to be modelled after the famous Kiyomizu-dera Temple in Kyoto. The temple's stone steps are also known for being a spot where the 1983 movie version of The Girl Who Leapt Through Time was filmed. You can get a great view over the old town here, so be sure to make your way up if you are in the area.
14. Okunoshima Island (Rabbit Island)
Okunoshima Island, also known as Rabbit Island, can be accessed via ferry from Tadanoumi Port. Previously used as a base for the production of poison gas, this island was once removed from maps of Japan to conceal its location.
Today, the island draws tourists for the wild rabbits that roam freely here and the many abandoned buildings, including a power station and poison gas factory, that remain on the island. The contradiction between the adorable wild rabbits, beautiful island scenery, and dark wartime history here makes for a very interesting visit. (Click here for more information on this unique island!)
15. Abuto-Kannon Temple (Bandaiji Temple)
The beautiful views of the Seto Inland Sea are one of the best things about visiting Hiroshima. While Miyajima Island is a must, if you're looking for something a little off the beaten track, consider a visit to Bandaiji Temple, also known as Abuto-Kannon Temple.
Founded in the mid 1300s, the temple temporarily fell into disrepair before it was restored around 1570. Today, this historic temple has been designated an Important Cultural Property of Japan. The temple is dramatically perched right on the edge of Cape Abuto, and offers panoramic views of the sea from Kannon Hall. The temple enshrines Kannon Bodhisattva, and is known as a place to pray for safe childbirth and safe travel, particularly by sea.
16. Japan Maritime Self Defence Force Kure Museum
The Japanese Maritime Self Defence Force (JMSDF) Kure Museum is dedicated to providing information about Japan's modern naval activities. The museum is best known for Akishio, the 76.5m-long decommissioned submarine displayed here. If you've ever wanted to go inside a real submarine, this is your chance!
The museum also has educational displays dedicated to the JMSDF's history and modern peacekeeping activities, including its participation in coastal mine-sweeping efforts after the Gulf War.
17. Mazda Museum
Did you know that Mazda's headquarters are located in Hiroshima? Auto enthusiasts shouldn't miss a visit to the Mazda Museum, which is easily reached by bus or train from Hiroshima Station.
The museum features displays about the history and future of the company's cars, their motors and technology, and, of course, plenty of classic Mazda vehicles to see. The highlight of the museum is the ability to observe a real Mazda assembly line via the museum's observation deck.
Admission to the museum is free, but you do need to make a reservation for a tour to see the displays. You can book an English language tour online via the Mazda Museum website.
18. Mt. Shirataki and Gohyaku Rakan
Mt. Shirataki is a 226m high mountain located on Innoshima Island. It is known for its Gohyaku Rakan, a collection of approximately 700 stone statues carved by the founder of a well-known religious group, Denroku Kashihara, and his followers during a period of around 3 years from 1827.
This spot is also known for its stunning views of the Seto Inland Sea, the surrounding islands, and the Innoshima Bridge. The view is known to be particularly beautiful at sunset, and in the spring, the cherry blossoms blooming here make the approach to the summit even more special.
19. Sera Kogen Farm
Sera Kogen is a sightseeing flower farm located in Sera, about a 50-minute drive from Hiroshima City. This is a rural area, so it's best to come by car if you want to experience the stunning fields of flowers here. Four flower viewing events are held each year at Sera Kogen Farm: cherry blossoms followed by tulips in spring, sunflowers in the summer, and dahlias in autumn.
Sera Kogen Farm also has two sister properties: Kamu no Sato, which has fields of pink phlox and blue neophilia that are open for visitors in early April to mid May, and Sera Kogen Hana no Mori, which has rose gardens that open for their Rose Festival twice a year. The first Rose Festival is held from late May to mid July, and the second is held in autumn from late September to early November.
