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As mentioned above, visiting the sights related to the atomic bomb can be an '''intense experience'''.  If you only have one day set aside for Hiroshima, you'll naturally wind up spending most of it at the atomic bomb memorials.  For your own peace of mind, though, try to set aside time to relax and reflect in other parts of the city - either at one of the pleasant, sprawling parks around the city center, such as the one around Hiroshima Castle or Hijiyama-koen, or if your time is short, during a walk along one of the riverside trails, which are easy to reach from anywhere in the city.
 
As mentioned above, visiting the sights related to the atomic bomb can be an '''intense experience'''.  If you only have one day set aside for Hiroshima, you'll naturally wind up spending most of it at the atomic bomb memorials.  For your own peace of mind, though, try to set aside time to relax and reflect in other parts of the city - either at one of the pleasant, sprawling parks around the city center, such as the one around Hiroshima Castle or Hijiyama-koen, or if your time is short, during a walk along one of the riverside trails, which are easy to reach from anywhere in the city.
  
Hiroshima is a very popular school trip destination for Japanese kids, and you're virtually guaranteed to be accosted by kids working on school projects, asking you (in halting English) where you're from, what your name is and '''whether you think nuclear bombs are a good thing'''.  Good luck coming up with a snappy answer, but if their teacher is around, you can try asking them back whether Japan would have used the bomb if they had come up with it first.
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Hiroshima is a very popular school trip destination for Japanese kids, and you're virtually guaranteed to be accosted by kids working on school projects, asking you (in halting English) where you're from, what your name is and '''whether you think nuclear bombs are a good thing'''.  Good luck coming up with a snappy answer, but if their teacher is around, you can try asking them back whether Japan would have used the bomb if they had come up with it first. (i wonder what fundamentalist yankee came up with that last line!!!)
  
 
==Get out==
 
==Get out==

Revision as of 14:26, 29 June 2007

Across the river from the Peace Memorial Park

Hiroshima (広島) [1] is an industrial city of wide boulevards, criss-crossing rivers and a dense city center. It is located along the coast of the Seto Inland Sea in the western Chugoku region of Japan. Although many only know it for the horrific split second on August 6, 1945, when it became the site of the world's first atomic bomb attack, it is now a modern, cosmopolitan city with a lot of great food and nightlife.

Contents

Understand

Those expecting to step off the Shinkansen into a pile of smouldering rubble may be in for a surprise, as Hiroshima has all the ferroconcrete and blinking neon of any other modern Japanese city and a population of more than 1,100,000 people. It is the financial center of the Chugoku region and most of west Japan. Automobiles are a major local industry, with Mazda's corporate headquarters nearby. There is also a busy naval port, Ujina.

Hiroshima was founded in 1589 on the delta formed by the Ota River, flowing out to the Seto Inland Sea. It became a major industrial center and one of Japan's larger cities in the Meiji period. During World War II, the Japanese military used Hiroshima as a communications and supply center, taking advantage of its position on the Inland Sea. It was left largely untouched by aerial bombing campaigns before the atomic bomb was dropped. It is estimated that 140,000 people were killed in the explosion and its aftermath. The survivors, known as hibakusha, were subjected not only to radiation-related diseases but severe discrimination from other Japanese, but have since been at the forefront of Japan's post-war pacifism and its campaign against the use of nuclear weapons.

Many visitors, especially Americans, may feel apprehensive about visiting Hiroshima. It's a friendly, welcoming city, however, as interested in Western culture as anywhere else in Japan, and the exhibits related to the atomic bomb are not concerned with blame or accusations. Tourists are welcomed with open arms. Bear in mind, though, that many of the hibakusha still live in Hiroshima. Even many young people may have personal ties to family members who lived through the atomic blast. As such, the average Hiroshima resident isn't likely to relish talking about it, although you needn't shy away from the topic if one of the chatty fellows around the Peace Memorial Park brings it up.

Orientation

JR Hiroshima Station is a 15 minute walk from the city center. If you arrive by Shinkansen, you will be at the back of the station, facing a silver Peace Pagoda on the top of Ushita-yama. If you cross under or through the station to the main side, you will see the taxis, trams and buses that lead to the city center. The front of the station also has the main tourist information office. If you feel like walking from the station, cross the river in front of the station and take the first right along the main road. You will be in the city center in less than 15 minutes.

Other visitors may arrive at the Hiroshima Bus Center (広島バスセンター), which is right in the center of the city, inside the Sogo department store. Hondori, a long covered shopping street, is a good landmark to use to orient yourself, and most sites are within walking distance from there. The Peace Park (平和公園 Heiwa Koen)is in the city center. Most trams and buses from the train station run past or close to the Peace Park. Across from Peace Park is the current Hiroshima Carp baseball stadium. Also just north of the city center is Hiroshima Rijo Castle (広島城)a rebuilt version of the original, but beautiful and a great place to relax or stroll. Across the street from the castle is Chuo Park (中央公園 Chuo-koen), where you can find groups picnicking and exercising in the biggest open space in the city.

