“On learning about the significance of water throughout the Hiroshima Memorial Peace Park, tears began to well in my eyes as my faith in humanity was temporarily restored” ~ Alyse.
Hiroshima is an eye-opening and humbling destination everyone should visit at least once in their lifetime. Sure, most people know of or have seen images of the haunting Atomic Bomb Dome that dominates the city centre. But what are some other meaningful Hiroshima attractions and things to do?
Despite its sad past, I absolutely love Hiroshima and have been meaning to write about my unique findings for a while. In that time, I ended up visiting again and got off the beaten path so now I have even more details to share with you!
Why visit Hiroshima?
It’s almost unimaginable to think a B-26 bomber dropped the world’s first nuclear bomb here at 8:15am on that fateful day of August 6, 1945.
Any trivial issues that occupy my mind are quickly shafted out the moment the A-bomb dome comes into view during my time in Hiroshima. The few remnants of hard evidence left serving as reminders of the past really put things into perspective. It definitely makes me all the more appreciative of peace.
Regardless of your thoughts on whether the nuclear bombing of this city and its people was justified during WWII, a visit to Hiroshima makes it plain to see the Japanese are some of the most resilient people on Earth. As with other times throughout Japan’s history, rising from the ashes now lies an inspiring, buzzing modern city surrounded by natural beauty on its outskirts.
If you want to learn more about meaningful things to do in Hiroshima that aren’t in guide books, why water is a significant theme here as well as fun things to do thrown in for good measure, read on for more!
NOTE: This guide to things to do in Hiroshima is part of my larger 2 week Japan itinerary and 3 week Japan itinerary, as well as forming part of my travel guides to spots along Japan’s Golden Route. I’ve created separate guides for Japan’s off the beaten path destinations, hidden gems and cultural experiences if they interest you, feel free to take a look once you’re done here.
This things to do in Hiroshima travel guide will cover:
Where to stay in Hiroshima
My favourite is the Royal RIHGA Hotel, Hiroshima リーガロイヤルホテル広島宴会. This is a beautiful hotel in the heart of the city only a few steps from the Peace Park. It’s the perfect base for exploring most of the city’s sights on foot.
The lobby is especially stunning, but the icing on the cake is the corner rooms that offer 180° views over the city. I was so spoilt to have this incredible view overlooking Hiroshima Castle!
I’ve also stayed in the Washington Hotel 広島ワシントンホテル. It’s in a great location, right near Okonomimura and Hondori Arcade. It has amazing views over Chuo-dori, especially amazing during the night.
While I enjoyed staying so close to Hondori Arcade, it was also a little dangerous as I needed to walk through it on my way to and from the Peace Park, causing me to be distracted by all the shiny things along the way!
Meaningful things to do in Hiroshima City
It’s easy to miss small details that have a large impact if you rush around checking things off a list, so I recommend spending at least two days in Hiroshima. Take your time to explore all the nooks and crannies, as there are small reminders of the past dotted throughout the city to help you gain a better understanding of what happened here. After all, that’s part of what being an invisible tourist is all about!
Let’s start off with some of the more obvious attractions in Hiroshima. Most of these are free to visit and I’ll explain the stories behind them to help you enrich your visit:
Atomic Bomb Dome (A-Bomb Dome or Genbaku Domu)
While this is an obvious thing to see in Hiroshima, no visit to the city would be complete without seeing the A-Bomb Dome 原爆ドーム. Also known as the Hiroshima Peace Memorial, it’s been listed as a UNESCO World Heritage site due to its historical importance.
Formally the Prefectural Industrial Promotion Hall, it is one of the few structures that survived the blast as the atomic bomb detonated almost directly above it, causing the intense force to push downwards in this area instead of outwards. It was decided that the hall should be left in this skeletal form after the blast to act as a memorial and serve as a symbol of hope for a peaceful future.
