Hiroshima (広島)  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.
Across the river from the Peace Memorial Park
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 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.
Although many visitors, especially Americans, may feel apprehensive about visiting Hiroshima, it is a friendly, welcoming city, with as much interest in Western culture as anywhere else in Japan. 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 the city, and even most of the young people in Hiroshima have family members who lived through the 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 Park brings it up.
Unfortunately, most travelers experience Hiroshima during the worst weather of the year, in July and August, when days of heavy rain give way to brutal, muggy heat. Don't book accommodations without air conditioning if that's when you're planning to visit. September is a tricky proposition — it starts abysmally hot, but in the latter half of the month, warm and pleasant days are interspersed with typhoons powerful enough to wreck buildings (such as the one that nearly destroyed Itsukushima Shrine on Miyajima in 2004) and keep travelers locked up in their hotels.
October and November are ideal, with less rain and cool, refreshing temperatures. The winter months are fine for a visit — the weather is dry, with very little rain or snow, and the temperatures are rarely cold enough to keep you indoors. As elsewhere in Japan, though, a number of museums are closed from 12/29 to 1/1 (or 1/3).
April and May also have excellent weather. The cherry blossoms come out in early April, and the parks around Hiroshima Castle will be a mob scene with hanami parties. For sakura with a bit more solitude, go for a hike on Ushita-yama, overlooking the north exit of JR Hiroshima Station (see Recreation).
- Eleanor Coerr's Sadako and the Thousand Paper Cranes tells the true story of Sadako Sasaki, a young bomb victim who was inspired to fold cranes by a Japanese folk tale, which said that anyone who folds over a thousand cranes will have their wish come true. According to some versions of the story, Sadako completed more than a thousand before she died of leukemia at the age of twelve; in Coerr's book, she finished about 640 before died, and her schoolmates completed the rest in her memory.
- John Hersey's Hiroshima is a short but gripping book that describes the experiences of six people — five Japanese citizens and a German priest — before and after the blast. It was originally published as an issue-length article in The New Yorker in August 1946. Almost forty years later, Hersey returned to Hiroshima to write a follow-up article, which continues the survivors' stories in the post-war years, and it is included in new editions of the book.
- Masuji Ibuse's Black Rain is a novel about the post-war experiences of a family of hibakusha as they face discrimination in post-war Japanese society for both employment and marriage, and cope with health problems from radiation poisoning, the consequences of which were barely understood by doctors of the time.
- Keiji Nakazawa's Barefoot Gen is the most popular manga treatment of the atomic bomb story, based loosely on Nakazawa's own experience as a young boy in the days immediately after the blast.
- Many Japanese people also associate Hiroshima with the yakuza, thanks to the 1971 Bunta Sugawara / Kinji Fukasaku gangster classic Battles Without Honor and Humanity (also known as The Yakuza Papers) and its four sequels, which were set in the city.
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 (North Exit), facing the silver Peace Pagoda on top of Ushita-yama. If you cross under or through the station to the main side (South Exit), 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 (just past the Lawson convenience store). 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 on the third floor of the SOGO Department Store, down the street from the Peace Park. 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 just to the west of 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, which is a scenic 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.
Hiroshima Airport (IATA: HIJ)  connects to domestic destinations in Japan. Both ANA and JAL offer flights from Tokyo Haneda and Sapporo Chitose airports. ANA also offers flights from Narita, Sendai and Okinawa. There are direct international flights from Bangkok, Beijing, Dalian, Guam, Shanghai, Seoul, and Taipei.
Buses connect the airport to JR Hiroshima Station (48 minutes, ¥1300) and the Hiroshima Bus Center (51-53 minutes, ¥1300). There are also buses from the airport to Okayama, Onomichi, Iwakuni, Tottori, and other spots in the Chugoku region.
Hiroshima is a major station on the JR West  San'yo Shinkansen line, with Hikari use covered by the Japan Rail Pass. It is roughly 40 minutes from Okayama (¥5350) and 90 minutes from Shin-Osaka (¥9440). Tokyo is four hours away via Nozomi (¥17,540) and five hours via Hikari (change trains once at Shin-Kobe or Himeji).
Traveling overnight by train from Tokyo, you can take the 10PM Sunrise Izumo/Sunrise Seto train to Okayama (arrival at 6:27 AM the next morning), then take an early shinkansen to Hiroshima, arriving around 7:45 AM.