Get in

By plane

Hiroshima Airport (IATA: HIJ) [2] connects to domestic destinations in Japan. Both ANA and JAL offer flights from Tokyo Haneda and Sapporo Chitose airports. ANA also offers flights from Tokyo Narita, Sendai and Okinawa. There are also international flights to and from Bali, Bangkok, Beijing, Shanghai, Seoul and Taipei.

Buses connect the airport to Hiroshima station (50 minutes, ¥1300).

By train

Hiroshima is a major station on the Sanyo Shinkansen line. It is 40 minutes away from Okayama (¥5860 by Nozomi) and 90 minutes from Shin-Osaka (¥9950 by Nozomi). Regular local and rapid trains on the Sanyo Line reach Hiroshima in as little as 6 hours (¥5460).

From Tokyo it is four hours via Nozomi; five hours via Hikari (change trains once at Shin-Osaka or Okayama). Be very careful about taking a Kodama for the last leg of the journey; Hikari and Kodama services are valid under the Japan Rail Pass, but the all-stations Kodama service will add up to two hours to your trip.

Cheaper but slower local services radiate out to other cities in the region.

The Hayabusa overnight sleeper train leaves Tokyo daily at 6 PM, arriving in Hiroshima at around 5:20 the next morning. A later alternative from Tokyo is to take the 10 PM Sunrise Izumo/Seto train to Okayama, then take the San'yo Shinkansen to Hiroshima, arriving around 7:30 the next day.

By bus

The New Breeze overnight bus runs from Tokyo to Hiroshima. There are two nightly departures in each direction: From Tokyo, departing at 20:00 and 21:00, with both buses arriving in Hiroshima at 8:00 the next day. From Hiroshima, departing at 19:00 and 20:00, with both buses arriving in Tokyo at 7:00 the next day. The trip costs ¥11600 one way, ¥21200 round trip.

Daytime express buses run from Osaka to Hiroshima. There are five departures daily, and the travel time is five hours each way. It costs ¥5000 one way, ¥9000 round trip.

There are also overnight buses from Osaka: The Sanyo Dream Hiroshima from Osaka Station and the Venus from the Namba bus terminal. Both buses take between 6 and 7 1/2 hours to make their journeys, and cost ¥5700 one way, ¥11000 round trip.

There are also two daily buses, and one overnight bus, from Kyoto. The daytime buses take 5 1/2 hours (¥5500 one way, ¥10000 round trip) and the overnight bus takes 6 hours (¥6300 one way, ¥11400 round trip).

Daytime buses also run from cities such as Okayama, Fukuyama, Takamatsu and Fukuoka.

By ferry

Ferries run from Hiroshima's Ujina Port, which also serves as terminus for several tram lines. Ishizaki Ferry operates daily boat service to Matsuyama in Shikoku, with some boats stopping in Kure (呉). The ride takes 70-80 minutes to reach Matsuyama and costs ¥6300 each way. Slower ferries depart on different schedules and arrive in about 2 1/2 hours at a cost of only ¥2700 each way.

Get around

By tram

Hiroshima city tram

Hiroshima is the last major city in Japan with an extensive tram (streetcar) network, Hiroden (広電). It's a slow but reliable way of getting around. The trams themselves are a mix of old rattle-traps and new "Green Movers", although both run on the same lines for the same fares. There's no difference other than the smoothness of the ride. (During the summer, open-air trams are an extremely rare but occasional sight.) Most lines start or finish at JR Hiroshima Station, and they run frequently during daytime and evening hours. Trips within the city are a flat ¥150, while trundling out all the way to Miyajima will set you back ¥280. One-day passes are available for ¥600 (¥300 children), or ¥840 (¥420 children) including the ferry to Miyajima.

By bus

Bus lines run through Hiroshima and out to the suburbs. Generally speaking, these serve areas more likely to be used by locals than visitors, but bus #30 does run to the Hiroshima Youth Hostel. Signs include English, and the bus depot is next to the tram depot in front of JR Hiroshima Station.

By sightseeing bus

Sightseeing buses run to a few of the major sights from JR Hiroshima Station at 9am, 10am and 1pm. Look for the bus stops and route maps on the shinkansen side of the station, near the Hotel Granvia.

By metro

The modern (if strangely named) Astram links the city center with its northern suburbs. It is useful if you want to visit the Hiroshima Asa Zoo, or watch a professional San Frecce J-League soccer game at the Big Arch stadium.

By bike

If you want to cycle around Hiroshima, walk left along the main street in front of the station for 5 minutes to the Nippon car rental shop, where you can rent bicycles for the day. Hiroshima is a great city for cycling. The paths along the many branches of the Otagawa River offer a much more enjoyable ride than the sidewalks. To their credit, though, most of the streets and sidewalks in Hiroshima are wider and less crowded than ones in Tokyo or Kyoto, so you'll at least have a bit more room to maneuver.

