Heading west with a JR Pass? One of the most attractive areas for tourists traveling across Japan is Hiroshima. A place of scenic beauty and a macabre past. We have selected the top ten sights in Hiroshima, so you can plan your perfect trip to Japan:
10. Sandan-kyo Valley
(image by 広島県)
A 1 hour-and-15-minute bus ride from downtown Hiroshima. The ravine which cuts deep into virgin forest has precipitous cliffs which soar 40m, deep pools, waterfalls and rapids. The marvelous landscape created from the fresh greenery and clear streams continues onwards, and especially during the autumn, the large variety of trees that can only be found in this valley take on color to create a form of natural art. A mysterious atmosphere is created from the sheer cliffs and forests at the entrance, and with the emerald-green mountain torrents, so that even from the start, the region is well worth seeing.
Along with the biggest highlight of Sandan-no-taki Falls which was behind the naming of the valley, there is Kurofuchi Pool, Mitsutaki Falls, Sarutobi Passage and Nidan-no-taki Falls to provide 5 great landscapes which are especially wonderful within Sandan-kyo Valley. There is a pleasure boat that you can board to enjoy the popular Kurofuchi Pool and Sarutobi Passage. The 20m-high rock cliffs of Sarutobi narrow down to a tight 2 meters in width so using a rope to navigate through this area provides some of that feeling of an adventure. To reach Nidan-no-taki, you must take the boat going through the passage so there is also that feeling of going into unexplored territory.
There are 6 courses ranging from a very short 10-minute course to the Seiko Lake course which goes all over Sandan-kyo. Recommended is the 3-hour course where you can view the biggest highlight of Sandan-no-taki Falls along with Sarutobi Passage and Nidan-no-taki Falls. There is a shuttle bus running on weekends and holidays that links the entrance with the middle area of the valley which is fine for tourists who may not have as much confidence in their stamina so that they can walk over to Sandan-no-taki and Nidan-no-taki in about 30 minutes on foot.
- Guidebook from Planetyze about Sandan-kyo Valley
- Reviews from TripAdvisor about Sandan-kyo Valley
- Tours of Sandan-kyo Valley
9. Preserved District of Takehara
(image by 広島県)
The profound townscape and townspeople culture were created from the development of salt field cultivation along the coast of the Seto Inland Sea during the Edo Era. The area flourished from salt production along with sake brewing so that this old town came to be known as the Little Kyoto of Aki. This preserved district is made up of old mercantile houses, temples & shrines and streets so that a traditional Japanese commercial town can be seen. Centering upon the main street of Honmachi Dori, there are numerous historic buildings that are open to the public along with cafés and restaurants built within the old town residences.
Takehara is also famous as the birthplace of the founder of Nikka Whiskey, Masataka Taketsuru, who was the inspiration for the NHK morning serial drama “Massan” in which the surviving Taketsuru Brewery was also actually used in filming. The brewery is still in operation and has garnered high praise for its brewing techniques of sake. Sampling of the sake is possible, and the museum inside the brewery can also be toured for free. The Hinomaru Photography Studio became the setting for the television anime series “Tamayura”. Its wooden 3-floor building and log evoke feelings of the Showa Era. Also in connection with the anime, there is an anime corner on the 2nd floor of the old Kasai residence.
“Take”, or bamboo, is the official special product of Takehara. At Machinami Take Kobo (Town Bamboo Workshop), you can observe the creation of handicrafts and even try your hand at bamboo ware. Every year in May, the Takehara Bamboo Festival is held in which there are various events such as the Princess Kaguya parade. There is also the Takehara Shoukei-no-Michi in which the light of candles placed in the hollow bamboo stems lights up the town in a mysterious glow. The artwork that uses the bamboo during this time is also wonderful.
