Hiroshima is a fabulous, laid back and beautiful city that will unfortunately forever have an underlying dark side. It's remarkable to think as you walk the streets that it was once a place of devastation, fear and utter chaos. Its truly a city rebuilt.
The starting point for anyone visiting the city (and was for our visit) should be at the Memorial Peace Park and Museum. As you walk through the museum you learn about the events leading up to the dropping of the bomb, what happened during those fateful minutes and the aftermath. The museum gives you a timely reminder as to why an event like what Hiroshima experienced should never happen again. The museum is fascinating and gut wrenching, educational but somehow inspiring to boot. For a small charge you can hire earpieces and its well worth the outlay as it fills in any of the gaps the displays cannot and gives you a real sense of the impact it had on the people. A walk in the park and then to its most famous landmark (see opposite) should follow. Visiting these kinds of places really emphasizes that travel is much more than just about getting a tan, seeing amazing structures and views or taking a boat down a famous river or whatever inspiring or fun filled activity we all do to make our travels more exciting. Travel is also about education and the Peace Museum and Park certainly ticks that box.
Away from the museum and park, Hiroshima has other treasures to explore including the castle. Although rebuilt, having been devastated in the dropping of the bomb, it's still a must on anyones visit. Its collection of samurai swords and outfits, the history of its existence, plus the panoramic view from the top gives you a sense of just how much the city has redeveloped and also allowing you stunning views of the distant mountains that surround the city.
Hiroshima is a bustling, busy city like many others in Japan. Shops and old style parades (Hondori street) give it an almost European feel. One of its great joys however are the trams. There's something joyful about travelling around by tram and its a great way to explore and see the city. Its also very convenient as it connects the main railway station to the tourist areas and hotels. Conveniently it applies a flat fare of 160 yen for the inner city journeys, but beware they only accept the exact change, so make sure you save your pennies. Hiroshima is the kind of city that you can happily spend 2 or 3 days wandering its streets and parks, experiencing its food and culture. So here are my top five things to do in Hiroshima (based purely on what we could do in the time we were there.)
- The Memorial Peace Park and Museum http://www.pcf.city.hiroshima.jp/index_e2.html
- Hiroshima Castle http://www.rijo-castle.jp/rijo/main.html
- Take the tram - explore the city
- Visit Hondori street with its covered walkways and plentiful shops, cafes and restaurants
- Eat Hiroshima style okonomiyaki - a pancake mix with meat, seafood or vegetables and soba or udon noodles.
If you have visited this city please let me know your thoughts and share your favourite places.