See

Atomic bombing

A-Bomb Dome

The following memorials related to the bombing are all clustered in Peace Memorial Park (平和公園 Heiwa-kōen), reachable by tram line 2 or 6 to Genbaku Domu-mae. Coming from JR Hiroshima Station, you'll see the Peace Park on your left and the baseball stadium on your right, just before crossing the Aioi Bridge - which was thought to be the target of the atomic bomb.

The International Exchange Office (Tel. 082-247-9715. Open 9am - 7pm May-Nov., 10am - 6pm Dec. - Apr.) near the center of the Peace Park can provide English-language information about any of the many statues and memorials that are dotted throughout the park.

Kannon statue draped with origami cranes, Peace Memorial Park
  • Hiroshima Peace Memorial. Better known as the A-Bomb Dome (原爆ドーム Genbaku Dōmu) is Hiroshima's best-known symbol. Formerly the Prefectural Industrial Promotional Hall, it was designed by Czech architect Jan Letzel and completed in 1915. The fanciful green dome in particular made the building a much-loved symbol in Hiroshima before the war. When the atomic bomb was dropped on August 6, 1945, the explosion is thought to have taken place almost directly above the building. Its skeletal remains were among the few buildings left standing in the entire city. It was declared a UNESCO World Heritage site in 1996 amid some controversy - the United States and China both voted against the nomination for reasons related to the war, and some Japanese continue to find it a disturbing sight. It has become a symbol of the city once again, though, and the benches around the building are as likely to be occupied by Hiroshima natives reading, eating lunch or simply relaxing as they are by tourists.
  • Peace Memorial Museum (平和記念資料館 Heiwa Kinen Shiryōkan) (March - Nov. 8:30am to 6pm, Dec. - Feb. to 5pm, Aug. to 7pm. Closed 12/29 - 1/1) [3]. This heart-wrenching museum documents the bomb and its aftermath, complete with scale models of "before" and "after", melted children's tricycles and a harrowing recreation of a post-blast Hiroshima street. The first floor describes the events leading up to the bomb and attempts to give a sense of what Hiroshima was like before the war. The second floor contains a number of displays and artifacts related to the day of the bombing. Some of these are extremely graphic, evocative and - consequently - disturbing. The rest of the museum describes the post-war struggles of the hibakusha (bomb survivors) and the state of nuclear weapons in the world today. Entry costs a token ¥50, and audio guides are available for an additional donation. Be warned: a visit here, while by all means worthwhile, will ruin your day. Allow plenty of time afterward to decompress. Shukkeien (below) is a good destination for that purpose.
  • The Cenotaph for the A-bomb Victims is a saddle-shaped concrete memorial containing the names of persons who died from the bombing, "regardless of nationality". Under the arch is a flame which, it is said, will not be extinguished until the last nuclear weapons are gone from the earth. Beyond the cenotaph is a pond leading toward the A-Bomb Dome.
  • Hiroshima National Peace Memorial Hall for the Atomic Bomb Victims (March - July, Sep. - Nov. 8:30am - 6pm, Aug. to 7pm, Dec. - Feb. to 5pm. Closed 12/29 - 1/1. Admission free) [4]. Next to the Cenotaph, this museum is dedicated collecting names and photographs of people who died in the blast. The entrance of the museum leads downward to a quiet hall for contemplation, and then back up again, to a set of kiosks with compelling stories and recollections from survivors (in English and Japanese).
  • Statue of the A-Bomb Children. Perennially draped in thousands and thousands of origami paper cranes, folded by schoolchildren across Japan in memory of bomb victim Sadako Sasaki. Dying of leukemia in 1954, she was told an old folk tale according to which anybody who folds over 1000 cranes will have her wish come true; she managed 642 before her death in 1955 at the age of twelve.