Regular train services run through Hiroshima on the San'yo Main Line (between Kobe and Kagoshima, along with several smaller, local lines.
Long-distance buses run from the north exit (shinkansen side) of JR Hiroshima Station and the Hiroshima Bus Center.
The New Breeze overnight bus runs from Tokyo to Hiroshima. There are two nightly departures in each direction: departing from Tokyo at 8PM and 9PM, with both buses arriving in Hiroshima at 8AM the next day. The trip costs ¥11,600 one way, ¥21,200 round trip.
There are two overnight buses from Osaka — the Sanyo Dream Hiroshima from JR Osaka Station and the Venus from the Namba bus terminal. Both cost ¥5700 one way, ¥11,000 round trip. One overnight bus runs from Kyoto between JR Kyoto Station and Hiroshima at (¥6300 one way, ¥11400 round trip).
Daytime express buses run from Osaka (about five hours each way), with five departures daily (¥5000 one way, ¥9000 round trip) and two from Kyoto (5 1/2 hours, ¥5500 one way, ¥10000 round trip).
Among the many discount bus carriers that ply these routes, 123bus  runs day and night services from Tokyo (¥6900 one way), Osaka (¥3400) and Fukuoka (¥2700), with an English call center (050-5805-0383).
Ferries dock at Hiroshima's Ujina Port, which also serves as terminus for several tram lines. Ishizaki Kisen  operates daily service to and from Matsuyama in Shikoku, with some boats stopping in Kure (呉) along the way. The ride takes 70-80 minutes to reach Matsuyama and costs ¥6300 each way. Slower ferries arrive in about 2 1/2 hours at a much-reduced cost of ¥2700.
Hiroshima is the last major city in Japan with an extensive tram (streetcar) network. Hiroden  (広電) is 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.
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.
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, in front of Hotel Granvia.
The modern Astram  (アストラムライン) links the city center with the northern suburbs, although there are only a few tourist sights out that way. Trips range from ¥180-470 by distance, with departures every few minutes between 6AM-midnight. The underground station at the end of Hon-dori, near the Peace Park, is the terminus in the city center.
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.
Peace Memorial Park
Most of the memorials related to the atomic bomb are 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 T-shaped Aioi Bridge, which is thought to have been the target of the bomb.
There is no entry fee for the Peace Park as a whole, and access is not restricted at night, when the A-Bomb Dome is lit by concealed flood-lights.
- Hiroshima Peace Memorial. Better known as the A-Bomb Dome (原爆ドーム Genbaku Dōmu). 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. Today, the benches around A-Bomb Dome are a favorite spot for Hiroshima natives to read, eat lunch, or simply relax.
Kannon statue draped with origami cranes, Peace Memorial Park
- Peace Memorial Museum (平和記念資料館 ''Heiwa Kinen Shiryōkan''), 1-2 Nakajimama-cho, Naka-ku, ☎ 082-242-7798, . 8:30AM-6PM March-Nov, to 5PM Dec-Feb, to 7PM Aug, closed 12/29-1/1. This heart-wrenching museum documents the bomb and its aftermath, complete with scale models of "before" and "after", melted 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. The museum largely refrains from presenting any particular political point of view except to appeal for world peace and for the abolition of nuclear weapons. Be warned: a visit here, while absolutely worthwhile, will ruin your day. Allow plenty of time afterward to decompress. Entry costs a token ¥50 adults, ¥30 kids; audio guides are available for an additional donation.
- Cenotaph for the A-Bomb Victims. 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. The Japanese inscription reads, "Rest in peace, for the error shall not be repeated". Beyond the cenotaph is a pond leading toward the A-Bomb Dome.
- Hiroshima National Peace Memorial Hall for the Atomic Bomb Victims, 1-6 Nakajima-cho, Naka-ku, ☎ 082-543-6271, . 8:30AM-6PM March-July, Sep-Nov; Dec-Feb to 5PM, Aug to 7PM, closed 12/29-1/1. 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). Admission free.
Cenotaph for the A-Bomb Victims
Statue of the A-Bomb Children
- Statue of the A-Bomb Children. Perennially draped in thousands of origami paper cranes folded by schoolchildren across Japan in the memory of the young bomb victim Sadako Sasaki (see Literature).
