I’d be lying, to be sure, if I said Hiroshima hadn’t slightly disappointed me, though I also wondered whether my expectations had been unreasonable. I’d expected to feel devastated when I arrived at Ground Zero; when I walked away from the A-Bomb dome feeling empty, guilt came over me instead.
On the other hand, I’ve returned to Hiroshima many times since then, and have loved the city more after each subsequent trip. First impressions aren’t necessarily accurate ones.
Regardless, if you’re asking yourself “should I go to Hiroshima?” as you put together your own Japan trip, this post is for you.
Where to Stay in Hiroshima
One of the things Hiroshima definitely has working in its favor is the number of high-quality, affordable hotels near its most famous attraction. When you ask yourself the question “is Hiroshima worth visiting?”, and you determine you can spend at least one night here, you’re likely to be sleeping in style, and paying a fraction of what accommodations in other large cities in Japan might charge.
Hotels like Sotetsu Fresa Inn Hiroshima and Hotel Granvia Hiroshima are within walking distance of JR Hiroshima Station, while name of hotel sits about halfway between the west station exit at the A-Bomb Dome. If you prefer to be closer to Miyajima, on the other hand, you can choose properties such as the simple Coral Hotel in mainland Miyajimaguchi or Miyajima Seaside Hotel, a traditional ryokan that’s actually on the island.
My Favorite Things to Do in Hiroshima
Pay your respects at Ground Zero
Officially known as Hiroshima Peace Memorial Park, the land that occupies that spit just south of the Aioi Bridge in the Motoyasu River is where the atomic bomb dropped. While I’d be lying if I said there wasn’t a palpable sadness walking through here, sites like the A-Bomb Dome and the Eternal Flame of Peace didn’t quite affect me as I’d imagined they would.
See a lesser-visited World War II survivor
The bad news? Apart from two twisted trees (a eucalyptus and a willow) that survived the bombing, none of what exists on the site of Hiroshima Castle is original. The good news? The reconstruction is absolutely incredible, particularly because fo many tourists overlook this spacious site, which is just 15-minutes by foot from the also-underrated Shukkeien Garden.
Weigh in on the okonomiyaki war
Is it worth visiting Hiroshima? If you’re a foodie, it might be. Among other culinary treasures, Hiroshima is one of two places in Japan (the other being Osaka) that claim to be the origin of okonomiyaki. I’ll admit that I’ve never been a fan of this savory pancake, which is usually doused in my least favorite food item on the planet (mayonnaise), but a lot of people come to Hiroshima just to eat it.
Watch sunset behind a floating gate
Is it worth going to Hiroshima? If you’re able to watch sunset from behind Miyajima island’s floating torii gate it is. The bad news is that Itsukushima Shrine is undergoing renovation until at least 2022. The good news? It’s unlikely that you’ll be able to visit before then, thanks to Japan’s coronavirus entry ban, so you can see the gate in all its glory when you get there.
Take your pick of day excursions
Assuming you spend a day each exploring bomb-related attractions and visiting Miyajima, you could devote a third to taking day trips from Hiroshima, if you’re so inclined. During my own first trip to Hiroshima, I decided to visit the so-called “rabbit island” of Okunoshima, although I wish I’d taken the advice of a strange on that met and visited Kintai Bridge, in Shin-Iwakuni, instead. (You’ll be happy to know that I did, on a later trip.) The harbor city of Onomichi is also a lovely excursion, particularly during cherry blossom season.
Hiroshima vs. Nagasaki
If you’ve read any of my articles on Japan Starts Here, you’ll know I mince no words: I prefer Nagasaki over Hiroshima for a number of reasons. With this being said, in addition to the fact that Hiroshima and Nagasaki suffered similar fates, the cities actually have quite a lot in common. Nagasaki suits me more, however, because of its own innate appeal (namely its natural setting) as opposed to being better or even directly comparable to Hiroshima.
If you’re asking yourself the question “is Hiroshima worth visiting?” and you also have the option to visit Nagasaki (but maybe not both) I’d encourage you to read some of what I’ve written about Nagasaki. I wrote a post, for example, that directly compares Hiroshima vs. Nagasaki. Additionally, I have a comprehensive guide of things to do in Nagasaki, and a meditative account of my latest trip to the city as well.
Other Things to Do in Chugoku
The good news? Even if you don’t have time to make it down to Kyushu island after your time in Hiroshima (assuming you go), the surrounding Chugoku region is full of amazing places to visit:
- Tottori’s mysterious Sand Dunes
- Underrated Okayama
- The wild and unexplored Oki Islands
- Towering Mt. Daisen
- Magnificent Matsue Castle
- Impressive shrines in Izumo and Motonosumi Inari
Other FAQ About Visiting Hiroshima
How many days should I spend in Hiroshima?
Although Hiroshima is a rather large city, you can explore most attraction in its urban core with just a day. However, you’ll want to take many day trips, both close-in ones like Miyajima island, as well as to places outside Hiroshima city like Onomichi and Yamaguchi prefecture’s Kintai bridge. As a result, 2-4 days in Hiroshima may be a safer bet.
Is it better to stay in Hiroshima or Miyajima?
Although Miyajima is lovely, it really dies out after sunset, with few services or conveniences. Unless you’re staying in a hotel that offers full board, you might find it frustrating. One option, if you don’t want to stay in central Hiroshima but are also put off at the idea of staying on the island, is to stay in Miyajima-guchi, located on the mainland just a short boat ride across.
Is Hiroshima still radioactive today?
Hiroshima still bears some scars from the a-bomb detonation, but meaningful excess radiation is not one of them. You will get a higher dose of radiation on the flight from you home country to Japan than you will during the entirety of the time you spend in Hiroshima.
The Bottom Line
Hiroshima is more than the city where the atomic bomb went off—all meaningful trips here begin and end with this premise. Even if you don’t have a particular interest in World War II, you might enjoy watching sunset behind the floating torii of Itsukushima Shrine, or chowing down on Hiroshima-style okonomiyaki. To be sure, when you ask yourself “Is Hiroshima worth visiting?”, you should answer only once you understand what Hiroshima is (and isn’t). Looking for a great way to incorporate a meaningful day or two in Hiroshima into your Japan trip? Commission a custom Japan itinerary.