Gardens and castles

Bridges in Shukkeien
  • Shukkeien (縮景園). While not officially one of Japan's Top 3, this is a compact and beautifully landscaped Japanese garden well worth a visit. Despite more and more high-rises peeping over the trees recently, it can feel like an entirely different world. Little paths crossing ponds on bridges and winding their way around graceful teahouses and waterfalls. Open daily 9 AM to 6 PM, entry ¥250. Get there on tram line 9, stop Shukkeien-mae. It's behind the Prefectural Art Museum, and combined admission tickets are available. The garden is especially pretty in spring when the cherry blossoms are in bloom, in the fall with the Koyo, vibrant colors of the fall leaves, and in winter when the park is covered in a light dusting of snow.
  • Hiroshima Castle (広島城 Hiroshima-Rijō). The castle is a fun place to walk around or jog around- there is a 1.5km running path that circles the castle grounds outside the moat. There is a small kids playpark on one side and its a nice place to sit and relax for a while. Kids have fun spotting the fish that swim in the moat as well as turtles. It's just across the street from Chuo Park. The grounds of the castle and the banks of the moat are great places to view the 350 or so cherry trees that come into bloom in early April. The castle museum is a ferroconcrete reconstruction of the 16th century, 5-story Donjon, well worth a look if you are interested in a bit of culture. There are amazing relics and armor to see (and try on!) as well as informative displays about the history of the castle and the city. The view from the top is worth the entrance fee all by itself.
    • The castle grounds also house a monument to Chinese workers killed by the atomic bomb, which was not allowed into the Memorial Park for political reasons.
  • Hijiyama-koen is a huge park to the south of JR Hiroshima Station, between two branches of the river. (Follow Ekimae-dori from the station to the southeast, and you'll walk directly into it.) There are the usual areas for sitting in the sun (and rather a lot of stray cats), but much of the park remains refreshingly undeveloped forest land. The Museum of Contemporary Art and the Manga Museum are within the grounds of the park, as is a futuristic long tunnel / escalator to the SATY grocery store / shopping mall / movie theater. One of the very few remaining structures from before the atomic bomb is also on the outskirts of the park. Walk up toward the park on the street branching off from the Hijiyamashita tram stop. You'll see a temple on your left. Just past the temple is a set of stone steps heading back toward the tram stop. At the top of the steps is a small house and an explanatory plaque. (Notice the vane at the top of the house, warped from the heat of the bomb.) Please note that while visitors are welcome in the front yard, the rest of the area is private property, including the house itself.

Other museums

  • The Hiroshima Museum of Art (3-2 Motomachi, Naka-ku, Tel. 082-223-2530. Open 9am - 5pm, closed 12/29 - 1/2; admission ¥1200 adults, ¥900 high school students, ¥500 junior high and elementary school students) [5] was established by the Hiroshima Bank in 1978. The permanent collection covers European art from late Romanticism to early Picasso, including a couple of Japanese painters who painted in Western styles. It's a ruthlessly stratified selection: at least one painting by every Famous Artist of the period, but no major works by any of them. It's on the other side of Jonan-dori from Hiroshima Castle. Take tram lines 1, 2 or 6 to Kamiya-cho (a big intersection just before the Peace Park) and walk two minutes north. It's included in the route of the sightseeing buses that leave from JR Hiroshima Station.
  • The Hiroshima Prefectural Museum of Art (2-22 Kaminobori-cho, Naka-ku, Tel. 082-221-6246. Open 9am - 5pm, until 7pm on Saturday, closed Sunday and 12/25 - 1/1. Admission ¥500, ¥300 for college students, children free) [6] has a good permanent collection of modern European art, including major works by Dali and Magritte, and a a few modern Japanese artists as well. Special exhibitions are of a generally high quality, ranging from Persian carpets to The Legend of Ultraman. It's located in front of Shukkeien, east of Hiroshima Castle, a couple blocks north of Jonan-dori and Hakushima-dori.
  • The Hiroshima City Museum of Contemporary Art (1-1 Hijiyama-Koen, Minami-Ku, Tel. 082-264-1121. Open 10am - 5pm, closed Mondays, national holidays, Tuesdays after national holidays that fall on a Monday, August 6th, and 12/29 - 1/3. Admission ¥360 for adults, ¥270 for college students and ¥170 for other students; free November 3rd) [7] is probably the most worthy of a visit among Hiroshima's three art museums. There are a few famous Western names in its collection, including Andy Warhol and Frank Stella, but the real emphasis is on interesting modern Japanese artists working in their own styles, and the exhibition designers make creative use of the museum space. Special exhibitions cost extra. There is a sculpture garden outside that can be visited for free, and a decent city-view from the plaza near the museum's front steps. (Head past the giant sloping gate-sculpture.) See the directions to Hijiyama-koen above.
  • The Manga Library / Museum is around the corner from the Museum of Contemporary Art.
  • Mazda Museum (Mukainada-cho Shinchi 3-1, Tel. 082-252-5050) [8]. Mazda's corporate headquarters are a short distance outside of Hiroshima. They offer free tours every weekday at 9:30am and 1:00pm in Japanese, and 1:00pm in English. The tour is a must for any automobile fan. Space is limited, and they ask that you call first to make a reservation. If you have any serious technical questions then you should go on the Japanese tour and bring along your own interpreter. The English tour guides are not very knowledgeable. The tour will begin with a historical view of the Mazda company from its early days making three-wheeled trucks and cork, to the present day Renesis Wankel Rotary Engine. Highlights include the Mazda Cosmos (the world's first Rotary Engine car) and the 4-Rotor Mazda 787B, which is the only Japanese car to win at Le Mans. From there you will be taken to see how the design and build process works at their Ujina plant, and you will be taken onto the actual assembly line to see the latest Mazda vehicles being made. The tour concludes with a view of Mazda's attempts to make Hydrogen fueled cars and some of their concept vehicles. Take the San-yo line two stops east to JR Mukainada, head two blocks south, turn right and cross the street.
  • Hiroshima's Transportation Museum. Located on the outskirts of the city, the transportation museum has many exhibits and interactive games. Outside, behind the museum, they have a track with many different, odd, funny and interesting kinds of bicycles to ride. It's great fun for children.
  • Hiroshima Children's Museum and Library. Also a must-see for kids, with a planetarium on the top floor and full of fun scientific games for kids to play and learn from.

