Everyone knows of the city of Hiroshima, and unfortunately not for a good reason. Hiroshima is the site of the Atomic Bombing by the USA in 1945 and although the city has well and truly recovered, there are many reminders as you walk through the city of it’s traumatic history.
The city is now a very nice place to visit as a tourist and is quite the sprawling metropolis! There are many sights to see related to the war and bombing as well as World Heritage sights, gardens and shrines. We spent 48 hours exploring the area before heading back to Kyoto (1.5 hours away by train), spending our time wandering around central Hiroshima City on day 1 then taking the train down to Miyajima island for day 2!
Hiroshima Peace Park
All the top bomb related sights are situated within the Hiroshima Peace Park. It’s a very pretty, well maintained park with multitudes of memorials and walking paths, although a very sombering experience.We wandered through the park in one afternoon, although there are a few interesting sights outside the park boundaries that would be worth a look if you have more time. In addition to the places listed below, we also visited the Hiroshima National Peace Memorial Hall for the Atomic Bomb Victims, Children’s Peace Monument and a whole lot of individual memorials which were all very interesting and worth a look!
1. Peace Memorial Museum
We started here as it was at the entrance to the park. We recommend doing it this way as it made the rest of the park make a lot more sense! The museum is enormous with tonnes of information on the bombing itself, plus a whole floor dedicated to atomic bombs in general. There is an area containing artifacts just before the exit of the museum which really gave us an idea of the heat and immediate impact of the bomb (charred clothing, school books, shoes etc.), however it was the pictures of people and their stories that really made the impact hit home! No photography allowed inside the museum, however the external grounds were also really nice!
2. A-Bomb dome
Wandering through the park we visited so many different places, however it was definitely the A-Bomb dome that showed the true impact of the bomb.
A brief history: The A-Bomb dome was the Hiroshima Prefectural Industrial Promotion Hall and located almost directly underneath the bomb when it exploded. Everybody inside the building died, however the building itself was the only structure left standing in the area and has been preserved in the condition it was in directly after the bombing. The are some simple but subtle beams to prevent it from collapsing, however it it probably the best preserved ruin I have ever come across! It now serves as a stark reminder of the power of war and represents people’s prayers for lasting peace.
The final area of the park that we visited was the Cenotaph. This memorial holds the names of all the people killed by the bomb, covered by a saddle shaped arch to shelter their souls. If you look through the arch towards the A-Bomb, you can see the peace flame. This flame has burned continuously since it was lit in 1964, and will remain lit until all nuclear bombs on the planet are destroyed and the planet is free from the threat of nuclear annihilation. It really highlighted the peacefulness of Hiroshima today, and the wishes the Japanese have for peace around the globe.
Miyajima was a bit of a spare of the moment thing for us. We saw everything we wanted to see in Hiroshima City but still had another day, so had a quick flick through our Lonely Planet and decided to go for a hike up Mount Misen. We took the train 30 minutes to Iwakuni then walked 2 mins to the ferry port, where we took a 10 minute ferry across the bay to Miyjima island – about 50 minutes in total! We didn’t realise the World Heritage significance of the area until we arrived.
1. Mount Misen
Mount Misen was the reason we decided to come to Miyajima. The cable cars looked fun, plus we wanted to do something outdoors in nature! We walked through the little town at the port, through the gardens then up to the cable car station. The first cable car was a small classic 4-6 person car, which we didn’t end up having to share. The second car was a larger car that they claim fits 30 people – we had about 18 in ours and it was verging on uncomfortable. The views however were spectacular, and the cars were slow enough that we got a good look at the view and the lush forest below us.
Once we reached the top of the Ropeway, we wandered over to the lookout to see the Seto Inland Sea. There were little pictures pointing out what we were looking at, which was great because we had no idea! We could see lots of islands, a military base, different fishing nets and all the across to Hiroshima City. It truly was a breathtaking view, even when I was running away from bumble bees! From the lookout, the hike up to the summit of Mount Misen was about 1km and you really needed good shoes and reasonable fitness, especially in the heat. The path takes you through the highest parts of Daisho-in temple before reaching the top viewing platform. You can take as much time as you like on top as long as your back at the ropeway station by 5pm! It took us about 3 hours round trip from the Miyajima town which was more than enough time to explore everything.
2. Itsukushima Shrine
When we arrived, it was low tide in Itsukushima Shrine. Unfortunately this mean’t the shrine didn’t look nearly as impressive as normal and it was like walking over a muddy swamp! We figured we would go in on the way back down Mount Misen instead, however by the time we made it back we were exhausted and for some reason never went inside! It’s the only thing I really wish we’d done whilst there, but that just means we will have to go back! Quick history lesson: The shrine is a World Heritage sight and famous for being over the water, dates back 12th century and the Tori gate (below) is apparently one of Japan’s most famous sights.
One of James’ clients had told him that we must try Okonomiyaki when we were in the south of Japan – so we did! Okonomiyaki is a type of savory pancake made with egg, cabbage, onion, meat and various condiments and toppings. We had it for the first time in Miyajima and it was pretty yummy! I’d definitely have it again. Part of going to new countries is trying their local dishes – this is definitely a local dish I’d recommend giving a red hot go!
And that is how we spent 48 hours in Hiroshima! One day we will head back and spend a couple of weeks exploring the Southern areas of Japan as it’s just so beautiful. Please leave us a comment below if you have any questions about visiting Hiroshima or can recommend any other places we should check out next time!
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