If you’re in Hiroshima, don’t miss this UNESCO World Heritage site, aka the A-Bomb dome. It’s located along the Motoyasu River and quite near to Hiroshima Peace Park.
The fact that the shell of this iconic building still stands today symbolizes the resilience of Hiroshima after the atomic bomb attack in 1945.
This park is a serene space to memorialize the victims of the 1945 bombing and for contemplating the possibility of world peace. Designed by architect Kenzō Tange, it was once a busy part of downtown Hiroshima, flattened in the attack.
History gets pretty real in the park’s Peace Memorial Museum, with exhibits of the burned school uniforms of kids who disappeared after the attack and photos of hibakusha (people who were exposed to the bomb’s radiation).
If this sounds like too much, there are many other monuments in the park where you can pay your respects, like the Children’s Peace Monument.
This island, also known as Miyajima or “shrine island”, is home to the Itsukushima shrine and its famous red torii gate. Both appear to float on the sea at high tide.
Be sure to try the momiji manju (maple leaf-shaped cakes) and fresh grilled oysters. Heads up: deer roam the streets freely and although they’re pretty tame, they WILL steal your food when you’re not looking!
Behind Itsukushima shrine lies Momijidani park at the base of Mt. Misen. Cultivated during the Edo period when the momiji (Japanese maple) saplings were planted along the Momijidani river, the park is one of the most beautiful maple leaf parks in Japan.
The perfect times to visit are during autumn, when the maple trees turn brilliant red, or during spring, when the cherry blossoms are in full riot.
From the park, you can hike or take a cable to the top of Mount Misen for panoramic views of the Seto Inland Sea.
Built in 1958, this castle is a complete reconstruction of the 1590s original that was destroyed in the atomic bombing. Complementary to the Peace Memorial Museum, it now serves as an exhibition of Japan’s history up until 1945. Inside you can try on samurai gear, or trek to the top of the castle for expansive views of the city.
Afterwards, trawl the grounds for the perfect picnic spot or feed the koi and turtles that live in the moats around the castle.
Located just opposite Hiroshima castle, the Hiroshima Museum of Art features a collection of classical, modern, and contemporary works from both Japan and abroad. This impressive collection is complemented by a rotation of world-class temporary exhibitions that ensure there is always something to see.
About 15 minutes’ walk from Hiroshima Station is Shukkeien Garden, a compact, Edo-period landscape garden dating back to 1620. Although smaller than other famous gardens in Japan, Shukkeien is perfect if you want to escape the crowds for a while.
Stroll along the paths and contemplate the miniaturized landscapes of forests and mountains to find your Zen in the middle of the heaving city.
Does an entire island overrun with bunnies sound like heaven to you? To get your furry fix, head to Okunoshima, a 15-minute ferry ride from the mainland.
Although some say rabbits were first brought here to test for poison gas leaks after WWII, today they exist to delight the island’s visitors. Take the ferry from Tadanoumi Port – 1 hour from the city by train – buy some rabbit chow and prepare to be mobbed! (Keep in mind these are wild animals and do not try to pick them up or hold them.)
Ninoshima is another island worth checking out. Accessible by ferry from Hiroshima Port, it’s home to Aki no Kofuji, the island’s own version of Mt. Fuji.
It’s definitely off the beaten path, having once been the site for quarantining Japanese soldiers and atomic bomb victims during WWII.
Cycle around the small island’s peaceful trails and bring some snacks – there aren’t any restaurants here.
Oysters are one of Hiroshima’s most celebrated local produce, and no trip to the prefecture is complete without a tasting. Choose from the various restaurants on Miyajima serving the island’s famous barbecued oysters.
Or stop by one of the okonomiyaki restaurants on the mainland to sample another local specialty: Hiroshima-yaki.
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Visiting sites of inhumanity isn’t for everyone, so make sure you are comfortable with where you are going and why.
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