The Best of Hiroshima, Japan: A 1 – 2 Day Hiroshima Itinerary
Hiroshima is one of those places that tends to get left off many Japan itineraries, especially if it’s a person’s first time to Japan. However, I personally made a point to visit Hiroshima, even if it was only for a day or two. It may not have some of the great shrines or culturally unique activities like Kyoto or Tokyo, but its rich in history. Find things to do, where to stay, how to get around, and more with this 1 – 2 day Hiroshima itinerary!
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- Hiroshima Itinerary
- Other Day Trips from Hiroshima
- Where to Stay in Hiroshima
- Getting to Hiroshima
- Getting Around Hiroshima
1 – 2 Days in Hiroshima – Itinerary
Hiroshima Itinerary: Day 1 – Atomic Bomb Memorials
If you only have a day in Hiroshima, I highly suggest spending the day at the atomic bomb related memorials. There were few things that had as big of an effect on me as these memorials and museums. I’d dare to say it hit me even harder than the 9/11 memorial in New York City.
The Role of the Atomic Bomb in World War II
If you aren’t from the United States or Japan (or maybe you are and your school system didn’t go into much depth on the end of World War II), you may not know much about the atomic bomb.
Near the end of World War II, Franklin D Roosevelt, who was President of the United States at the time, had demanded that Japan surrender in the Potsdam Declaration. He promised “prompt and utter destruction” if they did not. A week and a half later, the United States dropped an atomic bomb on Hiroshima. It detonated about 1,900 feet above the city, leaving a 1 mile radius of total destruction and a 4 mile radius of fires. An estimated 90,000 to 140,000 people were killed as a result.
The Atomic Bomb Dome, also called the Genbaku Dome or Hiroshima Peace Memorial, is one of the only buildings to survive the atomic bomb. Despite being only 490 feet from the detonation point of the bomb, the unique architectural structure helped it survive the downward force of the bomb.
Now, it serves as the primary landmark in the Hiroshima Peace Park and is also a UNESCO World Heritage site. Like the rest of the park, it stands as a symbol of peace.
Children’s Peace Monument
You can’t talk about the atomic bombing of Hiroshima without also mentioning the story of Sadako Sasaki. In Japan, legend states that a person who can fold one thousand origami cranes would be granted a wish. Sadako was only two at the time of the bombing, and was diagnosed with leukemia not long after – as were many other children who suffered from radiation exposure. She set out to make 1,000 cranes in hopes of wishing for a world without nuclear weapons. Some accounts of the story state that she fell short of that goal before passing away, others state that she exceeded her goal.
Today, the Children’s Peace Memorial commemorates Sadako and all of the other innocent, child victims of the bombing. Here, you’ll find a statue of Sadako holding a paper crane. Around the statue, you’ll find several cases of paper crane art that have been donated by schools and visitors over the years.
The Cenotaph and Peace Flame
Within the Hiroshima Peace Park, you’ll also find the Memorial Cenotaph underneath a horse saddle-shaped stone monument. On it are the names of all the people who were killed by the bomb. There, you will also find the peace flame. It has been continuously burning since 1964, and will continue to burn until the end of nuclear weapons and warfare.
Hiroshima National Peace Memorial Hall
In addition to the Cenotaph mentioned above, a register of all those who died during the bombing is available in the Hiroshima National Peace Memorial Hall. There you can find pictures of those who died as well as stories from survivors.
Hiroshima Peace Memorial Museum
The Hiroshima Peace Memorial Museum was probably the most impactful, but also heart wrenching place to visit, especially as an American. I may not have been the one who decided to drop the atomic bomb, but somehow seeing this museum made it hard to have American pride.
I’ve learned about the atomic bomb in high school and we read books about the horrors the survivors experienced, but that’s nothing compared to seeing pictures of just how badly that bomb destroyed people. My heart goes out to everyone who suffered because of it.
Some of the exhibits in this museum are a little grotesque. It’s definitely not a place you should visit if you are faint of heart, but I think it’s a place that everybody should make an effort to visit. It’s definitely a tremendously eye opening experience.
Hiroshima Itinerary Day 2 – Miyajima
You could spend your second day in Hiroshima exploring the city, but I actually think it’s more worthwhile to catch a ferry over to the beautiful nearby island of Miyajima. There, you’ll find lots beautiful scenery and fun outdoor activities.
Itsukushima is most well-known for its torii gates which appear to float on water. However, this only happens when the tide is in. For that reason, I actually recommend, if possible, visiting Itsukushima twice in one day. Definitely make sure to go when the tide is in so you can witness the beautiful floating on water effect its known for, and then go when the tide is out so you can actually walk all the way up to the torii.
