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Hiroshima Self Guided Walking Tour

Hiroshima A-dome

Our first stay in Hiroshima was planned mostly to give us a full day to explore Miyajima Island, it wasn’t until we were sitting on the Shinkansen from Tokyo that I started wondering how I would actually feel wandering around Hiroshima.  It’s a city with relatively recent history and scars that undeniably reflect the hostility that existed between Japan and the West.  Would it feel awkward, would the Hiroshima locals be resentful of foreigners?

I needn’t have worried, the city is focused on making the world aware of the horrors of nuclear war but it’s in the name of peace and ensuring that it can never happen again.    I will admit to a few quiet tears, it’s an emotional place to visit and it makes the full extent of what the human race is capable of inflicting on one another all too real.  We found the people of Hiroshima without exception to be friendly, welcoming and helpful. 

I’d really encourage you to visit the city and take this Hiroshima self-guided walking tour around many of the highlights and must-see spots.  The city is flat and quite compact so most people will easily do the whole thing on foot however if you’re short on time or prefer less time on your feet then Hiroshima has an excellent tram system and taxis are readily available.  I’ve started and ended the tour from the station, this is the arrival point for most visitors and there are a number of hotels in the area.  If you aren’t in the station precinct you can pick up the tour from your nearest point.

Hiroshima self guided walking tour

So first things first, before you leave the station, or at your hotel, I’d suggest you pick up an English street map.  They’re readily available,  free and it’s much more convenient to have a printed version in your pocket than to be continually pulling out your phone or tablet.

We also highly recommend renting a WIFI device while you’re in Japan, it makes it so easy to check train timetables, maps and quickly translate signs and info boards.  If you’re weighing up your options to stay connected while travelling around the country we have an article discussing the various free and paid WIFI options.

Shukkeien

Getting there: From Hiroshima station, you’ll walk 1.2 km in a northeast direction.  It’s an easy 15-minute walk to the beautiful gardens of Shukkeien, our first stop.  If like us you get yourself stuck on the Shinkansen side look for the walkway that passes under the station and you’ll pop out on the other side.

Shukkeien Garden in Hiroshima

Shukkeien means shrunken scenery garden and it is as if all the elements of the landscape have been reduced to fit into the available space, there are hills and valleys, lakes and forests all beautifully proportioned.  The history of the gardens dates back to 1620, just after the completion of Hiroshima Castle.  Although the gardens suffered extensive damage in 1945 from the atomic bomb it also served as a refuge for victims.  The garden was rebuilt shortly after and reopened to the public in 1951.   Entry to the garden is Y260 and should not be missed, especially during blossom season.

Hiroshima Castle

Getting there: From Shukkeien garden it’s only a 10 minutes walk (850 metres) to the grounds of Hiroshima Castle.

Hiroshima Castle

Make your way around the moat edge and the castle ruins to appreciate the castle from all its angles.  The original castle was built in 1591 for Terumoto Mori, a feudal lord but being so close to ground zero it was completely destroyed by the atomic bomb blast in 1945.  This faithful recreation of the donjon was built in 1958 and the castle site was designated a National Historic Site in 1953.

Hiroshima castle moat and guard tower

Gokoku Shrine

Getting there: As you head south from the castle in the direction of the peace park you will pass Gokoku Shrine still within the castle grounds.  It’s only around 400 metres and will take less than 5-minutes  to get there, it’s directly on the route through the park so you can’t miss it.

Gokoku Shrine in Hiroshima

The original Gokoku Shrine was established in 1869, the first year of the Meiji period to honour the victims of the Boshin war.  The shrine was moved from its original location to the site of the current baseball stadium in 1934, and to the current site within the Hiroshima Castle grounds in 1956. 

All Gokoku Shrines are Shinto Shrines to respect those who died during a war.  The Hiroshima Shrine enshrines 92,700 souls including those who died in the city from the atomic bomb.  This is the most popular shrine in Hiroshima to celebrate the New Year (Hatsumode) and Shichi go san sai (a celebration for children aged 7, 5 and 3), the Hiroshima baseball team also visit each March to pray for a successful season.

