Despite its turbulent past, Hiroshima is now a flourishing Japanese city with plenty to offer visitors. In just one day, take in historical monuments – including the Atomic Bomb Dome – modern skyscrapers like the Orizuru Tower, cultural experiences such as tea ceremonies, and the city’s vibrant nightlife scene.
After the atomic bomb was dropped on Hiroshima, which lies on the west side of Japan’s Honshu Island, the city’s population dropped to less than 150,000. Hiroshima’s recovery has been impressive, and its population has now boomed to around 2 million people. Visitors from around the world are drawn to the renowned Hiroshima Peace Memorial Museum, but there are plenty of other attractions that can easily be discovered in a day, thanks in part to the city’s excellent streetcar system.
Unlike other larger cities in Japan, such as Tokyo or Osaka, many of Hiroshima’s sights are within walking distance from one another, including the traditional Shukkeien Garden, the Hiroshima Prefectural Art Museum and Hiroshima Castle, all of which are located within a short walk from Hiroshima Station.
As well as its historical and cultural attractions, Hiroshima has a thriving culinary scene, with an abundance of oyster farms and sake breweries in the region, both of which can be sampled in many of the city’s bars and restaurants. If you only have 24 hours in Hiroshima, check out this one-day itinerary to make the most of your time in the city.
Enjoy baked goods for breakfast
Hiroshima Station is the first port of call for most visitors arriving into the city, and the majority of attractions are easily accessible from here, either on foot or by using the local trains and tram system. If you’re arriving early and looking for somewhere to stop for breakfast around the station before beginning a long day of sightseeing, try Aki Cafe Inn near the station’s south exit; it’s a bright and airy dining space with inexpensive breakfasts. Alternatively, visit the Boulanger Cafe Aloft, where breakfast sets come with freshly baked bread and free coffee refills.
Participate in a traditional tea ceremony in a Japanese garden
Less than 10 minutes on foot from Hiroshima Station is Shukkeien Garden, the roots of which can be traced back to 1620 when it was first developed upon instructions from Hiroshima’s feudal lord at the time, Asano Nagaakira. The landscape features several design elements commonly seen in Japanese gardens, such as a Takuei koi pond, ornamental bridges and a tea cottage where visitors can participate in a traditional Japanese tea ceremony. During the tea ceremony, guests can expect to observe the host performing a series of choreographed rituals while preparing matcha tea, from carefully cleansing the utensils to presenting the accompanying sweets. The cost of entry to Shukkeien is ¥260 (£1.95) per person and ¥600 (£4.50) for the tea ceremony.
Discover the history of Hiroshima Castle
About a 10-minute walk from Shukkeien is Hiroshima Castle, a post-World War II reconstruction of the original building, which was built in 1589 but destroyed by the 1945 atomic bomb. Today, the castle offers a glimpse into what life might have looked like inside the grounds during the 16th century, when many of Japan’s lords were at war with each other over land. Visitors can freely explore the five-storey main keep, the top floor of which doubles up as an observation platform. On the other levels, you’ll find historical information about the castle’s turbulent history, as well as samurai weaponry and armour on display. Entry to Hiroshima Castle costs ¥370 (£2.80) per person.
Indulge in some of Japan’s finest oysters for lunch
For seafood lovers, a visit to one of Hiroshima’s oyster restaurants is an absolute must-do experience. As the largest oyster-producing region in Japan, Hiroshima’s abundance of fresh oysters means that they are on the menu at many of the city’s restaurants. Whether you prefer to eat them raw, grilled or fried, there are a few places along the river, opposite the Peace Memorial Park, with lovely outdoor terrace seating areas that make for particularly scenic spots for lunch. Oyster Conclave Kaki-tei has a choice of oyster gratin dishes or sautéed oysters, while Caffe Ponte has an Italian-influenced menu, with dishes such as oyster risotto and spaghetti with oysters.
Visit the Peace Memorial Park and Hiroshima Peace Memorial Museum
Burn off your lunch with a stroll around Hiroshima’s Peace Memorial Park, which is where you’ll be able to see the remains of the Atomic Bomb Dome, along with monuments such as the Peace Bell and the Flame of Peace – a fire that has burned continuously since 1964 and will only be extinguished once there are no more nuclear weapons worldwide.