- The Bell of Peace. Near the northern end of the park. Engraved on its surface is a world map drawn without borders to symbolize world unity. The public are free to ring it.
- International Conference Center, ☎ 082-247-9715. 9AM-7PM May-November, 10AM-6PM December-April. Near the center of the Peace Park, this office can provide English-language information about the statues and memorials, as well as basic city information.
Outside the Peace Park
- Hypocenter. One block east of the A-Bomb Dome, outside Shima Clinic, is a plaque which marks the point above which the bomb exploded.
- Another surviving structure from before the atomic bomb is on the outskirts of Hijiyama-koen. Walk up toward the park on the street branching upward 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.
- Hiroshima Castle (広島城 ''Hiroshima-jō''), 21-1 Moto-machi, Naka-ku, ☎ 082-221-7512. 9AM-6PM, to 5PM Dec-Feb. The original Carp (Rijo) Castle was built in the 1590s by Hideyoshi's warlord Terumoto Mōri, predating the city itself. It was destroyed by the atomic bomb, by which time it was serving as a military headquarters, and reconstructed in 1958. Some of the original concrete foundations can still be seen. Today, the castle grounds are a nice place for a walk, and definitely Hiroshima's favorite place for hanami (cherry blossom parties), with more than 350 sakura trees. The five-story castle museum is a ferroconcrete reconstruction of the 16th century donjon, with interesting relics and armor to see (and try on), as well as some informative displays about the history of the castle and the city. The view from the top is worth the entrance fee all by itself. ¥360 adults, ¥180 kids.
- Gokoku-jinja, 2-21 Motomachi, Naka-ku, ☎ 082-221-5590, . A concrete shrine on the castle grounds. It has great significance to locals, having been rebuilt after the atomic blast and now the center for most annual Shinto traditions in the city, but there's nothing to see for travelers unless you're looking for New Year's Eve festivities.
- Hiroshima Children's Museum, 5-83 Motomachi, Naka-ku (Genbaku domu-mae tram stop), ☎ 082-222-5346, . Tu-Su 9AM-5PM. Great fun for kids, with hand-on science exhibits and a planetarium on the top floor. There's also a library with a few shelves of English language books. ¥500 adults, ¥250 kids.
- Hiroshima Museum of Art, 3-2 Motomachi, Naka-ku (Kamiya-cho tram stop), ☎ 082-223-2530, . 9AM-5PM. 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. There's 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. ¥1000 adults, ¥500 teens, ¥200 kids.
- Hijiyama-koen, (Hijiyamashita tram stop). 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, save for a futuristic tunnel to a neighboring shopping complex.
- Hiroshima City Manga Library, 1-4 Hijiyama-koen, Minami-ku, ☎ 082-261-0330, . Tu-Su 10AM-5PM. Around the corner from the City Museum of Contemporary Art (below). The vast majority of the manga are in Japanese, of course, but they do have a selection of Western superhero comics. Free.
- Hiroshima City Museum of Contemporary Art (Hiroshima MOCA), 1-1 Hijiyama-Koen, Minami-ku, ☎ 082-264-1121, . Tu-Su 10AM-5PM. Probably the most deserving of a visit among Hiroshima's art museums. There are a few famous Western names in its collection, including Andy Warhol and Frank Stella, but the real focus 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.) ¥360 adults, ¥270 college students, and ¥170 for other students.
- Hiroshima City Transportation Museum, 2-12-2 Chorakuji, Asaminami-ku (Astram to Chorakuji Station), ☎ 082-878-6211, . Tu-Su 9AM-5PM. Located on the outskirts of the city, the Transportation Museum has exhibits and interactive games about planes, trains, ships, and cars of the past, present, and future — and a transit nerd's treasure trove of details about the history and model numbers of Hiroshima's streetcars. (Tram #654, which remained in service after the atomic blast, is on display.) Outside, behind the museum, there is a track with many odd, funny and interesting kinds of bicycles to ride. It's great fun for children. Free on the first floor, elsewhere ¥500 adults, ¥250 kids.
- Hiroshima Prefectural Museum of Art, 2-22 Kaminobori-cho, Naka-ku (Shukkeien-mae tram stop), ☎ 082-221-6246, . Tu-Su 9AM-5PM, Sa to 7PM. 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. ¥500 adults, ¥300 for college students, children free.