Atomic Bomb Dome

Getting there:  Walking a further 15 minutes (1.3 kilometres) mostly through parks and green space will have you at the Atomic Bomb Dome.

Atomic Bomb Dome

Although it’s located at the epicentre of the devastation from the atomic bomb, the dome is believed to have survived to the extent it has because the bomb detonated directly overhead.  Significant work goes into maintaining the safety and appearance of the dome exactly as it was and it’s become a symbol for the ‘Peace City’ of Hiroshima.

Peace Park

Getting there:  Walking west and over the bridge from the Atomic Bomb dome, it’s only around 400 metres to the northern end of the Peace Park.

Hiroshima Peace Park

The park itself is quite large and you’ll want to allow a couple of hours if you plan to go through the Peace Museum too.  In addition to the museum, you’ll also find the clock tower, a peace bell, the children’s memorial and the flame of peace within the park.  The promenade along the river is a popular gathering place and during our spring visit, it was a popular location for Hanami parties.

Shopping and food

Getting there:  Heading back east then north towards the station there are many shopping arcades and restaurants.  If you’re running short on time there are plenty of tram stops along this route too.

Shopping Street in Hiroshima

You’ll find pretty much anything you want through this stretch from the more traditional arcades to high-end fashion boutiques.  At some point on your trip I’d definitely recommend ordering Hiroshima okonomiyaki, admittedly I’m a big of a fan and from time to time we make our own okonomiyaki at home but not in this style.  The local version is quite different to what you’ll order in the rest of Japan, it’s more substantial with the addition of a generous serve of noodles and is cooked in layers rather than the batter of the more familiar Osaka style or Tokyo’s Monjayaki.  You’ll find several spots to try this local favourite cooked on a griddle in front of you along this route, there’s also a whole floor of places to try virtually opposite the station.

Head out for the evening bar hopping with a local

Okonomiyaki on the grill
Okonomiyaki on the grill
One of the best ways to discover the hidden eating and drinking spots in a new city is with someone who lives there.  An izakaya is a Japanese pub that offers delicious snacks and meals to enjoy alongside your drinks.  The best of these bars are often hidden away in the smaller alleyways, not on the main thoroughfares.  That can make them difficult for visitors to find on their own. 
 
A great way to try out a few Hiroshima izakaya and enjoy some of the local specialties like oysters, tempura and okonomiyaki are by joining the bar hopping and food tour run by Magical Trip.  The tour is led by a Japanese guide who knows the area well and is a fluent English speaker.  During the evening they’ll show you some of their favourite local spots.  The guide will also explain izakaya etiquette, tell you about the specialty dishes and leave you with some ideas of places to return and try during the remainder of your time in the city.  Best of all this is a small group tour so the evening feels like a night out with friends where one of them can show you the best places to go and answer any questions you have along the way.

Hiroshima Station

Hiroshima station

If like many visitors to the city you are arriving and leaving through the station, you are only planning on staying a couple of nights,  or you plan to make a day trip to visit Miyajima Island, then the station precinct is a really convenient place to stay.

We’ve stayed in the city a couple of times, the first time at the ANA Crowne Plaza near the Peace Park and the second at the Hotel Granvia Hiroshima just outside the station.  If we were there again we’d go back to the Granvia, it’s so convenient to drop off and collect your bag for the train and the staff are extremely accommodating.  I think this was the only time in Japan when we asked them to hold our bags until check-in time and they offered us our room immediately.  The rooms are very nice and the area around the station has a fantastic variety of shops and restaurants.

The local trains and trams run from the opposite side of the station to the hotel and Shinkansen line.  The tram hub makes it really convenient to get around but it’s a flat and compact city so walking is easy and the preferred option for us.  We get the feel of a city so much faster if we experience it on foot stopping in anywhere that takes our interest along the way.

We really enjoyed our day walking around Hiroshima city, being built almost entirely in the late 1940’s and 1950’s its styling is simple and quite different to all of the other cities and towns we visited in Japan but we found the people great, the history very interesting and the city is a lively metropolitan space.