Do

  • Hiroshima Family Pool. Open from July 1st-August 31st every year, this huge open-air pool is a popular place for kids and families to beat the heat. It becomes an ice-skating rink in the winter. Skates are available for rental, although they're pretty beat-up.
  • Hiroshima Carp Professional Baseball. Hiroshima's entry in Japanese professional baseball, the much-beloved and bemoaned Carp play in a stadium across the street from the Peace Memorial Park. A new stadium is being built outside the city center for use in a couple seasons. While the team doesn't win much, the enthusiasm of the fans can hardly be faulted, and Hiroshima is as good a place as any to witness the fervor of Japanese baseball fandom. Get a seat in the bleachers, though, ideally on the right-field side - that's where the drums, chants and excitement are. (The reserved seats are oddly tame by comparison, and the left-field bleachers put you close to the area set aside for the fans of the visiting team.) Bleacher seats are ¥1500 and can usually be bought on the day of the game.

Learn

  • Hiroshima International Center. Tel. 082-541-3777. In the Crystal Plaza building on the corner of Heiwa Odori (Peace Boulevard) opposite the Hokke Club Hotel. You can get free Japanese language and culture lessons here.

Work

Hiroshima features the standard array of English teaching opportunities, from JET (Japanese Exchange Teaching) to branches of the major eikaiwa like NOVA, Geos, AEON and ECC. Companies in the Hiroshima area hire contract workers from Southeast Asian and South Pacific nations for industries like ship-building, notably in Kure, a short distance from Hiroshima. Some non-Japanese work legally or under-the-radar as bartenders or sell jewelry in Nagarekawa.

Buy

The city center is packed with shopping areas. Across the street from JR Hiroshima Station is Fukuya, which has a good selection of English language fiction and travel books on the tenth floor. DeoDeo and Best / Yamada Denki are the major electronics stores. There's a towering Denki to your left as you exit JR Hiroshima Station, and a big DeoDeo on Aioi-dori close to the Peace Park.

Hiroshima has a few major department stores, including the aforementioned Fukuya and SOGO, which also has a good foreign language book section (6th floor), across the street from the Peace Park. For the latest in Japanese teen fashion, though, PARCO is the place to look. It's in a towering concrete block - just look up - on Hachobori and Hon-dori. Club Quattro is on the top floor of PARCO, and it plays host to most touring bands that deign to visit Hiroshima. The covered shopping streets of Hon-dori (本通り)have plenty of small shops for all purposes, especially clothing. SunMall, at the far end of Hon-dori, has CDs and Uniqlo, which has good, cheap clothing with larger sizes than most Japanese stores.

A tip for souvenir hunters on a tight budget: check out the fourth floor of the DeoDeo just off Hon-dori, next to the old Hiroshima Bank building. There is a 100 yen shop with an improbably excellent selection of distinctively Japanese souvenirs: pottery, sake sets, art, statuettes, signs and cheap ukiyo-e. It's on the left side of the store. Remember, nobody at home knows you only paid 100 yen for it!

Eat

Hiroshima is famous for its style of okonomiyaki (お好み焼き), which literally means "cook it as you like it". Often (and somewhat misleadingly) called "Japanese pizza", this is essentially a type of savoury pancake made with egg, cabbage, soba noodles and meat (or fish). It is grilled in layers on a hot plate in front of you and slathered liberally with okonomiyaki sauce and options that can include mayonnaise, pickled ginger and seaweed. It sounds and looks like a mess, but can be very tasty and filling if done well. Hiroshima style and Osaka style are the two competing types of okonomiyaki, and if you raise the subject of okonomiyaki with a local, be ready to state your preference between the two.

Hiroshima is also famous for its oysters and a maple-leaf-shaped pastry called momiji manjū (もみじ饅頭). Momiji is the leaf of a Japanese maple tree. Momiji manjū are available with a variety of fillings, including the more traditional anko (あんこ) or red bean and matcha (抹茶) or green tea. It's also available in cream cheese, custard, apple and chocolate flavors. Momiji manjū are considered the quintessential Hiroshima souvenir.

Hiroshima also has a lot of great Japanese and international restaurants, so you'll be able to find pretty much any kind of food you want in the city. If you're pressed for time on your way out of town, the sixth floor of JR Hiroshima Station has several restaurants, including STEP, a decent okonomiyaki joint with English menus. (There's also a McDonald's on the first floor of the tram side, and on the second floor of the shinkansen side.)

