Hiroshima – known for a dark moment in human history, but now a city alive and well, with so much to offer to travelers. Here are my seven essential things to do (and eat) while you’re in this fascinating city.
1 – A-BOMB DOME & PEACE MEMORIAL MUSEUM
Hiroshima will forever be remembered as the first place on earth where an atomic bomb was deployed, killing over 80,000 people immediately – many of them children – and tens of thousands later due to radiation exposure. The “Atomic Bomb Dome” was the building nearest to the bomb and somewhat incredibly, due to it’s location directly beneath the explosion, it was not fully destroyed. Today it stands as a constant reminder. Nearby, the Peace Memorial Museum (free entry) offers a thorough and harrowing insight into the bombing and its impact on the people of the city. It’s a difficult but essential experience for all those who visit the city.
2 – HIROSHIMA-YAKI
Okinomiyaki is one of my fave dishes in Japan. It’s a kinda omelette filled with all kinds of wonderful goodness, and it’s ingredients vary from city to city. Hiroshima’s take is renowned across Japan as one of the best, and there is no shortage of “Hiroshima-yaki” restaurants all over. If you can’t choose, check out Okinomi-mura; it’s a building with three entire storeys dedicated to restaurants (24 in total) serving this wonderfully tasty dish. Don’t leave Hiroshima without trying at least one!
3 – RIDE THE TRAM
All of my favourite cities have trams and Hiroshima keeps to that trend with a great modern tram network that connects the centre of the city as well as the ferry terminal to Miyajima Island. It’s a pleasant, affordable and fast way to see and get around the city.
4 – SPICY DIPPING NOODLES
Tsukemen is a cold noodle dish with spring onions, dipped in a spicy sauce. Cold noodles might sound strange to some, but once it’s in your mouth, it makes perfect sense. Fresh and light, but spicy and full of flavour at the same time. Bakudanya does this really well, and their spicy sauce comes in a range of spiciness levels starting at extremely mild so don’t be put off if you aren’t into spice. The fried chicken is pretty fantastic too.
5 – MIYAJIMA ISLAND
A totally worthy day-trip, Miyajima Island is easily accessible by ferry, which goes from the end of Tram line 2. The whole trip takes less than an hour from the centre of Hiroshima, and once you’re there you’ll be transported back in time, surrounded by lovely old Japanese buildings, beautiful gardens, and some very friendly deer who will do their best to persuade you hand over your snacks. There’s also an easy hike (or even easier cable car) to the top of Mount Misen (536m) which has great views from the top. While you’re there try the incredibly fresh grilled oysters and on the way back, stop off at my favourite restaurant in the world to eat conger eel.
6 – EAT EVERY CONCEIVABLE TYPE OF MOMIJI MANJU
Momiji Manju (which actually originates from Miyajima island) is a spongey maple-leaf-shaped cake filled with various sweet fillings – most traditionally sweet red bean paste – but nowadays anything from cheese and matcha (both very good) to custard (even better). A little place on Miyajima Island does my favourite version – it’s basically a custard Momiji, but then, ingeniously, deep fried. It’s a heart attack on a stick, but well worth the risk in my opinion.
7 – HAVE A DRINK (AND SOME FOOD) AT A LOCAL IZAKAYA
Every Japanese city has plenty of bars but Hiroshima, with just over a million residents, is apparently home to over 4000! It’d be rude not to pop into at least one and have a cheeky sake, and while you’re at it, try a few sticks of barbecued meat and/or veg. They are usually priced from under $2 a stick and tend to be so good that that one cheeky sake may swiftly become two or three… Don’t be afraid to try some “parts” of an animal you might not have tried before, as they are usually the tastiest – I highly recommend chicken skin, chicken hip and chicken heart. Oh and the neck. And the liver, and…
If you have been to Hiroshima and have any recommendations to pass to other fellow travelers, please make a comment below!