- Mazda Museum, 3-1 Mukainada-cho, Shinchi, ☎ 082-252-5050, . Tours weekdays 9:30AM and 1PM in Japanese, 1PM in English. Space is limited, and they ask that you call first to make a reservation. Mazda's corporate headquarters are a short distance outside of Hiroshima. The tour is a must for any automobile fan, but if you have any serious technical questions, then you should go on the Japanese tour and bring along your own interpreter, as there's less detail on the English tour. Highlights include the Mazda Cosmos (the world's first car with a rotary engine) and the 4-Rotor Mazda 787B, which is the only Japanese car to win at Le Mans. From there you will be taken to their Ujina plant and the actual assembly line, with a look at some of their concept vehicles. To get there, take the San'yo line two stops east to JR Mukainada Station, head two blocks south, turn right, and cross the street. Free.
- Shukkeien (縮景園), 2-11 Kami-noborimachi, Naka-ku (Shukkeien-mae tram stop), ☎ 082-221-3620, . 9AM-5PM, April to 6PM. While not officially one of Japan's Top 3, this compact and beautifully landscaped Japanese garden is well worth a visit, and an ideal place to decompress from the atomic bomb sites. Despite more and more high-rises peeping over the trees recently, Shukkeien can feel like an entirely different world, with little paths crossing ponds on bridges and winding their way around graceful teahouses and waterfalls. It's directly behind the Prefectural Art Museum, and combined admission tickets are available. ¥250.
- Flower Festival, . First weekend of May. This is Hiroshima's biggest festival, begun in 1975 to celebrate the Carp's first baseball championship. There are food vendors and things for sale, but live performances now dominate the program, with comedians and J-pop bands on stages along Heiwa-odori. It's the smaller performances that make the Flower Festival worthwhile, though, particularly in the stalls near Jizo-dori, where you might stumble across a phenomenal Okinawan band or a local jazz combo. Admission is free.
- Peace Memorial Ceremony, Peace Memorial Park, ☎ 082-504-2103, . August 6th. Held each year on the anniversary of the atomic bombing, with many hibakusha in attendance. Ceremonies are held in the morning (8:15AM, the time the bomb was dropped). The air raid sirens sound, followed by a minute of silence, and then appeals for peace by the mayor of Hiroshima. There's also a ceremony in the evening (8PM), when a thousand colorful lanterns are floated down the river in front of the. Admission is free.
- Sake Festival, . Early October. The suburb of Saijo is famous for its sake breweries and this annual boozy blow-out. For the price of entry, 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, with wood sake cups are available as souvenirs for your visit. JR Saijo Station is just a couple of stops from Hiroshima — you'll be swept up in the crowds as soon as you arrive. Tickets ¥1000 in advance, ¥1500 at the festival.
- Food Festival, . Last weekend in October. This one's pretty simple — food, glorious food of all kinds, from international delicacies to local favorites, from roasted slabs of meat and seafood to delicious vegetarian-friendly dishes and desserts, served in stalls lining the moat of Hiroshima Castle and areas nearby. There's a flea market as well, and usually some cultural performances at the Castle in the evening. Admission is free — pay for what you eat.
- Hike to the Peace Pagoda. The climb to the Pagoda is not to be missed if you come here. Not only does the Pagoda look great but you'll get a good panorama of Hiroshima city from there.
- 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.
- San Frecce J-League soccer game at the Big Arch stadium.
Hiroshima features the standard array of English teaching opportunities, with branches of major eikaiwa like Geos, AEON and ECC as well as small, niche language schools. The Hiroshima International Center (see Contact) is a good place to make inquiries, as is a Saturday night at The Shack or Kemby's (see Drink).
Mazda is largest employer of foreign personnel in the area, due to their relationship with Ford Motors in Detroit and their manufacturing plants in South America. Contract workers from Southeast Asia and the South Pacific are brought in by Hiroshima-based firms for industries such as ship-building, notably in the nearby city of Kure.
Some non-Japanese work legally — or under-the-radar — as bartenders or sell jewelry in Nagarekawa, which motivates occasional visa crackdowns (see Stay safe).
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!
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 savory pancake made with egg, cabbage, soba noodles, and meat (or fish or cheese). It is grilled in layers on a hot plate in front of you and slathered liberally with okonomiyaki sauce, with optional extras such as mayonnaise, pickled ginger, and seaweed. It sounds and looks like a mess, but can be very tasty and filling. Hiroshima style and Osaka style are the two competing types of okonomiyaki, and if you raise the subject with a local, be ready to state your preference between the two.
