Hiroshima is known worldwide for being the location of a targeted atomic bomb in World War II on 6th August 1945, followed by the dropping of a second atomic bomb on Nagasaki 3 days later.
To ensure that history is not forgotten, the Peace Memorial Park was established at the site of the tragedy. Over the years, millions of tourists have visited the memorial monuments to gain insight into the tragedy and commemorate the victims.
In addition to the memorials, Hiroshima has several other cultural attractions. World-class art museums, an exceptional castle, popular green spaces, including the beautifully landscaped Shukkeien Garden, and Miyajima Island, with famous shrines and a floating torii gate, are some of the top sights of Hiroshima.
Is it possible to include the most important sights in a one-day Hiroshima itinerary? Yes, if you have just one day in Hiroshima – maybe as a day trip from other nearby cities in Japan such as Osaka or Fukuoka – you can, with a bit of planning, both get time to visit Miyajima Island with the floating torii (morning), Hiroshima Peace Memorial Park with the A-Bomb Dome (afternoon) and perhaps catch a glimpse of Hiroshima Castle!
From Hiroshima, you can take the Japan Rail Sanyo Line down to Hiroden-Miyajimaguchi Station (it takes 30 minutes and is covered by a JR Pass) and the first morning ferry from the city to Miyajima Island (formerly known as Itsukushima). It is a 10-minute ride, which is also included in the JR Pass. (Alternatively, go by tram to the Miyajimaguchi ferry port and take a direct ferry from there).
The ferry will pass the oyster farms in Hiroshima Bay. Oyster cultivation is a traditional business here – and once on Miyajima Island, you will have to try the delicious freshly caught oysters, either grilled, fried, or deep-fried.
Miyajima Island is world-famous for its Itsukushima Shrine with a spectacular torii ‘floating’ in the sea. In addition to this shrine, the island is home to several other temples and shrines, such as Daisho-in Temple, Daiganji Temple, Toyokuni Shrine, and traditional pagodas.
The island is brimming with interesting architecture and cultural attractions. Moreover, with its many walking paths it is perfect for a hike, and with its large number of wild deer, Miyajima is a great place for deer encounters. Mount Misen is also accessible by the Miyajima Ropeway cable car, which takes visitors to the Shishi-iwa Observatory.
The most famous shrine is undoubtedly Itsukushima Shrine, which is known as one of the three most beautiful shrines in Japan due to its water-surrounded torii. It is a national treasure and, since 1996, a UNESCO World Heritage Site, founded in the 6th century and most recently reconstructed in the 12th century in the architectural style of the Heian period (794-1185). Itsukushima Shrines also includes a 5-storey Buddhist pagoda dedicated to Yakushi, the Buddha of medicine.
Itsukushima Shrine is unique in being above the water and built on stilts. Walkways connect the individual building parts. There have been many conjectures as to why the shrine was built above water. One is that the complex is a replica of the mythological floating palace of the Dragon King.
The world-famous giant 16-metre-tall vermilion torii sometimes stands clear of the water on the seabed and sometimes ‘floats’ on the water, depending on the tide. It marks the entrance to Itsukushima Shrine, following the tradition of Shinto shrines.
In the afternoon, you will be back in Hiroshima to visit Hiroshima Peace Memorial Park.
The Peace Memorial Park has been dedicated to the victims of the atomic bomb catastrophe in 1945 and is now a symbol of world peace. It has been created to commemorate the victims and create awareness not to repeat history. Inside the park, numerous monuments and meditative spaces are referring to the atomic bombing of Hiroshima.
The park is located right around the hypocentre of the dropping of the Atomic Bomb. It covers a large area which used to be a neat residential and business area in Hiroshima. The remains of the A-Bomb Dome still exist, and so do a couple of trees that have survived the nuclear bomb.
To pay tribute to the victims, a museum was created that tells their stories and fates. It also informs about the effects and devastating consequences of the radiation and includes numerous items relating to the incidence.
One of the monuments in the park is the Cenotaph for the A-bomb victims. It was erected in 1952 with the names of all the known victims of the bombing. Registration of victims is an ongoing process, as new names are added each year. The shape of the Cenotaph resembles a shelter, with the interpretation that the victims’ souls can rest here in peace.
The monument is in memory of the children who tragically died as a consequence of the bombing. The statue depicts a girl who holds a folded paper crane. This is based on a true story about a young victim who died from the radiation. She was known for creating paper cranes in accordance with a legend.
In 1955, the Hiroshima Peace Memorial Museum opened, exhibiting the horrors of the nuclear attack in Japan, and describing the personal fates of citizens in Hiroshima. Through a visit to the museum, visitors will gain some insight into the chronology and the consequences of the atomic bombing. There are a large number of first-hand accounts, and it becomes clear how the disaster still affects people around Hiroshima today.
In the museum hall, the ‘Peace Clock’ shows 8:15, the time of the A-bomb’s detonation. It counts both the number of days since the first dropping of the A-bomb and the number of days since the latest nuclear test in the world.
This is a memorial to the atomic bomb victims, a hall providing room for quiet reflection.
The Peace Flame is also a monument to the victims, having burnt continuously since 1964. It will only be extinguished when all nuclear bombs in the world have been destroyed.
There are three Peace Bells in the park. The most famous one was built in 1964 and is a large Japanese bell inside a partly open structure. Visitors can ring the bell for world peace.
The catastrophic nuclear attack of Hiroshima occurred on an August day in 1945. A uranium bomb, ‘Little Boy’, was thrown by the US Army, detonating 580 metres above the city. It literally destroyed everything within a radius of 1.6 km. The former Hiroshima Prefectural Industrial Promotion Hall was the closest building to the hypocentre that withstood the blast. It is still standing, although in ruins, and is now known as the Atomic Bomb Dome, or A-Bomb Dome.
Today, it is the only structure that remains from the nuclear tragedy, and it has become a landmark of Hiroshima, symbolising world peace. In 1996, it was designated a UNESCO World Heritage Site. As a skeletal structure, the former Hiroshima Prefectural Industrial Promotion Hall is now an iconic memorial, reminding the world of the tragic past.
Finally, if you have time, you can walk from the Peace Memorial Park to Hiroshima Castle, at least to see it from the outside and take a walk on the castle grounds.
The castle was built in 1589 but was completely destroyed by the atomic bombing in World War II. In 1958, it was rebuilt as a replica of the original castle. Today, it is a museum of Hiroshima’s history.
The spectacular building is five stories high with an observation platform on top and is a beautiful backdrop to the cityscape. The gardens are particularly charming at cherry blossoms. A eucalyptus tree and a willow tree in the park survived the atomic bomb!
One of the local dishes to try in Hiroshima is okonomiyaki, which is a pancake-like dish. The ingredients include cabbage, eggs, noodles, and other vegetables – and can be nearly anything you can think of. It is cooked on a teppanyaki grill and eaten with a special mayonnaise and savoury okonomiyaki sauce.
Hiroshima has its own version of okonomiyaki compared to the Osaka version.
Read more about Tokyo in our Tokyo Travel Guide.
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Hiroshima and Miyajima Island, Japan – One Day Itinerary
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Hiroshima and Miyajima Island, Japan Itinerary:
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