A city that literally rose from the ashes, Hiroshima is symbolic of the spirit and vision of a passionate, forward-looking community of people who have come a long way in the last 72 years. Beautiful forests, skyscrapers, and urban structures have replaced the ruins that the city was once reduced to after the atomic bombing in 1945. Leaving hardly any signs of the destruction caused lest it brings back painful memories, Hiroshima is worth a visit today to see how amazing the transformation has been in the last seven decades.
Although Hiroshima can be covered as a day-trip from Kyoto or Osaka, we decided to spend a couple of days in this laid-back, sparsely populated city. Not many monuments have been preserved but there are memorials, text on the history and stories of people who died and even those who survived the attacks, inscribed in various places, paying respect to the sufferers and their families. If you do happen to have some time on your hands here, these are 5 places you must visit:
#1 Peace Memorial Park & Atomic Bomb Dome
Dedicated to the memory of the people who lost their lives in the grossly cruel bombings of 1945, Peace Memorial Park is a beautiful and tranquil space which inscribes stories and relics from the past, describing the bombings and the aftermath. The A-bomb dome is one of the very few buildings that have been preserved right as they were left after the attacks and is situated across the bridge from the Peace Memorial Park. Here are some pics to show how this building looked before the bombing, right after the bombing, and in the present, after 72 years.
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#2 Hiroshima Castle
This castle was originally built in the 16th century but was completely destroyed in the atomic bomb attack of 1945 and reconstructed in 1958. Surrounded by a large moat, a feature common to most castles in Japan, the Hiroshima Castle is a five-storied building and very typical in architecture, similar to the more popular Osaka and Himeji castles. The entry to the castle grounds is free and you need to pay only if you enter the museum which is inside the 'main keep'. The castle is situated hardly 10 minutes away from the Peace Memorial Park and A-bomb Dome.
#3 Orizuru Tower Observation Deck
Although a bit pricey (¥1,700 for adults), this is one of the observation decks offering the best views of the city's iconic monuments and skyline. Situated on the 13th floor of the Orizuru Tower, right across the road from the A-bomb Dome, the Tower also has a cafe on the ground floor and a few (not-so-cheap) shops. The entry to the observation deck closes before sunset (around 6 pm) so make sure you reach in time.
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#4 Hondori Street
A very lively bustling downtown area with numerous shops, cafes, and restaurants, Hondori Street is a must-visit if you're staying for the night in Hiroshima. Only a 5-minute walk from the Peace Memorial Park, this covered street is open only for pedestrians and no vehicles are allowed inside. Most shops here are open until 9 pm and many inexpensive shops selling electronics, souvenirs, food items, accessories and clothing can be found along the walkway.
Recommended restaurant: Although located off the Hondori Street but not too far from the A-bomb Dome, Cafe Ponte is an Italian restaurant with al fresco seating. Beautifully lit up at night, the food here is a good change from the Japanese menu and very delicious.
#5 Miyajima Island
Hardly a 10-minute ferry ride away from Miyajimaguchi station in Hiroshima, the island is home to one of the best shrines in Japan - Itsukushima. This is the shrine with the famous O-Torii Gate that seems like it is in the middle of the sea, during high tide. The charming little island has wild deer roaming free, lots of shops baking on-the-spot and selling the famous Momiji sweets, lovely nature walking trails and museums.
If you're planning to visit Nagasaki, here's a guide to the town of Huis Ten Bosch, a little Netherlands in Japan.