Hiroshima is also famous for its oysters (available between October and March) 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), red bean and matcha (抹茶), or green tea; it's also available in cream cheese, custard, apple and chocolate flavors. Boxes of momiji manjū are considered the quintessential Hiroshima souvenir, but Miyajima is the best place to buy it fresh.
If you're pressed for time on your way out of town, the sixth floor of JR Hiroshima Station has a good, cheap ramen shop, an udon shop, a decent izakaya, a conveyor belt sushi place, and STEP, a good okonomiyaki joint with English menus. There are Japanese and American chain restaurants clustered near the station, including Starbucks on the third floor (south exit), Yoshinoya outside the north exit, and McDonald's on both sides of the station.
- Jupiter Import Foods, JR Hiroshima Station (north exit), ☎ 082-242-7371, . 9AM-9:30PM. If you're making dinner at your hotel or missing a certain snack, Jupiter packs a lot of imported foods and alcohol into a pretty small space, with a good selection of standard Western fare and others, particularly Thai and curries. They tend to have a basket or two of free dessert samples near the entrance. There's an entrance right outside the shinkansen ticket machines and outside the station as well.
- Okonomi-mura (お好み村), 3-3 Nakamachi, Naka-ku, ☎ 082-241-2210, . The shops keep their own hours, but most will be open around 11AM, and a few stay open until 2-3AM. Three floors packed with no less than 27 okonomiyaki shops. This, indeed, is Hiroshima culinary nirvana. They all serve beer and okonomiyaki with some variations (kim-chee oysters, etc), and they'll all start clamoring for your business as soon as you walk through the door. It's right behind PARCO, with a distinctive 'Okonomi-mura' arch out front. Figure on ¥700-1500 for a meal.
- Okonomi Monogatari Ekimae-Hiroba (お好み物語 駅前広場), Hiroshima Full Focus Bldg. 6 Fl. 10-1 Matsubara-cho, Minami-ku, ☎ 082-568-7890. 10AM-11PM. 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. (You'll see a banner sign outside.) Meals run about ¥900.
- Otis!, 1-20 Kako-machi, Naka-ku, ☎ 082-249-3885, . M-Sa 12PM-11PM, Su 5PM-11PM. Serving Tex-Mex in Hiroshima for more than twenty years, Otis! is the most vegetarian and organic-friendly restaurant in town. They also have a fairly busy schedule of live music, both Japanese and international. Most meals ¥700-1200, shows ¥2300-4500 including a drink.
- Sankanou (三冠王), 11-2 Ōsuga, Higashi-ku, . A tiny okonomi shop in a little back alley near the railroad tracks and beside Hiroshima Station. 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!) Food and a cold draught beer for about ¥900.
- Tachikoma (たちこま), Hijiyama-dori. A small okonomiyaki restaurant about 300m coming from Hijiyama Park towards the main JR Station on the right. At least as good as the Okonomi-mura restaurants. You can also take-away your okonomiyaki. Figure on ¥1000 for a meal.
- J Cafe, 4-20 Fujimi-cho, ☎ 082-242-1234. Su-Th 12PM-2AM, F-Sa 3AM. A stylish cafe with a menu of lighter fare such as waffles, sandwiches, and crepes. The comfy red couches make it a place to hang out for a while, which locals do — note the late hours. It's just off the intersection of Heiwa-odori and Jizo-dori. (The circle 'J' logo is easily mistaken for an @ sign.) ¥1400-2000.
- Kurobutaya (黒豚屋), On Funairi-dori in Dobashi-cho, ☎ 082-295-9510. Offers an English menu and a variety of small dishes. Perfect to have a taste of many things. Nice izakaya-like ambiance with jazzy tunes and friendly staff. Expect —2000 with a drink.
- 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, 78-6 Motomachi (Sogo-Pacela Credo Building, 7th floor), ☎ 082-502-3340. 11AM-3PM, 5:30PM-9PM. A non-smoking, healthy "viking" buffet style Japanese restaurant. 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. They have a great selection of juices, teas, and coffees, too. ¥1575 for lunch (¥2100 for dinner) all you can eat & drink deal (no alcohol). If you want ''nomihōdai'' (飲み放題）(all you can drink) for alcohol, add another ¥1900.
