Despite being one of Japan’s major cities, Hiroshima is often overlooked by first-time travelers to Japan who opt for the history of Kyoto or the glamor of Tokyo instead. The truth is, however, that Hiroshima is a place overflowing with exciting things to do, from local foods to historic sights. One of the best things to do is tour the many museums. Read on for our top picks.
Hiroshima Peace Memorial Museum
Found within Peace Memorial Park in the center of the city, this is one of the most important museums in Hiroshima and one you have to be mentally prepared to visit. It opened in 1955 with the purpose of conveying the importance of world peace and a world without nuclear weapons. Inside the museum, you will learn the details of the Hiroshima bombing, the events leading up to it, and see photographs and personal possessions left behind. Combined with the monuments in the park surrounding the Peace Memorial Museum, you’ll need a few hours to do the space justice.
The museum is around 20 minutes by bus from Hiroshima Station (or a 30-minute walk). You’ll need to take 24 Hiroshima Bus for Yoshijima from A-3 at the south exit of Hiroshima Station and get off at the Heiwa-Kinen Koen stop.
Hiroshima Castle Museum
Found within Hiroshima Castle, this museum offers an insight into the city of Hiroshima and the castle’s history, as well as the culture of samurai families as it was used by the Fukushima clan and Asano clan during the Edo period. You can also enjoy a panoramic view of the city from the top floor of the castle.
Make sure to take a walk around the beautiful grounds before you leave. Exit at Kamiyacho-Higashi tram station for the castle.
Wood Egg Okonomiyaki Museum
A must-visit for any Japanese cuisine fan as you’ll get to know the history of and how to cook an iconic Hiroshima (and Kansai) dish courtesy of the manufacturers of the famous okonomiyaki sauce: Otafuku. Hiroshima-style okonomiyaki in Hiroshima consists of shredded cabbage, fried noodles, scallions in a spiced batter which is fried up with myriad toppings. With the need for cheap meals after World War II, dishes like okonomiyaki took center stage with the Otafuku becoming one of the most well-known condiment brands. At this giant egg-shaped museum, you can learn about the dish's history, tour the factory, and even try your hand at making some okonomiyaki. However you choose to enjoy the museum, reservations must be made online, and be sure to pay the impressive gift shop a visit.
The museum is a ten-minute walk from Inokuchi Station.
Hiroshima Museum of Art
Hiroshima city’s distinctive, circular art museum should be on the list for any visiting art. Exhibits feature important impressionist and neo-impressionist works from across Japan and Europe including Chagall, Picasso, Monet, and Cézanne. The display rooms are themed which makes it easier to appreciate the art within—you’ll need around an hour to go through all of them. They also host a number of temporary exhibitions which you can check on their website. The museum also hosts a shop and cafe on-site if you are in need of refreshment before lunch.
The city loop bus will take you straight to the museum or it’s a quick walk from Kamiya-cho-higashi station.
Mazda is one of the most iconic car brands to come out of Japan and this is an ideal place to explore one of the biggest factories and learn about the history of cars in Japan. Tours of the Mazda Museum (in English) are conducted once a day and you have to book in advance via their website or by phone. The walks start at the Mazda Head Office before you’re taken through a tour of their cars through the ages, the assembly line, glimpses of future developments, and an exclusive Mazda store.
The tour takes a total of 90 minutes and is fascinating whether you’d usually consider yourself a car enthusiast or not. You can take the train to Mukainada Station, take the south exit, and you will be a 5-minute walk from the museum.
Miyajima History and Folklore Museum
The Itsukushima Shrine on Miyajima is one of the three great views of Japan. And, right beside the shrine, you can visit the Miyajima History and Folklore Museum. This museum is found in a former soy merchant’s house and teaches visitors about the island's history through local art and models. Here, you’ll find folding screens and model ships that demonstrate the folk history of this majestic place.
Getting there from the city is simple, requiring a quick trip on the Miyajima subway line, followed by a short hop over via the Miyajima Ferry.
Yamato Museum (Kure Maritime Museum)
Located in Kure, a city famous for creating the famous battleship Yamato, this museum takes you through everything you need to know about Japanese shipbuilding and the scientific technology involved. The museum is found within the Japan Military Self Defense Force grounds and also houses a replica of the Yamato itself. The observatory on the fourth floor also provides spectacular views over Kure Bay.
To get there, you can take a direct train to Kure which takes 55 minutes, and then the museum is just a ten-minute walk from the station. While you are in Kure, make sure to try some local sake from Sempuku Brewery and try a bowl of sailor's stew.
Fukuromachi Elementary School Peace Museum
This school, now preserved as a memorial and peace museum, was one of the closest schools to ground zero during the atomic bomb explosion. Many find this to be a more intimate experience than the Peace Memorial Museum due to the personal perspectives of students, teachers, and nearby residents which are on display. You will also see messages to and from relatives written on the walls of the school as the building was used as a temporary medical help center in the immediate aftermath. The information is displayed in both English and Japanese and a short film is also shown to visitors.
The museum is free to visitors and is a 20-minute walk from Hiroshima Station.