We hope you have the chance to take the Hiroshima self-guided walking tour.  If you do please let us know your favourite stops in the comments below.  If you visit during the cherry blossoms try to allow a little extra time to enjoy the sakura at the garden and hanami parties around the castle moat and the riverbank within the Peace Park.

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Hiroshima Walking Tour Japan
Hiroshima Walking Tour Japan

60 Comments

  • I am booked for next month and allowed 2 nights for Hiroshima. This walk is exactly what I was looking for. Thanks for sharing Toni, I love nothing more than a trialled and tested self-guided walk.

  • Thank you so much for the walking tour, we plan to use it! I was wondering if the world heritage site Takehara is close to any of these stops, and/or if you have been there and recommend squeezing it in. Thank you!

    • Hi Melissa, I believe by Takehara you mean the town that is the gateway to Okunoshima or Rabbit Island in Hiroshima Prefecture? If so it’s at least an hour and a half from Hiroshima city, you can get there by train or a combination of highway bus and train. It’s not somewhere we have been ourselves.

  • Thanks for your Hiroshima self-guided walking tour post. It was extremely helpful in making the most of the day I spent there.

    Such an amazing city. It was so much more emotional spending time in the Peace Park than I expected. However, it was disappointing that the Museum was undergoing renovations and only the annex was open. I hope to visit again when the work is completed.

    I much preferred the Hiroshima okonomiyaki with its noodles and layers of filling. Watching it being cooked in front of you and eating it straight from the hot plate at Okonomi-mura was a joy to experience.

    I stayed overnight at the Peace Park Hotel before heading to Miyajima Island. Good value basic hotel just a street behind the Peace Park. Next time I would look to stay closer to the station or Hondori.

    • Thanks for sharing you experience in the city Eddie. Isn’t Okonomi-mura the best! I’d missed that the renovations won’t complete until Spring 2019, thanks for letting me know, I’ll update the article.

  • Dear Toni, what a great post!
    I’m planning my family vacation to Japan and your blog is being overused by me! Full of insider’s tips and beautiful photos.
    We will go to Hiroshima and we will definitely follow your walking tour.
    Thanks!!!
    Malu

  • Thank you for the wonderful self-guided tour details of Hiroshima. We followed this from start to finish and had such an amazing time.
    We only had one day to see as much as we could in Hiroshima and this walking tour was 100% perfect. For anyone reading this, and you want to have a great day strolling through this amazing city; this is a must-do walking tour!
    Thank you so much for sharing your tour with us.

    • If you get to the Peace Park and feel you’ve done enough walking I recommend the tram back to the station (or your destination). Its a flat rate of Y180 in the central city area which is very reasonable and can be a welcome rest for the feet.

  • We have just booked our flights to Osaka for Cherry Blossom time hopefully nexts year
    Your Articles have been inspirational Bookmarked and Google mapped
    Thank You I can hardly wait to go

  • This is a fantastic blog post! We’re in the process of planning our trip to Japan for later this year, and this has been so helpful to read. We’re excited to try Okonomiyaki too- any places you’d recommend? Thank you!

    • It depends whether you are after Osaka or Hiroshima style, I like Osaka style best as the the noodles are a bit too filling – although I do eat it when in Hiroshima. They say there are as many okonomiyaki restaurants in Hiroshima as there are temples in Kyoto so you are spoilt for choice but Okonomiyaki-mura is a collection of 20+ small restaurants all clustered together in the middle of town and I think competition and pride makes them all pretty good. You can take the streetcar to the Hatchobori Stop and it’s a short walk from there.

  • Thank you for the information!! My friend and I are going to Japan at the end of March/beginning of April and we are trying to do many things free. Your guide will aide us in doing our own tour and also finding the cherry blossoms!

  • Great post – I am hoping to go there early next year, and like the two of you generally prefer to walk and explore myself. This is perfect. THANKS!