- Roopali, 14-32 Wakakusa-cho, Higashi-ku, ☎ 082-264-1333. M-Sa 11:30AM-2:30PM, 5PM-9:30PM; Su 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 three blocks 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 do much better than this. Sets from ¥2000.
- Spicy Bar Lal's, 5-12 Tatemachi, Naka-ku, ☎ 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 ¥1700.
- Kanawa (Oyster Boat), Across from the Otemachi Building, Naka-ku, ☎ 082-241-7416, . M-Sa 11AM-2PM, 5PM-9PM; Su to 8:30PM. Docked just south of the Peace Park, this floating restaurant offers some of the tastiest oysters in Hiroshima, along with lovely traditional decor and nice river views (moreso at night). There's plenty of room aboard, but it does fill up, so reservations are suggested. Lunch sets from ¥3100; dinner ¥7,000-¥15,000, not including drinks.
- Shabuchin Shabu Shabu, 1-1-6 Kokutai-ji, Naka-ku, ☎ 082-246-7327. 11:30AM-2PM, 5PM-10PM. Small, friendly, family run shabu shabu restaurant in the fashionable Jizo-dori area. They make their own sauces, and all the ingredients are fresh; dip fresh meat and vegetables in a hot sauce to lightly cook it before dipping it in a savory sauce to eat. Expect to pay from ¥3,000-5,000, including drinks.
- Shichida Life Cafe, 2-3 Mikawa-cho, Naka-ku, ☎ 082-246-0700, . M-Th 11AM-10:30PM, F-Sa 11AM-11:30PM, Su 11AM-9:30PM. Offers numerous organic and vegetarian options, such as salads, sandwiches, veggie burger, rice and noodle dishes; also a good selection of teas, coffee, and other beverages. Lunch sets from ¥1200, dinner courses ¥2800.
- Sumojaya Takabayama, (Across from Nobori-machi Park), ☎ 082-223-0400, . M-Sa 11:30AM-1:30PM, 5PM-11PM. Chanko nabe, the food of sumo wrestlers, is a filling, fun, and healthy dish for anyone to enjoy, especially on colder days. ¥3000 per person for dinner; lunch specials around ¥1000.
Nagarekawa has the highest concentration of bars in Hiroshima — the good, the bad, and the hostess — but there are a number of good, quiet wine bars on Hakushima-dori, and plenty of foreigner-friendly pubs clustered around the giant PARCO building . Yagenbori-dori is full of bars and clubs that are spread across floors of the various high-rise buildings.
Sake enthusiasts should not miss the chance to visit the breweries of Saijo, particularly during the annual festival in October — see above.
- Kemby's, 2-9-1 Ote-machi, Naka-ku, ☎ 082-249-6201, . Su-Th 6PM-1AM, F-Sa 6PM-2AM. A big, friendly bar that's a favorite with locals for watching major sporting events. There's plenty of seating, and pool & darts as well. The English menu offers enough food (mostly Italian, Mexican) to make this a valid dinner spot (and Happy Hour is at dinner time, 6PM). The same folks run the smaller Kemby's AM  at 8-27 Nagarekawa, open to 10PM-6AM daily.
- Kulcha, 6-45 Fukuro-machi, Naka-ku, ☎ 082-543-5006. Opens 6PM daily, closes late. A popular bar just off Hon-dori, frequented mainly by ex-pats. It's known for monthly theme parties and televised rugby and soccer games. 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.
- Mac Bar, 6-18 Nagarekawa-cho, Naka-ku, ☎ 082-243-0343. M-Sa open 6PM, close varies — as late as 6AM. A friendly, venerable hole-in-the-wall owned by a chatty fellow with a massive collection of rock CDs. He's happy to take requests or just talk about music.
- Molly Malone's, 1-20 Shintenchi, Naka-ku (Teigeki Building, 4th floor), ☎ 082-244-2554, . Open 11:30AM daily, close late. Another popular foreigner hang-out. It's a reliable source for rugby and soccer games, but arrive early if you want a good viewing spot. The Irish food is just all right (¥1000-1800), but the desserts (¥500) are quite good with a beer. Happy Hour M-Sa 5-7PM.