- Guidebook from Planetyze about Preserved District of Takehara
- Reviews from TripAdvisor about Preserved District of Takehara
- Tours of Preserved District of Takehara
8. Senko-ji Temple
(image by 広島県)
Senko-ji Park is located on the north side of Onomichi Station, and spans from the middle of Mt. Senko-ji to the summit of the mountain at 144.2m. In spring, 1500 cherry trees bloom all at once, and the entire park is enveloped in pink flowers. The park has been selected as one of the Top 100 Places for Cherry Blossoms in Japan. The town with its old houses that can be seen from the observation point and the intricate scenery of the island silhouette are things that can only be viewed at the Seto Inland Sea. With it being part of lists such as the Top 100 Scenes and the Top 100 Nightscapes, you will view it as a nostalgic landscape of Japan that has touched the hearts of many people.
Senko-ji Temple is located in the heart of Senko-ji Park on top of a sheer precipice. The vermilion Main Hall which has also been called the Red Hall and the Bell Tower which was chosen as one of the Top 100 Japanese Soundscapes are symbols of the temple. Many large and strangely-shaped rocks exist within the temple grounds, and the huge Tama no Iwa (Ball Rock) that has a circumference of 50m and a height of 15m is famous for a legend that states that it once had a shining gem placed on it. Currently, another gem has been placed at the top of the rock, and when night falls, it glitters in 3 colors. There are also many other notable sites such as Kusariyama which is accessed by scaling a rock; Tsuzumiiwa, a rock which makes a hollow sound when tapped; and Iwawari-no-Matsu, another rock which has a giant root growing out of a huge crack in it.
The observation point can be reached within 10 minutes on foot, but there is also a ropeway which can access the point. The ropeway climbs from the foot of Mt. Senko-ji to the summit within 3 minutes. From the ropeway, the scenery changes as you view the old city of Onomichi, the massive camphor trees of Ushitora Shrine that are Natural Monuments, the Three-Level Pagoda of Tenneiji Temple, Senko-ji Temple and the islands of the Seto Inland Sea. On sunny days, you can see as far away as the island of Shikoku.
- Guidebook from Planetyze about Senko-ji Temple
- Reviews from TripAdvisor about Senko-ji Temple
- Tours of Senko-ji Temple
7. Sensuijima Island
(image by ja.wikipedia.org)
It takes 5 minutes by ferry from Tomo-no-Ura. Located in the middle of Setonaikai National Park, the first of its kind in Japan, Sensuijima Island has nature that has not been touched by Man. Aside from the 2 hotels, there is no one else living on the island, and once the final ferry leaves at 9:35 pm, Sensuijima takes on the appearance of a genuine deserted island. It is the habitat of sea fireflies and their blue glow in the water gives that impression of a mysterious island. Between June and September, there are sea firefly tours held at night.
With only 55 sites in the world, Goshikiiwa is the only such site in Japan, located on Sensuijima. Rocks that are colored in blue, red, yellow, white and black continue for up to 1km on the shore going into the island. Called as the place where the spirit of Heaven has gathered, magma from the earth rose up long ago to create a high area of land protruding from the ground. With 4 hiking trails including courses for Senningaoka Observation Point which has been chosen as one of the Top 100 Sunsets in Japan, and Goshikiiwa, you can take a walk on the island as you like.
At the island hotel, Kokokara, there is a sauna in a cave that has recreated the baths from the Edo Era and has become one of the most famous things on the island. There are various open-air baths which include 3 kinds of plants: seaweed, mugwort and loquat leaves, and to get the full effect of an Edo bath, you have to soak for at least an hour. Restricted to people of middle school age and above, the detox effect makes it especially popular with women. Along with a campground and a swimming beach, the whole family can enjoy the island with many participatory events such as the Shio Kobo which has been selected for the Top 100 Salts in Japan where you can take part in salt-making and pottery.
