Hiroshima might, unavoidably, conjure up some distressing mental images for most of us but the joyous reality is that this prefecture is a vibrant and exciting place to discover and explore. Hiroshima is home to centuries’ worth of thrilling stories, some of the country’s best food, and some of the most captivating sights in the world. These are the top fifteen things to do in Hiroshima.
Visit Hiroshima Peace Memorial Park
It would be impossible to visit Hiroshima and not take the time to visit the 1.3 million-square-foot (120,000-square-meter) park memorializing the site of the bombing of Hiroshima. It was decided that instead of renovating, the area would be preserved with the A-Bomb Dome, A UNESCO World Heritage site also known as the Peace Memorial, which stands as the starkest testament within the park of that day. The Peace Memorial Museum sits over two buildings and demonstrates the history of Hiroshima, the advent of the nuclear bomb with a clear focus on the events of August 6th, 1945.
Watch an Evening of Kagura
Spend an evening in Hiroshima, lost in music and dance while learning about Japanese mythology and Shintoism. Kagura is a masked performance dedicated to the Shinto gods of nature and is tied to mythological stories written in the Kojiki, Japan’s oldest historical record written over a thousand years ago. Here you will be able to see Geihoku Kagura, performances specific to Northern Hiroshima which have been passed down through the generations. With no recorded sheet music, the musicians, typically playing a selection of Japanese drums, a gong, and a flute, will have memorized every performance by watching their predecessors.
Go Shopping on Hiroshima Hondori Shotengai
Hiroshima’s longest shopping arcade—with more than 200 shops and restaurants—is the perfect place to get stuck into some local foods including several fabulous seafood restaurants where you can Hiroshima specialties such as eel and oyster dishes. It’s also ideal for souvenir shopping with shops dedicated to stationery, fashion, and sweet treats. Perfectly located in the city center, near the Peace Memorial Park, the pedestrianized arcade an ideal stopping point for a rest and a drink. The arcade has a long history and was rebuilt in 1954 after being heavily damaged during the bombing but has continued to be the heart and soul of Hiroshima attracting more than 10,000 visitors a day.
Eat Hiroshima-Style Okonomiyaki
Okonomiyaki is the ultimate Japanese comfort food and there exist in Japan two styles of this indulgent dish—Kansai and Hiroshima style—with plenty of fun rivalry to be had between the two. Okonomiyaki could be described as a style of customizable pancake consisting of shredded cabbage, scallions in a spiced batter, fried up with toppings of your choice such as seafood and pork. This is then topped with okonomiyaki sauce, mayonnaise, and bonito flakes.
The biggest difference between the two styles? In Hiroshima, the ingredients are layered into a deliciously sticky tower and, in Kansai, the ingredients are mixed together before frying. Hiroshima style will also typically include fried egg and noodles and will be cooked in front of you on a flat top grill. Make sure to visit Okonomiyaki Village (Okonomimura) for endless restaurants to choose from.
Take a Day Trip to Onomichi
There are plenty of interesting places to explore within Hiroshima prefecture and Onomichi should absolutely be on your list if you love history, culture, and coastline. Used in a number of Japanese movies, the city is most famous for its Temple Walk which connects 25 Buddhist temples including the must-see Tennei-ji Temple. If you love cats, don’t miss out on Neko no Hosomichi, a path where cats hang out with drawings and statues to celebrate their presence and a maneki-neko (lucky cat) museum. Known as a literary hotspot, book lovers should also follow The Path of Literature for 25 monuments to great writers and poets of Japan. With countless exciting museums and their own special ramen dish, there’s plenty to keep you occupied in Onomichi. It takes just over an hour to get there on the train from Hiroshima city.
Visit Hiroshima Castle
Hiroshima was once a castle town, meaning the city formed around its central feature, the castle. The towering Hiroshima Castle was originally built in 1589 and stands proudly in the center of the city surrounded by extensive grounds and a large moat. The museum offers an insight into Hiroshima, the castle’s history, and 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.
Visit Miyajima Island
A day trip to Miyajima Island is often top of the list for visitors to Hiroshima, a quick ferry from Miyajimaguchi Station allows you to explore the island which is also known as Itsukushima after its famous shrine. Ranked as one of the best Japan, the shrine at the giant torii gate are both built over water and appear to float when the tide of the Seto Inland Sea is in.