- The Shack, 2-10 Shintenchi, Naka-ku (Takarazuka Building, 6th floor), ☎ 082-504-4170, . Su-Th 6PM-1AM, F-Sa 6PM-4AM. Probably the most spacious bar in Hiroshima, with separate areas to chat around the bar, settle into restaurant-size tables, or play darts & pool. The bar food is all right, but the salad bar is the best deal if you're hungry. It's a popular meeting spot and a good place to start (but not finish) a night out. Happy Hour 6PM, and again at midnight.
For a short night before an early train, the cheapest digs in town will be to nap in the easy chairs at the two Internet cafes outside the south exit of JR Hiroshima Station (see Contact), or possibly a Nagarekawa karaoke box. You won't be the only one doing it, particularly on weekends.
- K's House, 1-8-9 Matoba-cho, Minami-ku, ☎ 082-568-7244, . Part of the popular "K's House" hostel chain. No curfew or lockout, free wi-fi, computers with internet access available in the lobby for a small fee, and laundry facilities. Take the south exit from JR Hiroshima Station, then follow the tram tracks across the river. K's House is a blue fronted building. ¥2500 for a 6 person dorm, ¥10,800 yen for room for 3 people with private bathroom.
- Hana Hostel, 1-15 Kojin-machi, Minami-ku (3 minute walk from Hiroshima Station), ☎ 082-263-2980, . A comfortable hostel close to JR Hiroshima station. Every private room has a bathroom or a toilet/washstand. They offer free wifi with your laptop (¥100 per 30 min for hostel computers), and rental bikes at ¥500 per day. There's no curfew or lockout, and they're willing to hold luggage early or after check-out. 4-6 bed dorm ¥2700, private rooms from ¥3500 per person.
- J-Hoppers Trad Guesthouse, 5-16 Dobashi-cho, Naka-ku (Dobashi-cho tram stop), ☎ 082-233-1360, . A lively backpackers hostel with English speaking staff. Every private room is Japanese style. They also offer free wifi with your laptop (¥100 per 30 min for hostel computers) and rental bikes (¥500 per day), with no curfew or lockout and held-luggage services. 8 bed dorm ¥2500, private rooms ¥3000 per person.
- Business Ryokan Sansui, 4-16 Koami-cho, Naka-ku (Koami-cho tram stop), ☎ 082-293-9051 ([email protected]). Only a few minutes away from the Peace Park. Run by Kato-san and her family, this ryokan is quiet and clean, with breakfast available at ¥600. An excellent place to stay if you wish to practice your Japanese, meet and mingle with the locals. Kato-san closes the doors at midnight. Rooms by reservation only, from ¥4200 single, ¥7500 double.
- Capsule Inn Hiroshima (カプセルイン広島), 4-6 Yagenbori, ☎ 082-248-0101. Available only for male visitors. In the Shintechi Entertainment District. 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. ¥2300 per capsule, ¥100 per hour for checking in early, and another ¥100 to hold passport/valuables.
- Hiroshima Town Hotel, 6-20 Nishi Hiratuka-cho, Naka-ku, ☎ 082-546-0705, . Sort of a hybrid of a business hotel and a love hotel, featuring a bewildering array of cheap rates from the 70 minute "shower" (¥2300) up to 20 hours (¥5900). That said, it is clean, convenient, and comfortable.
- Hiroshima Youth Hostel, 1-13-6 Ushita-Shinmachi, Higashi-ku, ☎ 082-221-5343, . Off the beaten path, but well worth the savings. Kitchen facilities, Internet, and a swimming pool (summer only) are included in the rate. They do have an 11PM curfew, though. Take Bus #30 from JR Hiroshima Station. ¥1930 per night.
- Mikawa Ryokan, 9-6 Kyobashi-cho, Minami-ku, ☎ 082-261-2719 (fax: 082-263-2706). About 7 minutes from JR Hiroshima Station. Has a shaky claim to the title of "ryokan", but it's cheap. ¥3675 single, ¥6300 double, ¥9450 triple.
- Minshuku Ikedaya, 6-36 Dobashi-cho, Naka-ku (Dobashi-cho tram stop), ☎ 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. Single rooms with/without bath from ¥4200 to ¥5775; double rooms from ¥7350 to ¥9450.
