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Things to Do in Hiroshima

For most travelers, the name Hiroshima brings to mind the date of August 6, 1945, when the first atomic bomb was dropped, killing some 140,000 people as World War II drew to a close. But modern, leafy Hiroshima is a prosperous and cosmopolitan city that honors its past while always looking ahead toward a peaceful future.

The Basics
Visitors from around the globe come to Hiroshima each day to pay their respects at Hiroshima Peace Memorial Park, where the enigmatic shell of the ruined Atomic Bomb Dome stands as the last original site from the tragedy of 1945. The nearby A-Bomb Museum recounts the history of that fateful day. Other notable attractions include Hiroshima Castle, Shukkei-en Garden, and a pair of excellent art museums. While you can visit Hiroshima and its top attractions on a guided day trip from Kyoto or Osaka (which may include Miyajima Island as well), the city is also often included in multi-day sightseeing tours around Japan.

Things to Know Before You Go
  • Hiroshima is a must-see for history buffs, especially those into WWII history.
  • Visit the city on a day trip from Kyoto or Osaka, or as part of a multi-day tour through Japan from Tokyo.
  • Don’t forget to wear comfortable shoes; central Hiroshima is very walkable.
  • Day trips to Hiroshima from other areas of Japan can last upwards of 12 hours.

How to Get There
Hiroshima Airport services the city, but it’s also easily accessible by shinkansen (bullet train) and bus from most major Japanese cities to Hiroshima Station. Once in the city, modern streetcars provide quick and convenient transportation between attractions.

When to Get There
Thanks to a temperate climate, it’s possible to enjoy Hiroshima throughout the year. While June and July comprise the rainy season in the area, it doesn’t usually rain every day. For pure visual appeal, Hiroshima shines during the spring cherry blossom season and autumn changing of the leaves.

Gateway to Miyajima
Besides being a popular destination in its own right, Hiroshima also serves as a gateway to nearby Miyajima Island, considered to be one of Japan’s most beautiful places. The island welcomes visitors with a huge red torii (shrine gate) set on the water—it’s one of the largest torii in Japan—that guards the UNESCO World Heritage–listed Itsukushima Shrine.
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Hiroshima Peace Memorial Museum
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Few will forget the fateful events of Aug. 6, 1945, when the United States dropped an atomic bomb on the city, effectively ending World War II and costing the lives of some 80,000 residents, and Hiroshima will forever be tied to its tragic past. Despite its losses, the overwhelming sentiment in Hiroshima is of peace and wandering around the poignant memorials and tributes is an emotional experience, made all the more powerful by the moving exhibitions at the Hiroshima Peace Memorial Museum.

Both a fascinating insight into the pre-war city and a harrowing glimpse into the horrors of the bomb’s aftermath, the Hiroshima Peace Memorial Museum is surely one of Japan’s most important museums and it’s compelling, if uncomfortable, viewing. Exhibitions chronicle the lives of Hiroshima residents during World War II and after the bombing, and depict the graphic reality of the bomb’s destruction.

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Hiroshima Peace Memorial Park
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Also called Genbaku Dome, this landmark was the only building left standing after the Enola Gay dropped an atom bomb on the city of Hiroshima, Japan on August 6, 1945, eventually killing 140,000 people. Genbaku is the Japanese word for “atomic bomb.”

Originally built in 1910 as the Hiroshima Commercial Exhibition Hall, in 1933 it was renamed the Hiroshima Prefectural Industrial Promotion Hall. The five-story building, its exterior faced with stone and plaster, was topped with a steel-framed, copper-clad dome. The bomb blast shattered much of its interior, but much of its frame – as well as its garden fountain – remain.

The area around the building was re-landscaped as a park between 1950 and 1964; when complete, it was formally opened to the public as a museum. Since 1952, an annual peace ceremony has been held her eon August 6th, and in 1966, the city of Hiroshima decided to preserve the site in perpetuity. In 1996, it was declared a World Heritage Site.

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Itsukushima Shrine (Itsukushima Jinja)
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Itsukushima Shrine, a Shinto holy site on Miyajima Island in the Seto Island Sea near Hiroshima, has a history dating back to the sixth century, when the first shrines were likely erected on the island, believed to be the above of gods. The iconic red torii, or shrine gate, that appears to float on the surface of the water just of the shores, guards the UNESCO-listed shrine. At the time the shrine was built, commoners weren’t allowed to step foot on the island due to its holy status, so the gate and temple were constructed in the water to allow visitors to approach by boat.

The entire Itsukushima complex, which in its present form dates back to the twelfth century, comprises several buildings connected by boardwalks, including a prayer hall and a performance stage.

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Miyajima Island (Itsukushima)
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UNESCO-listed Miyajima Island sits within the Seto Inland Sea just outside of Hiroshima. The gem of an island has earned a reputation as one of Japan’s top tourist spots due in large part to the large red shrine gate, called torii in Japanese, that rises from the water just off the island’s shores. The oft-photographed torii was built in 1875 as a ceremonial entrance to the island’s Itsukushima Shrine and is one of the largest in the country. According to local legend, the shrine was built on the island because it was believed to be the abode of gods.

Apart from the main temple and torii, the island offers hiking, numerous smaller temples, an aquarium and a small history museum. Omote-Sando, the main street passing through town, is lined with souvenir shops and restaurants.

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