- Guidebook from Planetyze about Sensuijima Island
- Reviews from TripAdvisor about Sensuijima Island
- Tours of Sensuijima Island
(image by ononavi.jp)
On getting off at Onomichi Station, the calm Seto Inland Sea spreads out in front of your eyes. The Onomichi Channel which is a narrow sea that resembles a river has frequently made appearances in movies and dramas, and is a spot that symbolizes Onomichi. In the background, houses line up on the mountains, and the stone-paved alleyways on the slope that wind around like a maze are close to the areas of commerce so you can feel the nostalgia of an age without cars. There are many ways to enjoy the area whether you stroll on the stone-paved alleyways or cycle on the Shimanami Kaido.
The streets of Onomichi City are known for their temples for which there is a 3-hour pilgrimage covering 2 km and 25 temples linked by stone-paved roads on the slope. A treasure box of cultural assets, there are temples of varying sizes such as Jodo-ji which has been called a National Treasure; Saikoku-ji which has giant straw sandals festooned on its Niomon gate; Senko-ji, a symbol of Onomichi which stands atop a steep cliff; and Jiko-ji where you can make a squeezed Buddha through clay. There are also other differently-themed courses to enjoy such as a pilgrimage of the Seven Buddhas and a simple leisurely stroll.
The Setonai Shimanami Kaido which extends for 70km linking Onomichi and the island of Shikoku with Ehime Prefecture is perfect for walking and cycling. There are all sorts of islands and tourist spots such as Mukaishima which has a large cultivation of tropical orchids and other blossoms that make use of the warm climate, Innoshima which was the birthplace of the Murakami Navy with its view of the Seto Inland Sea, and Ikuchijima which is famous for being the original source of domestic lemons and for art through facilities like its art museum.
- Guidebook from Planetyze about Onomichi
- Reviews from TripAdvisor about Onomichi
- Tours of Onomichi
5. Hiroshima Peace Memorial Park
(image by upload.wikimedia.org)
Hiroshima Peace Memorial Park is on the opposite side of The Atomic Bomb Dome across a river. Praying for eternal world peace, this park was established near the hypocenter of the atomic bomb explosion. A large number of monuments to the atomic bomb victims and peace monuments are set up in the vast grounds of the park. The monument at the center of the park dedicated to the atomic bomb victims is shaped in a form of a house to protect the souls of the victims from rain and wind. When looked at from the front, you can see The Atomic Bomb Domein the distance just under the “roof” of this house-shaped monument. The engraving on the stone plate inside this monument reads “Please rest in peace; for we shall never repeat the error.” The rock chamber in the center contains 107 booklets that list the names of atomic bomb victims (292,325 people).
The model for the girl of the Children’s Peace Monument is Sadako Sasaki who had been exposed to the atomic bomb radiation at the age of 2 and died of leukemia at the age of 12. Prompted by the suggestion of a young man who found out about Sadako’s death from a newspaper article, funds were raised and this monument was built to commemorate the souls of the children who lost their lives due to the atomic bomb. The Bell of Peace built in the park in 1964 is used every year at the annual Peace Memorial Ceremony held on August 6. Also, it has been selected as one of Japan’s 100 sound-related spots people wish to preserve for future generations. In addition to the annual ringing of this bell, a chime is played every morning at the park at 8:15, the time when the atomic bomb was dropped. The Hiroshima Peace Memorial Museum is also located in this park. This museum collects and displays the belongings of the atomic bomb victims as well as images and materials that depict the horrors caused by the bomb.
- Guidebook from Planetyze about Hiroshima Peace Memorial Park
- Reviews from TripAdvisor about Hiroshima Peace Memorial Park
- Tours of Hiroshima Peace Memorial Park
4. Hiroshima Castle
(image by flickr.com)
Hiroshima Castle is a 15-minute walk either from the JR Hiroshima Station or from The Atomic Bomb Dome. The castle was completed in 1589. It is said that a feudal lord during the Warring States period, Terumoto Mori, initiated the construction of the castle after feeling the necessity of having one following a visit to the Osaka Castle upon an invitation from Hideyoshi Toyotomi, a preeminent feudal lord who eventually brought an end to the Warring States period. Though it was designated as a National Treasure in 1931, it was blown out by the atomic bombing in 1945. The tower keep (tenshukaku) was restored completely by the 1958 restoration construction project; however, the exterior is made by concrete. Inside the tower keep is a museum of history that introduces the samurai (buke) culture. The most popular attraction at the museum is the space where visitors can try out wearing samurai clothes and helmets and take pictures freely without being attended by staff members.