  • Hi Toni,

    I am so so happy that I have stumbled across your blog! A lot of useful information here!
    I’m leaving for Japan on the 27th and I’ll be doing a bit of travelling around for a month. Whilst I already know what I want to do when I stay in Tokyo, I felt a bit clueless about my travels when I get to Kyoto.
    Thanks to your recommendations, I am now planning a day trip from Kyoto to Hiroshima City and Miyajima Island – I can see this being a big day, but I’ll just make sure that I’m prepared 🙂
    Have you ever been to Okunoshima (aka bunny island)? If you have, was it worth the trip?

    Thank you heaps for your advice!

    • Hi Amy, no we haven’t been to Okunoshima, I’m pretty sure the only bunnies we saw in Japan were wearing a dress and a tux and being taken for a walk on a lead in Yoyogi Park in Tokyo one Sunday afternoon 🙂 Have a fabulous trip, I’m sure you will with so much to see and do.

  • We are staying in Osaka for 3 nights and are hoping to take a day tour to Horishima. We alreay have the JR pass organised so will catch the train there.
    Can we do the self guided tour or should we book a tour. We are a group of two middle age mums and two young adult daughters but not keen on too much walking.

    • Given the limited time of a day-trip I would do it self-guided myself and prioritise the things we all really wanted to see so we had the most time there. If you want to limit the walking I’d take a taxi or the tram from the Peace Park back to the station at the end of the day to significantly reduce the time on your feet. We do have a strong preference for independent travel though over organised tours so that will always influence my choice. Whichever option you choose have a fabulous time!

  • I’m pleased I found your Blog!!. Planning our first trip to Japan in Sept 2017 as a family of 5 (13, 9 & 7 years) Hiroshima is on the list and Miyajima Island. We were thinking of staying down in Hiroshima. Would you suggest one day for Miyajima Island and one day for the city or could these both be done in a single day?

    We are an active family of travellers so like lots of walking, bike riding to help us see the most of a place. We are also on a strict budget so needing cost effective and cultural experiences.

    I’ll keep reading your posts as I am sure that you will help me shape our trip.

    • Hi Gayle, we would recommend a day for each and staying overnight. There is plenty to see if everyone is up to walking, or hire a cycle if you prefer around Hiroshima city. We also have 3 posts on Miyajima Island (put Miyajima in the search bar at the top of our webpage). If your family like walking I’d suggest spending some time on Mt Misen, while the cable car is fun I think you’d enjoy walking one way via the trails if you have the time. It’s really pretty and the view from the top is stunning on a clear day and not too bad on a misty one. There is a link in the posts for checking the tides, try to plan you Miyajima day to be down at the shrine right at the top of the tide, it only ‘floats’ for a relatively short period as the bay is very flat.

  • I’m heading to Japan next month so this is getting bookmarked! I’ve been trying to figure out where to go during my trip and there’s just so many options..Hiroshima is definitely on my list. The bullet train is going to be fun…..

  • I am currently visiting Japan. What a fantastic country. Went directly to Hiroshima via Shinkansen after arriving at 5.30am from Sydney. Well worth the visit to a very moving place. Took your advice and stayed at the Granvia. Happy we did so. In Kyoto at the moment after seeing the snow monkeys and going to the Snow Festival in Sapporo. Have used your blog several times during my trip. Thanks. Glenda

  • As I’ve come to expect from you Toni, an excellent guide which will make it easy for us should we visit Hiroshima in the future. I admit to feeling torn about visiting sites such as the Hiroshima Atomic Bomb Site. Not because I don’t agree with their sentiment, but because I know how sad it will make me feel. Shukkeien looks beautiful and peaceful in a typically Japanese way.

    • Thanks so much Jan. I understand the mixed feelings on visiting, I definitely had a few tears myself especially in the museum. In hindsight I was really pleased I went and we have been back on subsequent trips. The people of Hiroshima are really friendly and there are other great attractions like Miyajima Island in the area.

  • Thanks for this very helpful information. We are going to Japan in January ’16 staying in Tokyo and Kyoto. Do you think a day trip from Kyoto to Hiroshima is achievable?

