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Unfortunately, Hiroshima will forever be remembered as the city that was first hit with an atomic bomb in 1945.
Despite this infamy, the city is now a bustling place that has reclaimed itself as a fantastic destination when travelling around Japan.
Located in the south of the country, it is easy to get to from all major cities in the country with great road and rail links and an airport that can take you internationally as well.
Going to Hiroshima and not stopping at Miyajima Island would be like going to Paris and not seeing the Eiffel Tower, it’s a must do! I spent two days in the city which is nowhere near enough. There are such beautiful areas around it and the city has a distinct charm. However with just two days I had to see all the sights in a short space of time. This is what I got up to:
How to Spend 2 Days in Hiroshima and Miyajima Island
Day one in Hiroshima
I flew into Hiroshima Airport from Seoul. It was only a 2 hours flight on Air Seoul, a Korean based budget airline. Hiroshima airport is a long way from the city centre and is actually quite tiny with one small terminal. The officer at customs asked me what I was doing in Japan in September 2019.
“I’m here to watch the rugby!” I replied.
And that’s how I ended up miming rugby to a Japanese government official. Luckily I mimed passing the ball instead of tackling….
The airport bus is fairly frequent, roughly every 15-30 minutes depending on the time of day. It costs about 1300 yen and takes 30 minutes to get to the bus station in the centre of the city.
I walked to my hostel, dumped my bags and made my way to the Hiroshima Peace Memorial Museum. Just a short walk from the city centre at one end of the Peace Memorial Park, it shows exhibits on the Second World War 2 and the first atomic bomb that destroyed the city in 1945.
I have been to a lot of war memorials in my time but this was the most moving of the lot. Going through the dark and quiet rooms was sobering. Images of skin burning and falling off. Photos from bodies piled high, minutes after the blast. A child’s tricycle, blackened and burnt, but still recognisable.
If the blast didn’t kill them, worse was to come. One story was of a father, he and his children were in so much pain. His wife had died and they had been living like this for months. He spent the last of their money on a large meal of fish and rice. The kids went to bed and he planned on strangling them to death to put them out of their misery. Except he wasn’t strong enough physically to do it. They had all died within a few months.
Outside the main room were some seats. Many people sitting there in silence. A few of them in tears.
I strolled around the park outside the museum showing other memorials; the peace bell and the famous Atomic Bomb Dome, a building underneath the hypocentre, the shell of which survived giving a haunting reminder of the day.
I stayed at the J-Hoppers Hiroshima Guesthouse. It has the Japanese pod style beds and is a great place to stay. It has a rooftop area for a few beers and meeting other travellers in the evening. I also need to thank these guys so much as I left my phone near reception and they held onto it until I returned some time later in a desperate panic! So “arigato” to you!
Day 2 to Miyajima Island
The following morning I went to Miyajima Island. There are a couple of ways to do this from Hiroshima. The first and most expensive would be a private tour arranged with your hotel. A second would be the speedboat that takes you from central Hiroshima to Miyajima boat terminal in 22 minutes for 1800 yen. I took the budget option of getting a tram to “Miyajima-guchi” then a passenger ferry across to the island. The entire journey takes about an hour but is about one third the price of the speedboat.
Miyajima Island has hundreds of Shinto shrines (the name translates as shrine island) with its most famous being Itsukushima Shrine. This is the site of the famous floating Torii gate. Unfortunately when I went the Torii gate was undergoing renovation work so I couldn’t see it properly but the shrines around it are all beautiful and well worth a look around.
Wandering around the island you’re likely to see wild deer roaming the streets. They are very tame and used to tourists but they shouldn’t be fed.
I went for a walk to the top of the highest point on the island, Mount Misen. It’s about a 90 minute walk up for incredible views of the island and the bays and water surrounding it. If you do it in summer, make sure you take a bottle of water as it can get very hot and there isn’t a gift shop at the top! That was a major mistake I made!
There are plenty of small cafes and restaurants on the island all in a traditional Japanese style. Oysters are a local speciality and relatively cheap if you want to try them for the first time. I’m still not a fan though!
There is accommodation on the island if you wish to stay but I decided to head back to my hostel using the boat and tram.
Top Tips for Visiting Hiroshima and Miyajima Island
- Leave early so you can spend as much time as possible on the island.
- There is a train going from Hiroshima to Miyajima-Guchi if you have the Japan Rail pass. I didn’t have this which is the reason I took the tram.
- If you want a photo of the Torii gates floating on the water, check the tide times before you go.
- There is a tourist information office just outside the ferry terminal which can provide more information in the island.
- Hiroshima bus station can be busy so book early if needed.
Dan is an avid traveller from London. His first big adventure was in 2010 living in Malaysia for 3 months and becoming a divemaster. He has been on the road almost constantly since 2015 travelling to destinations that aren’t on the mainstream tourist trail.