Things to Do in Hiroshima
- Hiroshima is a must-see for history buffs, especially those into WWII history.
- Visit the city on a day trip from Kyoto or Osaka, or as part of a multi-day tour through Japan from Tokyo.
- Don’t forget to wear comfortable shoes; central Hiroshima is very walkable.
- Day trips to Hiroshima from other areas of Japan can last upwards of 12 hours.
Miyajima Island (officially named Itsukushima) has been a Shinto holy place for centuries and is home to the UNESCO World Heritage-listed Itsukushima Shrine, a red gate (torii) rising from the water just off Miyajima’s shores. Other ancient shrines and temples speckle the island, nestled among a thick forest of maple and cherry trees.
The Peace Memorial Park in Hiroshima commemorates the atomic bombing of the city at the end of World War II, in August of 1945. The park sits just below the site of the bomb’s mid-air explosion and includes the UNESCO-listed Atomic Bomb Dome, the Peace Memorial Museum, and many smaller memorials dedicated to affected groups of people.
Itsukushima Shrine (Itsukushima Jinja), a Shinto holy site on Miyajima Island in the Seto Inland Sea near Hiroshima, has a history dating back to the sixth century, when the first shrines were likely erected on the island, believed to be the above of gods. The iconic red torii, or shrine gate, that appears to float on the surface of the water just of the shores, guards the UNESCO-listed shrine. At the time the shrine was built, commoners weren’t allowed to step foot on the island due to its holy status, so the gate and temple were constructed in the water to allow visitors to approach by boat.
The entire Itsukushima complex, which in its present form dates back to the twelfth century, comprises several buildings connected by boardwalks, including a prayer hall and a performance stage.
Few will forget the fateful events of Aug. 6, 1945, when the United States dropped an atomic bomb on the city, effectively ending World War II and costing the lives of some 80,000 residents, and Hiroshima will forever be tied to its tragic past. Despite its losses, the overwhelming sentiment in Hiroshima is of peace and wandering around the poignant memorials and tributes is an emotional experience, made all the more powerful by the moving exhibitions at the Hiroshima Peace Memorial Museum.
Both a fascinating insight into the pre-war city and a harrowing glimpse into the horrors of the bomb’s aftermath, the Hiroshima Peace Memorial Museum is surely one of Japan’s most important museums and it’s compelling, if uncomfortable, viewing. Exhibitions chronicle the lives of Hiroshima residents during World War II and after the bombing, and depict the graphic reality of the bomb’s destruction, while simultaneously retaining a sense of hope for the future through the rebuilding of the city and the consequent efforts for international peace.