Hiroshima Peace Memorial Park
Prior to WWII, the location of today’s Peace Memorial Park 平和記念公園 was Hiroshima’s main business centre. After the war, there was much debate about whether the area should be redeveloped but the consensus was to create a peaceful, open space as a memorial to the victims.
Did you know there are over 70 monuments in this park? I’ll go into more detail below.
TIP: If you’re hoping to visit during the cherry blossom season, my detailed guide to spring in Japan is packed with tips for more places to go, alternatives to popular spots, what to pack and how to avoid the huge crowds!
Hiroshima Victims Memorial Cenotaph (Peach Arch)
This prominent stone arch in the Peace Park is said to represent a shelter for the bombing victims. Beneath the arch is a chest containing a list of 220,000 victims’ names who perished as a result of the bomb or radiation exposure afterwards.
TIP: Standing in front of the arch, you’ll notice it’s perfectly aligned with the A-Bomb Dome in the background.
Flame of Peace
Located between the Victims Memorial Cenotaph and the Children’s Peace Monument is the Flame of Peace. It’s subtly positioned above a central pond by pedestals representing two open hands coming together at the wrists and facing towards the sky. The Flame of Peace has been burning for over 50 years and will continue to until the last nuclear weapons on Earth are destroyed.
Children’s Peace Monument
Also known as the Tower of a Thousand Cranes, the Children’s Peace Monument is dedicated to Sadako Sasaki’s story and children just like her. She died 10 years after the bombing from leukemia, being only 2 years old when the bomb devastated her city. It’s one of the unmissable Hiroshima attractions.
Japan has an ancient tradition whereby if one folds 1,000 paper cranes (origami) a wish will be granted. Once the schoolgirl fell ill, Sadako made it her mission to fold these cranes to wish for her recovery. Despite folding more than what was required, she passed away after fighting the disease for eight months.
Although not an isolated incident, Sadako’s story gained international recognition and today paper cranes are considered a symbol of peace. You can leave your own paper cranes alongside the thousands donated from schoolchildren across Japan. Amazingly, some 10 million colourful cranes are left annually at the memorial.
TIP: Don’t forget to look underneath the archway Sadako stands on to see a golden crane suspended from a bell.
Peace Memorial Museum
Cost: JPY 200 / One of the very few Hiroshima attractions that isn’t free.
Standing behind 3 tall fountains lies the Hiroshima Peace Memorial Museum. The complex is made up of two main buildings, connected by an elevated walkway overlooking the park’s symmetry.
While the museum covers Hiroshima’s history prior to WWII, its main focus is about the bombing on August 6, 1945, the aftermath and human suffering. As much of the city’s sights are outdoors, the museum is one of the best things to do in Hiroshima when it’s raining.
Some people may find the displays confronting and rather upsetting. There are charred remains of belongings, uniforms and other artefacts. Considering the circumstances this is outcome is completely expected, but I personally believe it is so important to see to gain a greater understanding of what happened. If we learn more about this horrific event and its effects, we will be reluctant for it to ever happen again.
TIP: Notable artefacts to look out for include a rusty childrens’ tricycle that survived the blast, ceramic bowls fused together by the 4,000ºC extreme heat and a concrete slab stained with black acid rain. I thought these items were particularly eerie and even seeing these in person, it’s still hard to comprehend the forces behind the bomb and the immeasurable pain the victims must have felt.
Memorial Tower to the Mobilised Students
Hiroshima had a well-renowned university where students came from across the country and abroad to study (particularly Japanese-occupied Korea). During WWII a law was passed to mobilise students to work in munitions factories due to a labour shortage, therefore disrupting their studies and putting a pause on their future plans.
Students were also some of the first responders after the bombing to assist victims. Towering at 12 metres high and adorned with eight doves, this moving memorial is dedicated to the 6,300 students who died due to the blast.
DON’T MISS: Jizoson and its Nuclear Shadow
This is one you may not find in Hiroshima guidebooks and it’s easy to miss, but it’s an incredible gem hiding in plain sight. Located behind the A-Bomb Dome across the street (opposite the pedestrian crossing) sitting beside a doorway to a white building is a Jizo statue that survived the blast.
