Located on the island of Honshu, Hiroshima prefecture offers exciting historic sights and nature escapes for anyone looking to take some time away from the capital. Whether you are interested in maritime history, forest bathing, a sake tasting, or temple complexes, you'll be thrilled by some of the offerings of the diverse prefecture—all easily accessed within a couple of hours of Hiroshima city.
Sandankyo Gorge: Waterfalls and Forest Trails
While you're in the city, be sure to plan a visit Sandankyo Gorge, one of Japan's top five special valleys of special beauty. It's a favorite for those looking to escape the city and do some hiking, with trails taking anywhere from two to five hours to trek. In addition to forest trails, travelers to the gorge will also be treated to waterfalls and natural pools.
Getting there: The express bus (¥1440) leaves Hiroshima Bus Center at 8:18 a.m., and takes approximately 80 minutes to get to Sandankyo Gorge. The return bus leaves the gorge at 3 p.m. If you want to stay longer, there are local buses (¥1230) departing at 3:30, 4:30, and 5:55, and 7:10 p.m. Note that these take two-plus hours and will drop you off at Kabe JR Station; from there, you can transfer to a train headed towards Hiroshima.
Travel tip: From April through November, you can take a short boat ride through the Kurofuchi pool and visit the restaurant on the other side.
Naoshima Island: Go Art Museum Hopping
A longer day trip from Hiroshima, the art island of Naoshima is very worth the journey. Few places boast as many art museums as this small island—and that’s aside from the art installations scattered across its 5.49 square miles, including Yayoi Kusama's iconic "Yellow Pumpkin." There are free buses that take you to Naoshima's major sites, or you can rent a bike. Don’t miss the Art House Project or Ando Museum.
Getting there: You will need to take the 40-minute bullet train to Okayama Station, then transfer to a JR train en route to Uno Station. When you arrive, make your way to Uno Port, where there's a ferry that can get you to Naoshima in 20 minutes. Allow yourself around 2.5 hours to complete the trip.
Travel tip: Note that many of the museums are closed on Monday, so it’s best to plan around that.
Sensuijima Island: A Wellness Retreat
Sensujima is a lush, uninhabited island of natural beauty that provides the ultimate wellness escape, whether you’re looking to take a dip in the ocean or relax in a steaming cave bath. You'll also find a few hiking trails through forested landscapes, as well as a coastline path where you can admire the unusual, multicolored rock formations that dominate the island.
Getting there: A bullet train will get you from Hiroshima Station to Fukuyama Station in 25 minutes. You will then transfer over to a bus bound for Tomonoura Harbour, which takes approximately 30 minutes. From there, it's a five-minute ferry ride to Sansujima; the ferry departs every 20 minutes and runs from 7:10 a.m. to 9:30 p.m.
Travel tip: There are shops on the island, as you arrive, where you can pick up drinks and snacks.
Onomichi: Buddhist Temples, Cats, and Ramen
Onomichi is an ideal Hiroshima day trip if you love history, culture, and coastline. The city is most famous for its Temple Walk that connects 25 Buddhist temples, including the must-see Tennei-ji and Senko-ji. Book lovers, meanwhile, will want to follow The Path of Literature to see the 25 monuments honoring Japan's great writers and poets. And don’t miss out on Neko no Hosomichi; a path dedicated to cats, the maneki-neko (lucky cat) museum can be found here.
Getting there: It takes just over an hour on the bullet train to get here from Hiroshima city.
Travel tip: While you're here, be sure to try Onomichi-style ramen; this local specialty is a soy sauce-based broth made with flat wheat noodles, seabura (pork back fat), and locally-caught fish from the Seto Inland Sea.
Miyajima Island: Visit a Famous Floating Shrine
Hiroshima’s most popular day trip, Miyajima Island is also known as Itsukushima after its famous floating shrine. Aside from the shrine, the island has a number of walking trails, including one that takes you to Mount Misen, the island’s highest peak and an important area of worship in Shintoism. While you're, check out the ninth-century Daishō-in temple complex. Meanwhile, endless shopping, street food, and restaurant options can be enjoyed on Omotesando street.
Getting there: From Miyajimaguchi Station, it's a 10-minute ferry ride to Miyajima Island. The ferry costs 180 yen each way; you can use your JR Rail Pass to ride.
Travel tip: You’ll want to leave early to fully enjoy your day on Miyajima.
Yuki Hot Spring: Relaxation in Volcanic Waters
Discovered over 1,500 years ago, this hot spring village is surrounded by a tranquil valley that can be easily enjoyed from its open baths. The valley also supplies many of the ingredients for the seasonal cuisine served at the restaurants in the area. There are several accommodation options, with the most popular being Yuki Lodge.
Getting there: Yuki Hot Spring is less than an hour by bus from Hiroshima Station; the bus runs daily.
Travel tip: You can attend traditional Kagura performances at Yuki Lodge twice a month.
Kure: Explore Japan's Naval History
Spend the day by the sea and delve into Hiroshima’s naval history. The Japanese Maritime Self-Defense Force Museum and the Battleship Yamato Museum, which features a scaled model of the ship itself, are two of the biggest attractions here. If you're looking to imbibe, Kure is also home to a growing craft beer scene and historic sake breweries like Miyake Honten Brewery.
Getting there: It takes just 37 minutes by train to reach Kure, making this one of the quickest Hiroshima day trips if you’re short on time.
Travel tip: Kure is known for its 22 types of navy curry, named for the curry eaten by the Maritime Self Defense Force sailors. You can try JS Samidare's version at Seaside Cafe Beacon.
Kumano Town: Learn About Japan's Famous Calligraphy Brushes
A fascinating trip from Hiroshima city, the mountain town of Kumano has a long legacy of crafting traditional silky Kumano brushes used for calligraphy and makeup. The majority of Japan’s brushes are handcrafted in this town, a tradition that started in the Edo period when the rise in demand for calligraphy brushes grew with compulsory education. Taking time to visit the Fude-no-sato Kobo Brush Museum is a must as you can learn all about the history of these brushes, try making your own, and see the masters at work.
Getting there: The easiest way to reach Kumano is by car or taxi, which takes 20 minutes.
Travel tip: If you sign up for a brush making class at the Fude-no-sato Kobo Brush Museum one week in advance, you can have your name engraved on your brush.
Explore Takehara: Step Back in Time in This Historic District
Once famous for its salt production, this preserved district has been described as "Little Kyoto" and is a must if you love traditional Japanese architecture and coastal scenery. Takehara is also known for its sake, and you can learn more about the rice wine at the Ozasaya Sake Museum, located inside Taketsuru Sake Brewery. Visitors here often pay a trip to the Saihou-ji temple as well as the district's other museums, including the Takehara City Historical Folk Museum.
Getting there: The bus from Hiroshima Station to Takekara Station will get you there in an hour and 20 minutes. Or, take the train to Mihara Station, then transfer to the JR Kure line bound for Hiro. You'll alight at Takehara Station; if you choose this option, you can plan to reach Takehara in an hour.
Travel tip: Extend your trip and visit Okunoshima, an island famous for its hundreds of wild rabbits.