Aside from the shrine, the island has a number of hiking trails that circle around Mount Misen, the island’s highest peak and an important area of worship in Shintoism. Wild deer wander the paths around Mount Misen and Daisho-in Temple which sits at the foot of the mountain. Don’t miss the Miyajima History and Folklore Museum for fascinating cultural artifacts.
Eat Hiroshima Tsukemen
Another must-try local dish comes in the form of noodles with dipping sauce and is perfect for those who enjoy a little spice. The noodles are dunked into cold water and are served alongside a chilli and sesame oil-based spicy sauce for dipping and a plate of spring onion, cabbage, and toppings of your choice such as ramen egg and pork slices. Be ready to decide what spice level you’re on board for as some shops will have as many as 12 options to choose from. Recommended restaurants include Bakudanya inside Hiroshima Station and Hakata Ippudo where you can also try local ramen.
Visit the Mazda Museum
There are many iconic car brands to come out of Japan and this is an ideal place to explore one of the biggest: Mazda. English-language tours of the Mazda Museum (in English) are conducted once a day and you have to book in advance via email or phone. The walk starts at the Mazda Head Office and then takes you on 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 typically consider yourself a car enthusiast or not.
Witness Calligraphy Masters at Work in Kumano
A fascinating trip from Hiroshima city, taking just 20 minutes by car, the mountain town of Kumano has a long legacy of crafting silky Kumano brushes used for calligraphy and traditional makeup. A Fude no Matsuri (or Brush Festival) is held annually in September when many of the brushes are ritually burned on a pyre in thanks for their hard work. The vast majority of Japan’s brushes are made in this town, a tradition that started in the Edo period when the rise in demand for calligraphy brushes grew with compulsory education. A visit to the Fude-no-sato Kobo Brush Museum will allow you to purchase your own customized brushes and see the masters at work.
Admire Shukkeien Garden
A historic garden dating back to 1620, shukkeien translates to "shrunken-scenery garden" which aptly describes the scenes in front of you which give the illusion of thick forests and mountains. Believed to have been inspired by Hangzhou's beautiful West Lake and other such famous sights, the garden was designated a National Site of Scenic Beauty in 1940 and provides a quiet respite to stroll around when you’re looking for a break from the city. It’s also one of the top cherry blossom and fall leaf viewing spots during the season.
Get a Bird's-Eye View of the City From Mount Haigamine
Particularly popular with night hikers, the views over Hiroshima City, Seto Inland Sea, and islands are unparalleled and well worth the hour hike from Haigamine Tosan Guchi to the peak. You can also drive to the observation point if you don’t want to hike or take a taxi from Kure Station. An easy hike, it’s suitable for people of all skill levels.
Try Everything Lemon
More than half of the lemons grown in Japan come from Hiroshima prefecture. This fact means that there are some exciting lemon-based delicacies to try in the city including the popular lemon sours (a cocktail made from shochu, soda water, and lemon), lemon cider if cocktails aren’t your thing, as well as Shimagocoro which are fragrant lemon cakes and a typical souvenir from the area. Not just limited to food and drink, many of the local brands of beauty products include Hiroshima lemons as part of their ingredients such as the Hiroshima lemon juice water mask.
Take a Trip to the Beach
Surrounded by the sea, visiting one of Hiroshima’s fine beaches is a unique way to spend your time in the area. Many of them have beachside accommodations, sports facilities, hot springs, and camping facilities. If you’re travelling to Hiroshima as a family, this is a great way to unwind as there will be activities for everyone to enjoy. Some of the standout beaches include Hiroshima Prefectural Beach with a 1,312-foot (400-meter) stretch of golden beach to enjoy as well as Sunset Beach which features 2,634 feet (800 meters) of sand and is also has one of the biggest seaside sports parks in the region.
Explore Takehara District
This protected historic district—sometimes called Little Kyoto—is a must-visit if you’d like to see some traditional Japanese architecture surrounded by mountains and coastline. The city was once a prosperous port city and a key trading point due to its position on the Seto Inland Sea particularly for the trade of salt and sake. Sake lovers can learn more about this history at the Ozasaya Sake Museum and Taketsuru Sake Brewery, a brewery run by the Takestsuru family since the 1700s. The family also has ties to whiskey production after Masataka Taketsuru went to Scotland and studied distillery, eventually bringing the secret back with him in 1918. Visiting this area, it’s common to rent a kimono and wander the streets of the historic area, visit Saihou-ji temple as well as the fascinating museums of the area.