The top floor of the castle has an observatory from which a panoramic view of the Hiroshima City can be seen. If the weather is good, you can see the island of Miyajima in the distance. HiroshimaCastle is also known as the castle of carps (Rijyo); many say that this name comes from a geographic name, but some say that the name comes from the fact that in the old days, there were many carps swimming in the moat. Whichever the case may be, today, many carps swim around in the moat. The connected yagura watchtower structures of the ninomarusection–omotegomon gate, waki-yagura, tamon-yagura and taiko-yagura–were restored as wooden structures in 1994; the interior of these structures are open to the public. A gate of sophistication and grace, the pillars of the omotegomon gate are partially made of wood from a thousand years old hinoki tree. The moat and stonewalls remain in the conditions they were at the time of the bombing. Hiroshima Castle has been selected as one of the 100 great castles of Japan. Also, on the grounds of the castle are a large eucalyptus tree and a willow tree which survived the atomic bombing. At night, the tower keep is lit up; the upside down view of the tower keep reflected on the water of the moat is breathtaking.
Admission: ¥ 370
- Guidebook from Planetyze about Hiroshima Castle
- Reviews from TripAdvisor about Hiroshima Castle
- Tours of Hiroshima Castle
3. Atomic Bomb Dome
(image by upload.wikimedia.org)
The building was designed by a Czech architect Jan Letzel and was opened as a hall for displaying products of Hiroshima Prefecture. It was a modern, three-story brick building with a European architectural design and a characteristic dome. Together with its reflection in the river, this elegant building was considered one of Hiroshima’s scenic spots. However, more than 90% ofHiroshima City’s buildings were blown out or burnt down by the atomic bombing on August 6, 1945. Located only a short distance away from the hypocenter, the building was exposed and damaged entirely by fire but miraculously, it was able to retain most of its structure. Though cracks and other damages of this building–renamed as the Atomic Bomb Dome–progressed in subsequent years, the building underwent a preservation construction project in 1967 which was funded by a total of 66,197,816 yen that had been donated from around the world. Since then, enabled by subsequent donations, preservation construction projects and conservation researches have been conducted twice.
Because The Atomic Bomb Dome is the only building in the world that coveys the horror caused by an atomic bomb in the same state as it was immediately after the bombing, the building was listed as a World Heritage site in 1996 as an unparalleled symbol of peace that appeals for the total abolition of nuclear weapons and speaks of the importance of peace. Though visitors cannot enter The Atomic Bomb Dome since it is fenced off, viewing it from the outside is more than enough to observe the terror of the atomic bomb. On the opposite side of The Atomic Bomb Dome across the Motoyasu River is the Peace Memorial Park, a highly recommended complex for learning about the conditions at the time of WWII. If you are planning to go to Itsukushima Shrineat Miyajima, you can take an excursion boat from a stop in front of the Atomic Bomb Dome; the boat will get you there in about 45 minutes.