    • Hi Jeanine, January will come around so fast, I’m really excited for you. I cover the Kyoto to Hiroshima day trip in my post http://www.2aussietravellers.com/10-of-the-best-day-trips-from-kyoto/ but yes it can definitely be done. So much depends those travelling, whether you have young children and whether you are fast or slow travellers. Although some people do both Miyajima and Hiroshima city in a day trip my personal view is that is too rushed for the one day with the trip back and forward from Kyoto but if you’re prepared to start early and take a later train back, perhaps after dinner you could definitely see the city highlights and the main shrine area at Miyajima.

      • We did it! Thank you so much for your great guide. Our kids are all 15+ so it was no problem. An hours train delay from Kyoto wasn’t a great start but we still managed to fit most of it in. We picked up a map from the information desk at Hiroshima station and they also told us about the bus which we caught back, you didn’t have to pay the bus fare if you had a JR pass. We loved the Shukkeien gardens, it was a clear, crisp day, very crisp! The memorial and Peace Park are something not to be missed, very interesting and the museum while very interesting was certainly very thought provoking. It was quite crowded but you could’ve heard a pin drop. While we didn’t get to see everything, we were very impressed with Hiroshima and very glad we went and would love to go back to Shukkeien in spring time and take a few days to really cover the area. We loved our stay in Tokyo and Kyoto. It was an action packed two weeks really only resting on the Shinkansen trips and taking an afternoon off to do a few loads of washing. We experienced great culture, great food and great family memories.

        • Hi Jeanine, so excited to hear you had a fun and packed fortnight with your family, even though we are usually on the go constantly too we seem to come back feeling refreshed because it’s such a change of scenery. Pleased you enjoyed the gardens and peace park, bad luck on the train delay cutting into your day though, pretty unusual for the bullet trains to be running late especially by so much. Thanks for reading our Japan experiences and especially for coming back to let us know you enjoyed Japan so much x

    • Thanks Revati. Many Japanese cities are great to explore on foot as the attractions are closely packed. It didn’t feel that far walking around it because you are stopping to explore things so often as you go. You can also chop off a big chunk on the way back using the tram if you don’t want to explore the shopping and eating options all the way.

    • Hi Penny, it was hard in some ways, there were a few quiet tears at the childrens’ memorial and in the museum. The exhibits are very well done and are at a personal level with individuals stories which makes it both fascinating and emotional. I’m very pleased I went though and think it would be a great thing if all the world leaders who persist with nuclear armaments went to see it so they could truly understand the cost and responsibility of the decisions they may one day be called on to make.

  • Gorgeous photos! They brought back so many memories of my trip there in 2008. I wish I’d had this post before hand though, I never saw the shrunken scenery garden, it looks so pretty!
    The Peace Museum was very interesting and sobering, I would certainly recommend it, it puts the modern city into perspective.

    • Thanks Rachel. I’m so pleased you also found the city and especially the museum so interesting. Shukkeien was one of the gardens I enjoyed most in Japan, it’s not ranked in the ‘top gardens’ but these things are influenced so much by the individual experience. We were there during sakura and there was a wedding party being photographed in the grounds, several children in kimono were trying to run and play in the beautiful but restrictive clothing as they normally would and feed the koi in the pond – so adorable.

  • I wasn’t expecting Hiroshima to look quite so lived in! I visited lots of places in Japan, but didn’t make time for this stop. Feel like I definitely should have now!

    • Thanks Peter. It’s never possible to fit everything in but I was pleasantly surprised by the city and loved Miyajima Island so would recommend it to anyone who could squeeze it into the itinerary.

    • Thanks Fiona, we originally made the decision to stay overnight because we were going to Miyajima Island and felt we couldn’t not explore the city while we were so close but it surprised me how much I really did enjoy it.

  • This is such an interesting piece with great pics and a real sense of history. I’d never thought of going to Hiroshima but it sounds like a place with so much in it – that peace dome is incredible.

  • I think it’s so important to visit places like this – we should never forget the history or the lessons we learn from it. I got shivers looking at that dome though. The scenery garden is beautiful.

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