Our Hiroshima itinerary offers a step-by-step touring plan for visiting the peace memorials & museum, seeing the city’s castle, and eating the best okonomiyaki in Japan. We’ll detail the must-see points of interest, and map an efficient route for your day in Hiroshima, Japan.
The good news about this Hiroshima itinerary is that it’s entirely walkable, and forms a loop (aside from dinner). The entire route is a total of about an hour’s worth of walking, which isn’t too bad considering that you’ll be doing it over the course of an entire day.
The other upside of the itinerary being a loop is that you could start in a different location than where we’re recommending, and just loop through the options. This is significant because you might want to start at the Peace Memorial Park, Museum, and A-Bomb Dome to beat the crowds. We prefer doing these in late afternoon because often school groups do them first thing in the morning.
One thing to note is that we don’t recommend doing Hiroshima as a day trip from Kyoto. We’ve had several readers ask about this, and it certainly is possible in a pinch, as Hiroshima can be reached in under 2 hours from Kyoto or Osaka via Shinkansen.
However, there’s (at least) a full day worth of things to see and do in Hiroshima, and it takes at least a couple of days to fully appreciate the area. Moreover, Hiroshima is also the most logical base for doing Miyajima Island, which is one of our favorite places in all of Japan. (Consult our 1-Day Mijayama, Japan Itinerary for that must-do island.)
Accordingly, we strongly recommend staying in Hiroshima for 2-3 nights before or after staying in the Kansai region. With that said, if it’s a matter of doing Hiroshima and/or Miyajima via a day trip or not doing them, we highly recommend doing them.
Shukkeien Garden – With a name translating to “shrunken-scenery garden,” Shukkeien Garden is one of the best landscape gardens we’ve visited in Japan. Strolling around the main path will offer you photogenic views of the garden’s miniature scenery, with valleys, mountains, forests, and lakes all evoked in miniature form.
Watching the morning light illuminate these beautifully staged scenes with few others around makes for a wonderfully tranquil and relaxing experience. Shukkeien Garden lacks the grandiosity of Shinjuku Gyoen in Tokyo, but its subtle charms and nuance put it over the top. We’d also recommend feeding the koi, which can be done with the purchase of fish food in the garden for 100 yen.
Hiroshima Castle – This reconstruction from the 1950s was originally intended to be temporary as a testament to Japan’s swift progress in rebuilding the city. While Hiroshima Castle lacks the wow-factor of more imposing castles in Japan, we recommend it.
Around the grounds, there’s a shrine, ruins, and a few reconstructed buildings. Inside, you’ll find a museum that covers the history of the castle, the reconstruction process, and generalized info on castles in Japan. The reconstruction aspects are most illuminating, and cover some ground on Hiroshima’s resurgence that’s quite fascinating.
Polar Bear Ice Cream – It should be around lunch time by this point, so naturally you’ll be in the mood for ice cream. Walk south towards Hiroshima’s downtown to the covered shopping arcade, where you’ll find Polar Bear (you could also do this after lunch at Hassei, but that would involve a few minutes of back-tracking).
Polar Bear serves delicious gelato in cones, and is one of the rare places in Japan that serves generous portions of dessert for a low price. The other reason to go before lunch is that it’s so good you might want to return for another round after okonomiyaki!
Overwhelming Okonomiyaki – Hiroshima is famous for its okonomiyaki, which is also known as a savory Japanese pancake…by people who have never had pancakes. In actuality, okonomiyaki is more like an omelet with noodles and a variety of other stuff, like vegetables, seafood, and meat. It’s cheap, fun to watch being prepared, tastes great, and is highly customizable.
There are a couple options for okonomiyaki in this area. First, there’s Okonomimura, which is a ‘food park’ building that houses about 25 different okonomiyaki restaurants. Second, Hassei. We’d recommend the latter, which is the best okonomiyaki we’ve had in Hiroshima, and is a restaurant with a ton of personality.