- Guidebook from Planetyze about Atomic Bomb Dome
- Reviews from TripAdvisor about Atomic Bomb Dome
- Tours of Atomic Bomb Dome
2. Hiroshima Peace Memorial Museum
(image by flickr.com)
Along with The Atomic Bomb Dome, this is a place for learning about the atomic bombing. Starting merely four years after the atomic bombing, materials related to the damage and suffering caused by the atomic bomb had been exhibited since 1949. Then in 1955, the HiroshimaPeace Memorial Museum was opened. This museum conveys the conditions at the time of the bombing by a wide range of display including explanations of the structure and destructive power of the atomic bomb, explanations of radioactivity, heat rays, the blast, and damages caused by fire, as well as an exhibition of the belongings of the victims. Even visitors of generations with no war experience are certain to receive an intense impact from the exhibited items which include valuable evidences such as a scorched lunch box, a burnt uniform, stone steps marked with a person’s shadow created by the heat rays, and traces of black rain. Visitors are allowed to touch the exhibited heat ray-damaged roof tiles which were melt and rendered into a bubbly form by the massive heat.
Videos of more than 300 victims speaking of their experiences can be viewed at any time. Furthermore, audio guides in 17 languages and pamphlets in 9 languages are available. An exhibition of “Hiroshima’s History in Light of the Atomic Bombing” is displayed at the East Building in which historical facts of Hiroshima from the times before and after the bombing are introduced. The belongings and pictures of victims are exhibited at the Main Building. The museum shop is also located in the Main Building.
Admission: ¥ 50
- Guidebook from Planetyze about Hiroshima Peace Memorial Museum
- Reviews from TripAdvisor about Hiroshima Peace Memorial Museum
- Tours of Hiroshima Peace Memorial Museum
1. Itsukushima Shrine
(image by en.wikipedia.org)
Itsukushima Shrine is constructed in the architectural style of the Heian period (794 – 1185); it is a unique building which likens the Seto Inland Sea to a pond. This grandeur, red lacquer-coated shrine blends natural and man-made beauty in perfect harmony; the view completely changes during high tide when the shrine and corridors appear as though they are floating in the sea. The entire island is considered as a holy object in which a deity resides; in the front of the holy island is Seto Inland Sea and in the background is Mount Misen where the gods descend. Itsukushima embodies the form of the ancient Japanese Shinto worship in which people found gods in nature and worshipped mountains, oceans as well as natural phenomena. For this reason, it has been listed as a World Cultural Heritage site. The Island can be accessed by a 10-minute ride on a ferry leaving from the JR Miyajimaguchi Station and arriving at the Miyajima Sanbashiguchi. It is a 15-minute walk from here to Itsukushima Shrine. You will be walking through the Omotesandoshopping avenue which is filled with souvenir shops and restaurants. While walking through this avenue, we recommend checking out the world’s largest wooden scoop on display. We also recommend munching on Hiroshima’s famous grilled oysters or maple shaped steamed sweet buns. The highlights of Itsukushima Shrine include the 60t, 16m high grand torii gate, the 275m long corridor, and the delicate yet extravagant main sanctuary.
Mount Misen is another spot you don’t want to miss. The cable car stop “Koyodani Station” is a 15-minute walk from Itsukushima Shrine. When heading to this station, you will be walking through the Koyodani Park where you can enjoy cherry blossoms in spring, tender new leaves in summer, and colored leaves in autumn. Especially, the park’s approximately 200 maple trees display a spectacular view of vibrant colors in November. Enjoy a “walk in the sky” on the cable car while looking down at the magnificent views of the Seto Inland Sea and virgin forests. The final stop is Shishi-iwa Station from which you can walk to the Shishi-iwa Observation Deck and then onto the Seikado building of the Daishoin temple that houses the “ever burning fire” which is said to have been burning for 1,200 years. After that, walk through the tunnel of the enormous Kuguri-iwa rock to get to the best highlight of the mountain, the Mount Misen Observation Deck. It is located at the mountain peak from which you can enjoy a panoramic view of the islands dotting the Seto Inland Sea. Before leaving the island, we recommend watching the sun set into the sea at Miyajima’s sunset spot Mikasa-no-hama. Enjoy the magical view of the grand torii gate “floating” in the sea, lit up by the setting sun.
Admission: Adult: ¥ 300 / Child: ¥ 100