Jizo are guardian deities believed to protect children, this one formed part of a tombstone from the previous site of Sairen-ji Temple.
What’s remarkable about this Jizo is that the bomb struck directly above it, creating an eerie black nuclear shadow around its base. The parts that were exposed to the blast became rough, whereas the shadow part remained smooth, as it was covered and protected by the upper (larger) part of the statue.
On the lower side of the tombstone are roof tiles from Sairen-ji Temple that were exposed to heat in excess of 4,000ºC for only one tenth of a second. That’s almost as hot as our Sun!
The Hypocenter Plaque marks Ground Zero, two streets away from the A-Bomb Dome. It’s the exact spot where Little Boy (the name for the atomic bomb) detonated, 600 metres directly above the Shima Hospital. The hospital was completely destroyed but was rebuilt on the same site a few years after the war.
Standing beside this plaque was quite chilling to me. It made me think of all the people just going about their daily lives right here as the bomb struck. So many lives lost in an instant, right where I was standing… Generations wiped out forever.
Sometimes it’s easy to get caught up in our everyday lives, we forget how fortunate we are to even be here at all.
Monument of the Hiroshima District Lumber Control Corporation
Directly behind the A-Bomb Dome lies a boulder-shaped memorial dedicated to workers who died on duty during the blast. 260 staff called the former Prefectural Hall their workplace and were killed instantly when the bomb detonated above them.
On my first visit to Hiroshima, I completely missed the significance of this memorial.
It came to my attention during my second trip as I noticed dozens of water bottles carefully placed on this stone monument. Why were they there? Just as this thought ran through my head, I overheard a local guide walking nearby with two visitors who answered my silent question by happenstance.
Remember how I mentioned about the significance of water earlier on?
After the bomb had detonated and left a path of destruction, those who managed to survive the blast tried to drink the acid rain showering down upon them to quench their thirst. Little did these people know their fate had already been sealed. In 1945, no one really knew the horrific effects of radiation as we do now.
Today, these bottles of water are left as an offering to appease the souls who couldn’t get water they desperately craved during their final moments. This is also why there are fountains and water throughout the park. On hearing this, tears began to well in my eyes as my faith in humanity was temporarily restored.
Phoenix Trees Exposed to the A-bomb
Located 1.3 kilometres from the hypocenter, these China Parasol Trees were burned by the heat rays from the blast, hollowing out their trunks and causing them to lose all their leaves and branches. It seemed obvious that these trees had died but to everyone’s surprise, they had new growth and buds by the following spring. This was a huge sign of hope and courage!
Almost 30 years later, the trees were relocated to their current position in the Peace Memorial Park. Seeds from these trees have been gifted to people all throughout the world. Take a moment to stop by and imagine the stories these could trees could tell if they could.
Hiroshima National Peace Memorial Hall for the Atomic Bomb Victims
The Hiroshima National Peace Memorial Hall for the Atomic Bomb Victims is perhaps one of the most well-thought out memorials I have ever visited. There is an incredible amount of symbolism throughout the hall so it’s great to know what it all means in order to make your visit the most meaningful it can be.
Symbolism within the Peace Hall
Keeping with the consistent theme of water, this circular-shaped building has a fountain atop its roof that’s visible from ground level, with a disc centrepiece indicating the time the bomb was dropped, 8:15am. The rest of the building is beneath the ground on two lower levels.
On entry into the building, visitors are taken down a slope to the Memorial Hall in a counter-clockwise direction – just like stepping back in time to the event. On the walls of this slope are placards providing more information about the blast and casualties. Just outside the doorway to the actual hall itself is a haunting 360° panoramic photograph of Hiroshima’s Ground Zero taken by the US Army in October 1945.