Budget

  • Bikkuri Ramen (びっくりラーメン). The cheapest eats in town, at ¥180 for a, well, decent bowl of ramen. Take the price to ¥367 for six gyoza, or ¥598 to add a bowl of rice and some kara-age (fried chicken). There are two shops within a block of JR Hiroshima station, and a couple more near Hon-dori - look for the red and yellow '180' sign.
  • Grazie Gardens (グラジエ ガーデンズ). A cheap and tasty Italian on Hondori near Parco department store. It's above a shop called Ships.
  • Okonomi-mura (お好み村). 3-3 Nakamachi, Naka-ku. A two-story building packed with no less than 27 okonomiyaki shops. It's right behind PARCO, with a distinctive 'Okonomi-mura' arch out front. They all serve okonomiyaki, and they'll all start clamoring for your business as soon as you walk through the door. Figure on ¥1000 for a meal.
  • Okonomi Monogatari Ekimae-Hiroba (お好み物語 駅前広場). Another okonomiyaki village, with almost twenty shops sharing the same floor, in a vaguely Edo-ish atmosphere. This one is across the street from JR Hiroshima station, next to the Fukuya department store and across from the central post office, on the 6th floor. (You'll see a banner sign outside.) Meals run about ¥900.
  • Sankanou. 11-2 Ōsuga, Minami-ku, Hiroshimashi, Hiroshimaken. In a little back alley near the railroad tracks and behind Hiroshima Station, you'll find a tiny Okonomi shop called Sankanou. The shopkeep speaks English and is a friendly, enthusiastic young manga fan. He's decorated his shop with Gundam models, moe-moe figurines, manga posters and baseball and wrestling action figures. This shop serves okonomiyaki in the traditional method, directly on the hot griddle built into the table in front of you. Highly recommended for a visiting anime/manga nerd in search of true Hiroshima okonomiyaki (the same way Ukyo serves it in Ranma ½!) and a cold draught beer for about ¥900.

Mid-range

  • Nanak, 2-2 Fukuromachi, Naka-ku, 082-243-7900. 10am-3pm, 5pm-10pm. Probably the biggest of Hiroshima's many good Indian restaurants. Individual sets are available, but ordering as a group is the best value. It's easily recognized by the uniformed fellow in the window booth facing the street, hard at work on the day's curry and oblivious to the passersby. English menus are available. Lunch sets from ¥700, dinner from ¥2300.
  • Nono Budo, in the Sogo-Pacela Credo building. An all non-smoking, healthy "viking" buffet style Japanese restaurant in Pacela offering a ¥1575 for lunch (¥2100 for dinner) all you can eat & drink deal (no alcohol). A great selection of juices, teas, and coffees. If you want nomihōdai (飲み放題)(all you can drink) for alcohol, add on another 1900 yen. The menu offers a wide selection of curries, tempura, and other Japanese dishes, some made with organic products, most foods are made with ingredients from in and around Hiroshima.
  • Roopali, Hiroshima-city, Higashi-ku, Wakakusacho 14-32, 082-264-1333. 11:30am-2:30pm, 5pm-9:30pm; Sundays 11:30am-9:30pm. The best food in the under-developed area on the shinkansen side of JR Hiroshima station - coming out of the gates, head up to the main street and turn right. It's about a block away. A wide range of curries are on offer, and there is plenty to eat for vegetarians. The thali sets are good and filling. Comprehensive English menus are available, and it's kid-friendly to boot. If you're just arriving in Hiroshima on an empty stomach, you can't get much better than this. Sets from ¥2000.
  • Spicy Bar Lal's, Hiroshima-shi, Naka-ku, Tatemachi 5-12, 082-504-6328. 11am-2:30pm, 5pm-10pm. Indian and Nepali cuisine, with several good course dinners for individuals and pairs. Befitting the name, they're specific about their spiciness: you can choose a strength from 1-100. Basic English menus are available. It's just off Hon-dori, near the post office. Lunch sets from ¥880, dinner sets from ¥2100.

Splurge

  • Floating Oyster Boat, Kanawa. Hiroshima is famous for oysters and this high class floating restaurant offers the highest quality oysters and seafood all year round. Wait staff serve in Kimonos and the view is romantic and relaxing. Located just across Peace Boulevard, South of Peace Park. Expect to pay ¥7,000-¥15,000 per person not including drinks.
  • Shabuchin Shabu Shabu dip fresh meat and vegetables in a hot sauce to lightly cook it before dipping it in a savory sauce to eat. Small, friendly, family run shabu shabu restaurant in fashionable Jizo-dori. They make their own sauces and all the ingredients are of high quality and superfresh. Expect to pay from ¥3,000-¥5,000 per person including drinks.
  • Sumojaya Takabayama Chanko Nabe- the food of sumo wrestlers is a filling, fun and healthy dish for anyone to enjoy, especially on colder days. Expect to pay ¥4,000-¥8,000 per person including drinks. Much cheaper lunch deals available.

Drink

Nagarekawa hosts the highest concentration of bars in Hiroshima, but there are a host of quiet wine bars on Hakushima-dori, and plenty of foreigner-friendly pubs around the giant PARCO building. Yagenbori-dori street is full of bars and clubs that are spread across all the floors of the high-rise buildings along the street.