Hiroshima Peace Memorial Museum – This museum is incredibly well-presented, inspiring, and depressing all at once. It does an excellent job of expressing the bombing in a humanizing way, by telling the stories of individuals whose lives were irreparably changed by the bombing. Also on display are their personal belongings and other chilling artifacts recovered from the rubble.
About half of the museum is an exhibit putting human faces on the catastrophic event, that puts the abstraction of war into human terms. The other half is something of a timeline of what precipitated and followed the bombing, which is presented in a straightforward and unbiased, if perhaps even overly deferential, manner.
To be honest and blunt, we were a little apprehensive about the idea of visiting the Hiroshima Peace Memorial Museum as Americans. It was uncomfortable at times and unsettling throughout, but I think it’s an essential experience–a teachable moment–and we’d behoove you to visit even if you’re conflicted about going.
Ultimately, the emphasis is on peace in the museum’s name, and the salient message throughout is an explicit prayer for peace. Namely, a plea for an end to the development, testing, and use of any weapons of mass destruction. You’ll want to budget around 2 hours for the museum.
Hiroshima Peace Memorial Park – Leaving the museum and walk north, meandering through the Hiroshima Peace Memorial Park. The sprawling park is pleasant to stroll, but be sure not to miss the Cenotaph for the A-Bomb Victims, which is tucked away a short distance from the museum and acts as a tomb and register for the 200,000+ victims of the bombing.
We recommend entering the buildings and their exhibits first, and then strolling around the park, looking at the various sculptures and other displays. The Children’s Peace Monument is the most heartrending of the bunch, and is not to be missed. It’s likely to be around sunset by this point, which is the perfect time to visit.
Atomic Bomb Dome – Also known as the Hiroshima Peace Memorial, the distinct shape of the A-Bomb Dome is all that remains of the former Prefectural Industrial Promotion Hall. It was one of the few buildings to remain standing after the bomb exploded, and remains today as a tangible reminder and UNESCO World Heritage Site.
This is a short walk from Hiroshima Peace Memorial Park, and can be visited whenever. Note that you cannot actually venture inside the Atomic Bomb Dome, but it leaves a lasting impression even from the park’s walkways (you can get closer than what’s pictured above). It’s illuminated at night, and is a good stop after sunset in the park.
Okinomiyaki Overload – For dinner, we’re going to once again recommend okonomiyaki. This time, you’re going to get the local’s experience by heading to Hiroshima Station’s ASSE Restaurant Floor for Okonomiyaki Yotchan (よっちゃん). If you have trouble finding it, just look for the place with the longest line. Don’t worry, it moves fast.
Depending upon when you go, this could be packed with businesspeople primed to eat and drink after work. You’ll also encounter cramped tables and what can charitably be described as organized chaos. This may not be the best sales pitch, but it’s an experience, and the okinomiyaki is fantastic and cheap.
If that’s not your pace, we’d also recommend Roopali Indian Restaurant. Despite garnering rave reviews from all corners of the internet, this restaurant is ‘themed’ to India…and the Hiroshima Toyo Carp baseball team. Seriously, there’s Carp stuff all over the walls.
Oh, and the food is fantastic, with generous portion sizes. It may seem odd to travel all the way to Japan and eat here, but if you need a change of pace, this will be some of the best Indian cuisine you’ve ever had–arguably better than the okonimiyaki.
At this point, it’s still likely to be fairly early, but there’s nothing at night that we consider a must-do. You could head back to the shopping arcade for more Polar Bear ice cream or some shopping, but be advised this is also near the city’s red light district. What we’d suggest is calling it an early night so you can be up bright and early for a very full itinerary on Miyajima Island the following day.
Have you ever visited Hiroshima, Japan? What do you think of it? Would you agree that the Hiroshima Peace Museum & Memorial are essential places to visit for Americans (and everyone)? Which other points of interest did you visit? Dining recommendations? If you haven’t visited Hiroshima, do you have any questions or other comments about this Japan itinerary? Hearing your feedback about your experiences is both interesting to us and helpful to other readers, so please share your thoughts or questions below in the comments!