On entering the Hall of Remembrance, this same 360° photograph has been etched onto the surrounding circular wall as seen from the perspective if you were standing at the Shima Hospital (where the Hypocenter Plaque is that I mentioned earlier). Beneath the image lays 140,000 narrow tiles to mark the number of victims estimated to have died by the end of 1945 as a result of the bomb.
Quote taken from the leaflet available at the hall:
The lower half of the wall displays the names of the 226 neighbourhoods that comprised the city at the time of the bombing. The lower the name, the closer that neighbourhood was to the hypocenter. The names of the neighbourhoods are arranged in 42 rows, with six rows representing a distance of 500 metres.
In the centre of the room lies a small fountain in the shape of clock face bearing the time of 8:15, matching the larger fountain on the roof outside to honour the victims who sought water so desperately before they died.
Other areas within the Memorial Building
There are more rooms within the building where visitors can watch videos of personal stories and accounts of the bombing (warning: bring your tissues), a library of resources, special exhibition area and a Victims’ Information area.
Pictured below is a soil sample over 2 metres deep from Hiroshima, taken from the ground after the construction of the Peace Memorial Park in 1954. The bottom layer is from over 400 years ago, before Hiroshima Castle was first built. There are some small shells where the Edo period is marked and then the blackened debris layer that was affected by the atomic bomb is quite obvious.
More things to in Hiroshima City
I’m not going to elaborate on all 70 monuments in the Peace Park as we’d be here all day, so some more notable things to see around Hiroshima city include:
- Hiroshima & Nagasaki Sister City stone monument
- World Peace Watch: Clock counting the number of days since the bomb was dropped as well as days since the last nuclear test
- Hiroshima Peace Bell: Donated by the Greek Embassy, visitors are encouraged to ring it and make a wish for world peace
- Hiroshima Castle: Completely destroyed in the blast but rebuilt to look exactly how it was before
- Shukkeien Gardens: Dating back to the 17th century and famous for cherry and plum blossoms
- Red Bird Monument: Dedicated to Hiroshima novelist from the Meiji era
- National Monument to School Teacher and Child Victims of the Atomic Bomb
- Monument to Korean Victims & Survivors: The inscription reads “Souls of the dead rise to heaven on the backs of turtles”
- Atomic Bomb Memorial Mound: Dedicated to souls whose could not be identified or claimed as their entire families has perished. The vault beneath the mound contains ashes of about 70,000 victims
- Former Motoyasu Bridge Pillars: The railings of the previous bridge were blasted into the river.
Discover more with a Hiroshima local
I know all that information may be a lot to remember on your own so if you prefer, it’s possible to have a friendly local guide show you around on a peace walking tour of the World Heritage sites.
Your guide will explain the attractions in further detail and answer any questions you have. Nothing can really beat a personalised touch and stories from locals who call Hiroshima their home.
Find out more & see all small group tours by local guides in Hiroshima here.
Things to do in Hiroshima at night
Laugh yourself silly on a Hiroshima bar hopping tour
Hiroshima has an awesome nightlife scene so take advantage of it! I did a similar bar hopping tour in Kyoto with locals and my goodness, it was SO much fun. My stomach was hurting for ages afterwards due to all the laughing I did!
I highly recommend this Hiroshima bar hopping tour for getting to know locals, secret bar hopping spots and other travellers during your Hiroshima trip.
Enjoy okonomiyaki in Okonomimura
Oko oko what? Okonomiyaki is a delicious grilled savoury pancake, made from several ingredients including batter, eggs, cabbage and spring onion. There are many different variations of okonomiyaki as you can opt for your own inclusions like noodles, pork, prawns, cheese and special mayonnaise sauce!
It is thought that okonomiyaki dates back to the Edo period (1683 – 1868) and while Osaka has its own twist on the dish, it became popular in Hiroshima when food became scarce after the atomic bombing.