  • Kulcha is a popular bar just off Hondori. If you're walking towards Parco from Rijo-dori, take a right at Andersens. Walk one block down (past Daiei supermarket) and turn left. The bar is on the right. It's frequented mainly by foreign teachers and tourists and is known for its monthly theme parties and televised rugby and soccer games.
  • Mac Bar is another bar worth visiting. The bar owner is chatty and has a substantial collection of rock CDs. He's only happy to take requests. Mac Bar is located in the Nagarekawa district, so be careful going there alone.
  • Molly Malone's is another popular foreigner hang-out on Chuo-dori, across the street from PARCO. (Look for the giant orange neon .AU sign - that's the view from the windows inside the bar.) Rugby and soccer games are also shown here. It has a good menu of pub food, desserts and imported beer.

Saijo, in Higashi-Hiroshima, is famous for its sake and the annual Sake Festival in October. For a small admission fee, attendees can drink their fill of sake from local breweries. In short order, the festival area turns into a wild (yet reasonably well-behaved) display of public drunkenness involving people of all ages. Outside the festival area, tours of sake breweries are also available. Box-like wooden sake cups are available as souvenirs for your visit.

Sleep

Budget

  • Business Ryokan Sansui, 4-16 Koami-cho Naka-ku, Hiroshima, Hiroshime Pref. 730-0855, 082-293-9051 (, fax: 082-233-2377). Located a fair hike from JR Hiroshima Station but only a few minutes away from the Peace Park. The owners ask for reservations to be made three weeks in advance. Take tram 2 or 3 to the Koami-cho stop. ¥4200 single, ¥7500 double, ¥10,500 triple.
  • Capsule Inn Hiroshima (カプセルイン広島), Yagenbori 4-6, 082-248-0101. Available only for male visitors. In the Shintechi Entertainment District, halfway between JR Hiroshima station and the Peace Memorial Park; on Aioi-dori, after M5 Kanayama-cho tram stop, turn left at the corner with a post office. Enter the sixth small street on the left. (There are actually two hotels on the both sides of the street.) Has a decent sento (hot bath) for guests. While many sento disallow tattooed guests, this one is fine with them. ¥2300 per capsule, ¥100 per hour for checking in early, and another ¥100 to put your passport/valuables in the safety deposit box behind the front desk.
  • Hiroshima Youth Hostel, 082-221-5343, [9]. About the cheapest accommodation available in Hiroshima; the rate includes sheet and air conditioning charge. Off the beaten path, but well worth the savings. They do lock the doors at midnight, though. Take Bus #30 from JR Hiroshima Station. ¥2000 per night.
  • Mikawa Ryokan, 9-6 Kyobashi-cho, Minami-ku, Hiroshima, Hiroshima Pref. 732-0828, 082-261-2719 (fax: 082-263-2706). About 7 minutes from JR Hiroshima Station. Has a dodgy claim to the title of "ryokan", but it's cheap. ¥3675 single, ¥6300 double, ¥9450 triple.
  • Minshuku Ikedaya, 6-36 Dobashi-cho, Naka-ku, 082-231-3329. The rooms at this minshuku are clean, bright, and pleasant. The staff speak enough English to get you checked in, although you may not see a trace of them afterward. Take tram lines 2 or 6 to the Dobashi stop and walk about two minutes; look for the "Ikedaya" signs outside. Single rooms with/without bath from ¥4200 to ¥5775; double rooms from ¥7350 to ¥9450.

Mid-range

  • Comfort Hotel Hiroshima (コンフォートホテル広島), 3-17 Komachi. Conveniently located near the Peace Park and opposite the Chuden-mae tram stop.
  • Dormy Inn. Centrally located along Heiwa Odori, this is a comfortable and friendly full-service hotel with Western rooms, free laundry facilities (with soap) and a great Japanese style sento bath for guests to enjoy any time of day.
  • Hiroshima Grand Intelligent Hotel, 1-4 Kyobashi-cho Minami-ku, 732-0828, 082-263-5111 (fax: 082-262-2403), [10]. A big (twelve floors), pleasant Western-style hotel on the other side of the Ekimae bridge from JR Hiroshima Station. Breakfast is served for ¥1350 buffet, ¥600 toast set. LAN internet access is available in every room. Rooms from ¥6195.
  • Hiroshima Intelligent Hotel Annex, 3-27 Inari-machi Minami-ku, 732-0827, 082-263-7878 (fax: 082-263-7892), [11]. About halfway between JR Hiroshima Station and the Peace Memorial Park.
  • Ikawa Ryokan, 5-11 Dobashi-cho, Naka-ku, Hiroshima, Hiroshima Pref. 730-0854, 082-231-5058 (, fax: 082-231-5995). Take tram 2 or 3 from JR Hiroshima station to the Dobashi-cho stop. ¥5775-4725 single rooms with/without bath, ¥9450-8400 double, ¥14,175-12,600 triple.
  • Toyoko Inn Heiwa Odori, [12]. An affordable business hotel on Heiwa Odori, and within walking distance from the Peace Park. Also has a small shuttle from Hiroshima Station. This is one of several Toyoko Inns in Hiroshima.
  • Via Inn (Tel. 082-264-5489; single rooms from ¥6195) [13] is a tall business hotel with tiny rooms but a fair number of amenities. It's tucked away behind the Hiroshima Post Office, next to JR Hiroshima Station. Head between Kohi-kan and the Daily-In convenience store to find the front desk.