20. Kousanji Temple
Kousanji Temple has a very different background to some of the other temples in this article. For one, it was built fairly recently (1936) by Kozo Kousanji, a wealthy industrialist who was driven to join the priesthood and build this temple in honor of his late mother. The temple is full of images of divine female figures, and also contains reproductions of some of Japan's famous religious architecture, like the Phoenix Hall found at Byodoin Temple in Uji, Kyoto, and the Yomeimon Gate from Toshogu Temple in Nikko.
If your tastes run to the more traditional, Choseikaku Villa, which was built in 1927 by Kozo Kousanji for his mother before her passing, has been registered as a Tangible Cultural Property for the quality of its craftsmanship and materials. No expense was spared in its construction or decoration with pieces by notable Japanese artists. This makes for an excellent example of the highest quality architecture of its period, and is also a moving display of Kozo Kousanji's devotion to his mother.
21. Hill of Hope (Kousanji Museum)
Located in the Kousanji Temple complex, the Hill of Hope was designed by sculptor Itto Kuetani over a period of 16 years. Made with over 3,000 tonnes of Italian marble and spanning 5,000 square meters, this area has a range of sculptures and monuments to admire. The sculpture pictured above is called the Tower of Hope. The Mediterranean feel of this marble sculpture garden is definitely unusual for Japan, but you'll find that it blends surprisingly well with the Seto Inland Sea landscape!
22. Senkoji Temple and Park
Senkoji Temple was built in the year 806, and is one of the stops on the Chugoku 33 Kannon Pilgrimage route. The temple and its surrounding park draw many visitors for its long history and panoramic view over Onomichi and the sea beyond. This is one of the most popular spots to visit in the Onomichi area, especially in spring, when 1,500 cherry blossoms bloom around the temple. This spot is also known for the Path of Literature, which is lined with sculptures commemorating local works of literature. The Onomichi City Museum of Art is also located here.
23. Neko no Hosomichi (Cat Trail)
Neko no Hosomichi, or Cat Trail, is an alleyway found on the approach to Senkoji Temple above. It is dotted with painted fukuishi neko (lucky stone cats) made by the artist Shunji Sonoyama. There are a variety of cafes, bars, and boutiques here, many of which are cat-themed.
If you're heading to Senkoji Temple and its park, make sure to stop by this charming area which is just a short walk from the base of the Senkoji Ropeway.
24. Kagura Monzen Tojimura
Kagura Monzen Tojimura is a unique attraction that combines a dedicated kagura (a type of traditional Shinto performance known for its vivid costumes and lively music) theater with a hot spring spa. It is also known for its traditionally styled streetscapes, kagura museum, souvenir stores, and delicious local cooking.
This area is fairly rural, but overnight accommodation is available. If you want to experience Japanese customs like wearing yukata robes, sleeping on futons (mattresses), and relaxing in hot springs, make a stop here and enjoy the food and traditions of rural Hiroshima!
25. Miroku no Sato Theme Park
If you're looking for a family-friendly day at a theme park without the crowds or crazy price tag, consider a visit to Miroku no Sato. This theme park has all the traditional theme park rides you'd expect, like roller coasters and Ferris wheels, plus seasonal attractions like pools and water slides in the summer and illumination displays around Christmas.
Be sure to stop by the retro Itsuka Kita Michi area for lunch. It reproduces a typical Japanese townscape in the 1950s, including school rooms, a post office, candy and appliance shops, a movie theater, and functioning restaurants. This is a fun and interactive way to get a sense of what life was once like in Japan.
(For more theme parks that you should visit while in Japan, don't miss out on reading this article!)
Experience All Hiroshima Has to Offer!
Whether you want to explore nature, go bar hopping with locals, or explore the long history and rich culture of the region, Hiroshima Prefecture has a truly diverse range of things to explore. If you're planning a quick stop in Hiroshima, there's plenty to see in the city center, but if you're lucky enough to be here a little longer, don't miss the chance to take a day trip or two to some of the more rural areas we've suggested here. No matter what your plans are, we hope you can use this article when planning your next trip to Hiroshima Prefecture!
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(Thumbnail Credit: Mirko Kuzmanovic/Shutterstock.com)
The information in this article is accurate at the time of publication.