Hiroshima has an entire neighbourhood dedicated to cooking okonomiyaki right before your eyes in the Shintenchi district. The area is packed with restaurants specialising in creating this tasty dish. The most popular spot to try it is the four-storey building called Okonomimura where there are several open-plan okonomiyaki eateries on each floor. It really comes alive at night! Just follow the happy okonomiyaki cartoon characters painted on the stairs leading inside the building.
Learn more about local cuisine at a Japanese cooking class
Fancy learning how to make your very own okonomiyaki, gyoza, takoyaki or other Japanese dish? Give back to small family businesses by taking this okonomiyaki cooking class in Hiroshima! If you enjoy learning about local culture through food, having a local share their tips and tricks with you is a great souvenir.
I personally took a similar ramen cooking class in Kyoto and absolutely LOVED it! It was so much fun (even though I am no chef) and I highly recommend the experience. There are even vegetarian and vegan options available! To find out more:
Take a stroll along the Motoyasu-gawa River
The monuments in the Peace Park as well as the A-Bomb Dome are illuminated brightly along the river. During the winter months, the Peace Boulevard comes alive with the Hiroshima Dreamination festival.
Explore the legendary Don Quijote store
Conveniently right next door to the Washington Hotel, Don Quijote or Don-ki is great for grabbing a late night Japanese snack or other bits and pieces. I’m sure you’ll find some things you didn’t know you needed!
My personal favourite things to pick up are Kit Kats in quirky flavours, chips, Coolish (soft-serve ice cream in a squeezy pouch) and unusual flavoured drinks. Don Quijote is not just limited to food, though. They have loads of things from home appliances and health goods to cosmetics, clothing and toys. It’s like a bigger version of Daiso if you’re familiar with them.
Fun things to do in Hiroshima & Miyajima
While the meaningful attractions are important to see for reflection and understanding, once you’ve seen them you can move on from the emotional side of things. Embrace these fun things to do in Hiroshima and make your visit memorable in a delightful way, too!
Embark on a day trip to Miyajima Island (Itsukushima)
This is one of my favourite things to do in Hiroshima! There’s so many reasons to visit Miyajima: The stunning natural scenery, incredible temples, beautiful hikes. Of course, the main drawcards are the famous floating Grand Torii gate as well as the cheeky deer who will do almost anything to steal your ice cream (yes, this happened to me). It’s such a fun day trip from Hiroshima that I highly recommend.
I’ve written a detailed guide about how to get from Hiroshima to Miyajima, ferry comparison and amazing things to see and do once you’re there, so I recommend you take a look for some inspiration for your Hiroshima itinerary!
Explore more of Miyajima with a hidden hiking tour
Many tourists head to Miyajima to see the sacred deer, Grand Torii gate and the beautiful Itsukushima Shrine. While these are definitely worthwhile, there is so much more to this incredible island!
Get off the beaten path in Miyajima by having a local show you more of the island on a hidden hiking tour up to Mt Misen. Be amazed by the sweeping views over Miyajima and the surrounding bay whilst you enjoy a local lunch at the summit. The tour also reveals secrets of Itsukushima Shrine you might not have been aware of.
I personally took a similar tour of Kiyomizu-dera temple in Kyoto before my tea ceremony and was very impressed with the experience. I highly recommend these local guides! To find out more:
Try some famous soufflé pancakes
Now on to what to eat in Hiroshima… Have you heard of Japan’s popular soufflé pancakes? While you may have to queue up for hours in Tokyo to try them, if you make these a mid-afternoon treat you probably won’t need to wait here in Hiroshima! Luckily I was able to walk right in.
I tried these delicious fluffs of goodness at Shiawase no Pancake (A Happy Pancake). It’s on a corner of Hondori Arcade and a side street, above Yoshinoya. The cafe’s signage has flashing lights with a big picture of pancakes easily visible from street level. I took the elevator up to the cafe on the 3rd floor (which wasn’t marked all that clearly) but when I entered I was the only foreigner there. A great sign!
