Four Must-Have Experiences When Visiting Hiroshima
After arriving at the Osaka airport, picking up the pocket WiFi, and exchanging our rail vouchers for passes...we were off to Hiroshima! While exchanging our vouchers, we had reservations made for the trip to Hiroshima. A quick train ride took us to the Shin-Osaka station were we switched trains to a Shinkansen (high-speed) to Hiroshima. All in all, the trip took about 2 hours.
Arrival in Hiroshima was a breeze. Right outside the train station is a tram stop. With Yen coins in hand, we boarded the tram line that would take us near our hotel. You insert your coins in the payment box inside the tram. I had looked up a tram map online prior to our departure so I was familiar with which line would take us closer to our hotel.
We stayed at the Hotel Sunroute Hiroshima (http://www.hotelsunroutehiroshima.jp/). It's a convenient location to the Peace Park, and an affordable, clean, reliable hotel chain in Japan. I'd definitely stay there again. The single rooms we each booked were small (as they are in Japan), but modern and served our needs. Breakfast was also included.
Now on to the 4 experiences I think every visitor to Hiroshima and the surrounding area must have:
1. Visit the Peace Memorial Park and Atomic Bomb Dome
I think that when someone hears or reads, "Hiroshima," one particular thing comes to mind. Seeing the dome, is a stark reminder of the history of Hiroshima. I recommend wandering through the park in the evening when it seems especially quiet and the sites are lit up. Between the Cenotaph and the dome is the Children's Peace Monument and you can see the thousands of paper cranes folded in cases. Then cross the bridge and walk right along side the dome, whose grounds still displays rubble.
2. See Hiroshima-jo Up Close
The castle of Hiroshima was totally destroyed by the bomb and later rebuilt. While I didn't tour the small museum inside, I enjoyed the walk around the park, seeing the impressive moat and enjoying the architecture up close (tip, the park is lovely after dark...and without crowds).
3. Eat the Regional Specialty, Okonomiyaki
The most famous Japanese dish in Hiroshima is Okonomiyaki, a savory pancake layered with cabbage, meat, noodles, and batter. After cooking on a griddle, it's slathered in Okonomiyaki sauce, mayonnaise, seaweed crisps, and green onions. You can usually request other toppings too.
We chose to visit Hassei, a popular Okonomiyaki restaurant with locals and tourists. It was also very close to our hotel. Reservations are recommended, but when we arrived without them, the waiter said he could accommodate us in an hour. Sitting at the bar is a real treat, as you can watch the chefs at their craft.
4. Take a Half Day Trip to Miyajima Island
If you've looked up any information on traveling to Japan, you've probably seen an image of one of Japan's most visited spots: the floating Torii gate of Miyajima.
There are several options for getting to Miyajima island, but the most economical...if you have a rail pass is to take a short train ride to Miyajimaguchi and hop on the 10 minute ferry to the island. Look for the ferry line with the JR symbol so you can use your rail pass (the ferry is included for no additional cost).
Alternatively, you could take the tram all the way to Miyajimaguchi and then the ferry. But the tram is slower. There are also ferries that depart near the Peace Park, which are more expensive.
After disembarking the ferry, turn right and walk along the waterfront to reach the Itsukushinma-jinja (shrine with the Torii). Or you could catch a rickshaw ride. You'll notice the many deer on the island that are not scared of the tourists...but you should be a little wary. There are caution signs around the island that warn you that the deer may get a little aggressive. And it happened to us.
When the tide is low, you can walk up to the famous torii, but as you can see, we arrived somewhere between high tide and low tide and some barnacles were visible. I'm sure it's a grand feeling to walk out there and look directly up at the massive gate, but I felt it was more photographic to see it "floating,"
After gazing at the floating gate, we took a little walk uphill to the Buddhist temple, Daisho-in. Which was beautifully surrounded by blooming cherry trees.
As for lunch, we hit up the food stalls set up in the center of town. After purchasing some chicken yakatori and grilled corn, we found a nearby bench to enjoy our lite lunch. Hot tip: eat quickly, or eat while standing unless you want this to happen to you:
Miyajima island was an easy half-day trip from Hiroshima. Worthwhile if just for seeing the floating gate and experiencing the sacred deer. There are accommodations and restaurants if you desire to spend the night and enjoy the sites without the many day-trippers.