Five Story Pagoda
There are several five story pagodas in Japan, but the one on Miyajima is particularly stunning for its color (instead of a typical light brown). The five stories are meant to represent the five elements: land, water, fire, wind, and sky. Despite being built in 1407, it still stands tall today, resistant to most earthquakes thanks to its unique architecture.
If you’ve had enough architecture and cultural history for a while, head over to Omotesando Street, where you’ll find plenty of clothing, toy, and boutique stores, as well as restaurants and bars.
While you’re waiting for the tide to come in or go out at Itskushima, you can head over to the highest peak on Miyajima, Mount Misen. Here you can find enjoyable hiking trails as well as spectacular views of the island and nearby Hiroshima. At the Reikado, or Hall of the Spiritual Flame, you can find the ever burning flame that was used to light the Flame of Peace in the Hiroshima Peace Park.
Other Day Trips from Hiroshima
Where to Stay in Hiroshima
As a solo female traveler, I chose to stay at Capsule Hotel Cube Hiroshima. Here, there are different corridors for men and women, separated by the lobby and two locked doors. In the women’s corridor, I had a small room about the size of a typical dorm room with a sliding door. It was small, only fitting a loft bed with desk and a locker that was barely wide enough to fit my over-packed book bag.
Despite the size, I really enjoyed my stay there. All I needed was a comfortable place to sleep for the night before heading off to my next destination. Plus, they had restrooms, a community shower, and a place to do laundry. If you’re backpacking across Japan, it makes for a fantastic and cheap place to crash for the night.
If you’re traveling with family, or just want to stay in something a little bit more spacious than a cube hotel, I’d recommend staying at Hotel Sunroute Hiroshima. Here, you’ll find a more typical hotel room, complete with a desk, TV, bathroom, free toiletries, and more. Plus, it’s conveniently located right by Hiroshima Peace Park.
Getting to Hiroshima
From Tokyo to Hiroshima
By plane: This is probably the fastest and cheapest way to get to Hiroshima from Tokyo. The flight is approximately 1 hour to 1 1/2 hours long, not including check-in time, security, etc. Depending on the time of year, a one-way ticket will typically be around $83 USD or 9,350 JPY.
By Shinkansen (bullet train): The bullet train from Tokyo to Hiroshima takes about 4 hours and costs about $170 USD or 18,880 JPY. The only times I would recommend taking the bullet train from Tokyo to Hiroshima is if you have the JR Pass or if you simply don’t want to deal with the hassle of flying.
By Bus: I did this, and I really wouldn’t recommend it to anybody else. In general, I’m a big fan of the Willer Express night bus. It travels overnight, so I don’t have to worry about burning daylight getting to my next destination. However, the bus ride can take 12 hours or more (depening on if you have any transfers), and it’s definitely not the most comfortable place to sleep. The night bus is great, but I wouldn’t recommend it for this distance.
From Osaka/Kyoto to Hiroshima
By Shinkansen: Taking the Shinkansen is the fastest way to get from Osaka or Kyoto to Hiroshima. If you depart from Kyoto Station, it will take about 1 hour and 40 minutes to reach Hiroshima station and cost $100 USD or 11,410 JYP. If you depart from Shin-Osaka station, it will take about 1 hour and 20 minutes and cost $92 USD or 10,440 JPY. If you’re in Kyoto, it would actually be cheaper to take the JR Tokaido-Sanyo Line to Shin-Osaka station for $5 USD or 560 JPY and catch the bullet train there than it would be to take the bullet train from Kyoto Station.
By Bus: This is definitely the longer, but cheaper route. Including stops, it takes about 7 hours for the bus to get from Kyoto to Hiroshima (5 1/2 hours if you’re coming from Osaka). Depending on how fancy a seat you want, the ride can be as cheap as $42 USD or 4,700 JPY.
Getting Around Hiroshima
Thankfully, almost all of the activities on day 1 of this Hiroshima itinerary are within walking distance.
Even on the second day you’ll find that all of the activities on Miyajima are within walking distance. The only thing you have to worry about is getting to and from the island.
There are two options for getting to and from Miyajima. The first option, and more expensive option, is to take a boat from Hiroshima Peace Park to Hiroshima Port. The second option, and one I would recommend is to go by ferry.
The ferry port is located right next to Miyajimaguchi Station. The fastest way to get to the station is likely the JR Sanyo Line. Alternatively, you can take the tram. Once at the station, you can walk over to the ferry port and see that there are two ferry options: JR and Matsudai. They take the same amount of time and cost the same amount of money. However, the JR ferry is covered by the JR pass while the other is not.
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