I opted for the pancakes with banana, whipped cream and chocolate sauce. They were super fluffy and had a slight eggy flavour. Don’t worry, there are loads of options for sides and toppings. Staff are lovely and even provided me with an English menu although I never asked for one. Beware: The servings are huge so make sure you go with an empty stomach!
Find Japan’s first pizza vending machine
Yes, there is such a thing! Japan is famous for its vending machines, with over 5.5 million of them dotted throughout the country, even in the most remote and obscure spots. Apparently this vending machine cooks a fresh pizza in under 7 minutes and it’s located in Fukuromachi Park. Would you dare to try it?
Go shopping in the Hondori Arcade
Hondori Arcade 本通り広島 is a huge covered pedestrian arcade and is the largest in Hiroshima. It has many cafes and eateries as well as pachinko parlours, clothing and jewellery stores and a whole bunch of sock stores for some reason.
This is the perfect place to pick up some local souvenirs as it’s almost half a kilometre long. You’re sure to find something for everyone! Be sure to check my detailed guide about traditional souvenirs from Japan for more.
TIP: Hondori does intersect with some streets outside so make sure to obey the traffic lights within the arcade!
Take a tour of the Mazda Museum
Did you know Mazda Motor Corporation was founded in Hiroshima? The factory produces one million cars annually. As well as getting a glimpse of the assembly line, on display are many models from generations past. If you’re a proud Mazda owner, keep an eye out to see if you can find yours there!
Reservations need to be made in advance as visitors are only permitted to visit on a guided tour. The tours are available once per day in English and take around 90 minutes. More info over at the Mazda official website.
Watch a ballgame
Baseball is a very popular sport in Japan and watching a match is one of the iconic things to do in Hiroshima. Home to Hiroshima Carp, their home ground is near the Mazda Museum by Hiroshima Station. If you’re able to get tickets to a game, the atmosphere would be amazing!
Day trips from Hiroshima
Hiroshima makes a great base for exploring more of the region and getting off the beaten path. Aside from the super popular day trip to Miyajima, take a look at these day trips from Hiroshima and activities to give you some ideas for an enjoyable day out:
How to get to Hiroshima
Hiroshima is located in the Chugoku region in southern Japan. Below are the approximate travel times from major cities to Hiroshima via the shinkansen (bullet trains):
- From Tokyo: 4.5 hours
- From Kyoto or Osaka: 2.5 hours
- From Himeji: 1 hour 45 mins
- From Okayama: 1.5 hours
You can’t use your JR Pass on Hiroshima city trams, some ferries or buses. But in most cases you can use a rechargeable Suica/IC card to board these transport options instead. It’s possible to purchase a Suica card in advance. Hiroshima has more trams than any other city in japan, called hiroden so they’re handy to use if needed! In saying that, Hiroshima is pretty easy to navigate on foot to see most of the main sights.
Concluding the meaningful & fun Hiroshima attractions
If you uncover the small details in the city and truly take a few moments to understand their meaning, Hiroshima will leave a lasting imprint on your heart in a way no other city can. Spending at least two days in Hiroshima is an emotional experience of highs and lows, yet one filled with hope and inspiration for our future.
Although this city has been defined by the incomprehensible events of 1945, something we can all learn from Hiroshima is the importance of resilience. It’s amazing what is possible to be achieved when we push forward by accepting the past but not dwelling on it.
I personally admire the people of Hiroshima for choosing not to erase their past, instead shining a light on it for future generations to learn from and understand. There’s something very humbling about that. Do you agree?
How many of these meaningful and fun things to do in Hiroshima would you like to experience? I hope you learnt something new in my comprehensive Hiroshima travel guide so you can now make the most of your visit. Let me know in the comments below!
If you enjoyed these Hiroshima attractions, I’ve written about many more off the beaten path destinations and hidden gems on my Japan travel blog to inspire you and help with your Japan trip planning, so go take a look. If you found this helpful please share it with your friends or save it for later reference. I’d also love if you could join me on Facebook, Pinterest, Instagram and TikTok for more Japan inspiration!
Until next time,
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