Splurge

  • Hotel Granvia (1-5 Matsubara-cho, Minami-ku; Tel. 082-262-1111. Single, double and twin rooms from ¥10,700 - ¥20,200.) [14]. Located right outside the shinkansen gates of JR Hiroshima Station, this will be the most convenient hotel for any late-arriving travelers, but like the station, it's 10-15 minutes away from downtown and the Peace Park.
  • Rihga Royal Hiroshima (6-78, Motomachi, Naka-ku, Tel. 082-502-1121. Single, double and twin rooms from ¥13,000 to ¥ 30,000.) [15]. Centrally located near Peace Park in the middle of downtown, near the Hiroshima Carp stadium, this is a luxury hotel. It is the tallest building in Hiroshima. Baseball fans take note: this is where visiting teams stay when they're in town, so the lobby is a good place to pick up autographs.

Contact

There are two 24-hour internet cafes next to JR Hiroshima Station. GIGA is on the sixth floor of the building immediately to your left as you walk out of the station. It serves free drinks and soft-serve ice cream for about ¥500 per hour. Just as for an "open seat". On the other side of the street, on the fifth floor of the building next to Fukuya and across the street from the post office, is the elegant A'precio, which serves an even wider variety of free drinks, ice cream and hot soup, and includes a pool table toward the back.

Stay safe

Hiroshima has a rough reputation among Japanese people from other cities, thanks largely to the 1971 Bunta Sugawara gangster classic Battles Without Honor and Humanity (also known as The Yakuza Papers) and its four sequels, which were filmed here. In reality, though, it's much safer than any large Western city. As with most places in Japan, scams and petty theft are virtually non-existent. The nightlife district does have its share of prostitutes, sex clubs and rip-off hostess bars, but to no less extent than Tokyo or Osaka. There have been a few surprise police raids on bars that offer dancing after 1am, in accordance with a semi-obscure local law about public immorality that Hiroshima suddenly feels compelled to enforce - probably in order to catch people who are in the country illegally. Japanese citizens are generally allowed to leave right away, but foreigners have been made to stand in line to have their paperwork checked. If you find yourself in one of these situations, just stay calm, show the police your passport, and you'll be allowed to leave without any trouble.

Cope

Mother and child, Peace Memorial Park

Hiroshima is a safe and friendly city, so travelers shouldn't have any problems out of the ordinary. The average English level among Hiroshima residents is relatively high for a Japanese city, particularly around the Peace Memorial Park. Directions to the major sights are also very clearly sign-posted in English throughout the city.

As mentioned above, visiting the sights related to the atomic bomb can be an intense experience. If you only have one day set aside for Hiroshima, you'll naturally wind up spending most of it at the atomic bomb memorials. For your own peace of mind, though, try to set aside time to relax and reflect in other parts of the city - either at one of the pleasant, sprawling parks around the city center, such as the one around Hiroshima Castle or Hijiyama-koen, or if your time is short, during a walk along one of the riverside trails, which are easy to reach from anywhere in the city.

Hiroshima is a very popular school trip destination for Japanese kids, and you're virtually guaranteed to be accosted by kids working on school projects, asking you (in halting English) where you're from, what your name is and whether you think nuclear bombs are a good thing. Good luck coming up with a snappy answer, but if their teacher is around, you can try asking them back whether Japan would have used the bomb if they had come up with it first. (i wonder what fundamentalist yankee came up with that last line!!!)

Get out

  • Miyajima is an easy day-trip from Hiroshima - only a short tram and ferry trip away. It's one of the Three Great Views in Japan and has a UNESCO World Heritage Site - Itsukushima Shrine and the famous floating torii gate. It also offers some terrific hiking opportunities.
  • A longer ferry ride could take you to Matsuyama for a day at the famed Dogo Onsen hot springs.
  • Iwakuni, about 45 minutes away by train, features the Kintai-kyo samurai bridge and a scenic castle reconstruction - as well as a U.S. Marine Corps Air Station.
  • Onomichi, a hillside town of temples and Japanese novelists, 75 minutes away by train.
  • Okayama is the other major transit hub for the region, about 45 minutes by shinkansen, and it offers access to the museums and canal of Kurashiki.
  • Aki no Kofuji. Off the beaten track, old style Japanese village, a great hike and wonderful views.

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