Next to the Peace Memorial Park, you’ll find the Hiroshima Peace Memorial Museum, one of the city’s main attractions and a sombre reminder of the tragic events that took place during the bombing of Hiroshima. Pick up an audio guide at the museum’s front desk to learn about the history of the city and the devastating effects the nuclear bomb had on the people and buildings via its interactive exhibits, and hear harrowing stories about the victims and survivor testimonials. Admission to the museum costs ¥200 (£1.50) per person.
Try traditional Japanese archery with a kyudo experience
SHA-RAKU is an indoor dojo (hall) a short walk from the Atomic Bomb Dome that offers visitors from around the world a rare chance to try kyūdō – traditional Japanese archery and a martial art – which was considered to be one of the most valuable skills a samurai warrior could have. Kyūdō is different from regular archery because the focus is placed on the spiritual aspects of the practice rather than solely on hitting a target. The experience costs ¥2,800 (£21) for 45 minutes of unlimited shooting, and for an additional cost, you can get kitted out in a practice uniform to embrace your inner warrior.
Take in city views from the Hiroshima Orizuru Tower
The observation deck at the Hiroshima Orizuru Tower, which is located close to the Atomic Bomb Dome, opened in 2016 and is unusual in its design, with a breezy open-air wooden deck that provides unique panoramic views over the city. On clear days, two UNESCO World Heritage sites are visible from here: the Atomic Bomb Dome and Mount Misen on Miyajima. Admission to the 13th-floor observation deck costs ¥1,700 (£12.75) per person, and visitors can access it either by elevator or ascending the sloping spiral staircase, where you can see original artworks by manga artist Shūhō Satō displayed.
The tower’s name, Orizuru, means ‘paper crane’ in Japanese, and just below the observation deck, visitors can purchase origami paper to make their own cranes, to take home as souvenirs or add to the building’s collection displayed within a glass wall. The paper crane became a symbol of peace and hope in the city after a young survivor of the Hiroshima bombing diagnosed with leukaemia began folding them in the 1950s. The young girl, Sadako, had been told an old Japanese tale by her father that if she folded 1,000 cranes, she could have a wish granted. After Sadako passed away, her friends collected money to erect a statue of her holding a paper crane, which stands today in the Peace Memorial Park.
Get back to nature at Mitaki-dera
A Buddhist temple dating back to AD 809 and named after the three waterfalls situated within its grounds, Mitaki-dera is a serene spot that is particularly scenic during the autumn months when the leaves of its maple trees turn a vibrant red. Moss-covered steps lead to the temple complex’s two-storey pagoda, and stone statues, called jizō, wearing bright red bibs said to ward off evil can be seen throughout the grounds.
Within the temple grounds, there is also a small wooden teahouse and restaurant serving noodle dishes and rice balls. Mitaki-dera is reachable in approximately 20 minutes on foot from Mitaki Station, two stops from Hiroshima Station, or within 30 minutes from Orizuru Tower. Aside from exploring the temple buildings and surroundings, there are a couple of hiking trails here that lead to the summit of Mount Mitaki via a bamboo forest.
Watch a traditional kagura performance
Before dinner, head back downtown to the Hiroshima Prefectural Art Museum to catch a kagura performance – a traditional Japanese folk art that incorporates music and dance to retell stories based on ancient Shinto myths. Hiroshima has one of the most active kagura scenes in Japan, and the Hiroshima Prefectural Art Museum is one of the only places to stage performances, complete with English subtitles, making it easier for international visitors to follow the story. Shows are around 45 minutes in length and take place from 7pm. Tickets cost ¥1,000 (£7.50) per adult and include the main kagura performance, post-show Q&A session and photo opportunities.
Have a night out in Nagarekawa
For a typical night out in Hiroshima, head to Nagarekawa, the city’s entertainment district, for dinner followed by drinks and karaoke. Situated close to the Hondori shopping area, the Nagarekawa district is a maze of winding sidestreets lined with bars and restaurants. For dinner, visit a local izakaya (Japanese-style pub) like Micks, which offers a mix of Japanese and western-style dishes. Alternatively, go to the Ganko Yatai food court, where you’ll find six izakayas selling a range of dishes, including yakitori (grilled chicken skewers), ramen, sashimi and gyoza. After dinner, consider going bar-hopping. Raku Beer offers a wide range of Japanese craft beers on tap, while Wonderful Joke is a rock’n’roll cocktail bar playing ’80s tunes. Quirky Organ-Za features live music and burlesque performances.
Finally, end the day by renting a private karaoke booth – try one of the big chains like Big Echo or Joysound for reasonable rates and a good selection of English songs.