For three weeks, we called the western Japan city of Hiroshima our home. We did as much as we could of all the city has to offer, so here are our recommendations for tourists or backpackers who want to stay a bit longer than usual.
Hiroshima is a city with enormous historical baggage. To those who are worried about that: if anything, the city only radiates peace these days — and plenty of it.
Try out these 10 (+1) things if you happen to go there!
1. Arrive by shinkansen and lunch or dine on the train
If you’re staying in a hostel, you’re already saving on a place to stay, so why not arrive in style? It’s also a perfect opportunity to try your first ‘station lunch’ or ekiben, a truly Japanese experience.
2. Find a ho(s)tel and run it yourself
That way, you can stay for free (see our previous post about Hiroshima)!
3. Witness the Carp craze while shopping
Hiroshima offers all types of shopping experiences, from open-air shopping streets to long, underground walkways (they are air-conditioned, which is especially handy during the very stuffy summer in south-western Japan).
Alert shoppers in Hiroshima will notice a recurring theme: for some reason, a wide variety of products (nearly everything) seems to have a bright-red version in Hiroshima 🤔
Nine times out of ten, these red items are officially licensed goods from the city’s baseball club, ‘Carp’. Words don’t really do justice to how pervasive the fandom in the city really is, so here are some pictures. (Yes, there’s even an official Carp Fire Extinguisher™️.)
4. Attend the first ever edition of a new dance festival (Hiroshima bon-odori)
Well, technically, you won’t be able to attend the first edition anymore, but we were lucky enough to do so. On 11 August 2018, the very first edition of the Hiroshima Bon-odori was held at the site of the former baseball stadium. It was a festival where old and young danced along with music, ranging from very traditional to contemporary.
There were food stands and activities for children and the atmosphere was great. The party went on until late that night.
5. Have a chat with an A-bomb survivor
Luckily, this is something you can’t do in many places around the world. To have a conversation with one of the few people who still live to tell the horrible story of distruction that occurred on that dark day of 6 August 1945 is an invaluable experience.
The Social Book Café Hachidorisha in Hiroshima is a unique café in itself, but its most distinguishing feature are the planned moments where you can talk to survivors of the atomic bomb. I went there on one of the last days before leaving Hiroshima on 26 August and had a talk with a man who is one of them; a talk that left a deep impression on me.
His message was one of peace, naturally, and he warned for governments that are too eager to use military power. He said he’d been doing this for almost sixty years and when I asked if it never became boring, he replied that this message must be carried on forever, that this disaster must be remembered.
I knew I would regret it if I didn’t record his story, and so I did. Sadly, my phone began to have issues not long afterwards, and I lost the recording. Always do backups, folks…
6. Do an evening run and marvel at the beauty of Hiroshima Castle
7. Dress like a shogun couple on a date at Hiroshima Castle
My girlfriend made me this drawing on the occasion of our anniversary as a couple 😊
8. Wander through a beautiful Japanese garden (but do not walk on artworks)
(Trespasser censored for privacy reasons) — Silly me should have realised that they did not make that sidewalk next to the bridge for no reason… 😅
9. Pretend to be a connoisseur at a museum… Or explore “a bit of a dodgy area,” whatever floats your boat
Looks like Hiroshima map makers have a decent sense of humour, because we found this interesting place:
We walked through the area on a decent time of day and there was not much movement, but hey, we did discover that there is a fairly good Mexican restaurant nearby!
Other than that, Hiroshima has several quite decent museums, but if you had to choose only one, the Peace Memorial Museum is a must-see.
Another interesting one is the Hiroshima City Museum of Contemporary Art. It houses canonical works from the likes of Dali and Warhol, but just as well from rather unknown, Japanese modern artists. It is not nearly as crowded as Tate Modern in London, for example, and this allows you to stand in front of an artwork, and simply stare at it for as long as you need to understand what those ultraviolet blobs you’re looking at could possibly be.
10. Marvel at Japan’s biggest and most diverse network of trams/streetcars
The Hiroshima tram network, operated by Hiroden 広電, is unmatched in Japan. Its eight lines are used daily by a wild variety of trams of different origin and make, often bought from cities that stopped using them.
Pictured here is the Green Mover, Japan’s first fully in-house built tram. All other trams have a foreign history in some way or other, and two of them were even built pre-war.
11. Bonus: take a tram to the sacred island of Miyajima
Especially the tram line that brings you to Miyajima-guchi, where you can take a ferry to famous Miyajima Island, is impressively long, so much so that travelling along it feels more like a train ride. So why not buy a day pass that allows you to board the ferry to the island as well (but if you have a JR-pass, you only need a tram ticket, the ferry is covered).
Ever heard of the “Three Views of Japan” (Nihon sankei 日本三景)? Well, the famous torii that stands in the water when the tide is high, together with the mountains surrounding it, makes up one of them. It’s the gate to Itsukushima shrine, which is located on the island.
We hope you found these tips useful or entertaining and if you want/have any other recommendations, let us know in the comments!