- Comfort Inn Hiroshima (コンフォートホテル広島), 3-17 Komachi, Naka-ku (Chuden-mae tram stop), ☎ 082-541-5555, . A Western-style, business-oriented hotel conveniently located near the Peace Park. Rooms from ¥5775 single, ¥8400 double.
- Dormy Inn, 3-18 Komachi, Naka-ku (Chuden-mae tram stop), ☎ 082-240-1177, . Centrally located along Heiwa Odori, this is a comfortable and friendly full-service hotel with Western-style rooms, free laundry facilities, bike rentals, and a great sento bath. There's a complimentary taxi service from JR Hiroshima Station with advance reservation. Rooms from ¥7500 single, ¥9750 double.
- Hiroshima Grand Intelligent Hotel, 1-4 Kyobashi-cho, Minami-ku, ☎ 082-263-5111, . A tall, pleasant Western-style hotel on the other side of the Ekimae bridge from JR Hiroshima Station, with a suitably grand lobby and comparatively modest guest rooms. Breakfast is served for ¥1350 buffet, ¥600 toast set. LAN Internet access is available in every room. Rooms from ¥6300 single, ¥10,000 double.
- Hiroshima Intelligent Hotel Annex, 3-27 Inari-machi, Minami-ku, ☎ 082-263-7878. Just down the street from the Grand, with comparable facilities. Rooms from ¥6300 single, ¥10,000 double.
- Hiroshima Intelligent Hotel Main/New, 3-36 Higashikojin-machi, Minami-ku, ☎ 082-263-7000. Similar to the other two, but a bit cheaper for being a bit out of the way, tucked into a concrete jungle near JR Hiroshima Station — hang a left out of the south exit and follow the winding road. Rooms from ¥6000 single, ¥9000 double.
- Ikawa Ryokan, 5-11 Dobashi-cho, Naka-ku (Dobashi-cho tram stop), ☎ 082-231-5058 ([email protected]). Plain but serviceable ryokan with Japanese and Western-style rooms. Rooms ¥5775-4725 single with/without bath, ¥9450-8400 double. Communal bath is available.
- Toyoko Inn Heiwa Odori, 5-15 Tanaka-cho, Naka-ku, ☎ 082-504-1045, . An affordable business hotel on Heiwa Odori, within walking distance of the Peace Park. Also has a small shuttle from JR Hiroshima Station. There are three Toyoko Inns in Hiroshima, but this one is the most centrally located. Rooms from ¥6090 single, ¥8190 double.
- Via Inn, ☎ 082-264-5489, . A tall business hotel with tiny rooms but a fair number of amenities, including Internet access in the lobby. It's tucked away behind the Hiroshima Post Office, outside the south exit of JR Hiroshima Station. Head between the coffee shop and the convenience store to find the front desk. Rooms from ¥6195.
- ANA Crowne Plaza Hiroshima, 7-20 Naka-machi, Naka-ku (Fukuro-machi tram stop), ☎ 082-241-1111, . Great location near the Peace Park, with multiple restaurants, a health club, free Internet, and all the amenities the price would suggest. Rooms ¥16-20,000 single, ¥24-33,000 twin.
- Hotel Granvia, 1-5 Matsubara-cho, Minami-ku, ☎ 082-262-1111, . Located right outside the shinkansen gates (north exit) of JR Hiroshima Station, this will be the most convenient hotel for any late-arriving travelers. The cheapest single rooms with no meals (¥7600) aren't much more than an average business hotel, but spending time at the elegant lounge and restaurant — and splurging on a luxury twin room with a terrific view (¥22,000) — will raise the price tag.
- Rihga Royal Hiroshima, 6-78 Motomachi, Naka-ku, ☎ 082-502-1121, . Overlooking the Peace Park, this luxury hotel is also the tallest building in Hiroshima. There are several restaurants and lounges on premises, and a massive swimming pool/sauna for a fee (¥3150 adults, ¥1575 kids). 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. Rooms start from ¥16,170 single and ¥23,100 double. Found a suitcase full of money? Royal suites clock in at a mere ¥346,500.
- Aprecio, 10-3 Matsubara-cho, ☎ 082-506-1323, . 24 hours. An elegant net cafe with a wide variety of free drinks, ice cream and hot soup included in the price of admission. There's even a pool table and darts (and private showers towards the back). It's on the other side of the street from the south exit of JR Hiroshima Station, on the fifth floor of the building next to Fukuya and directly across the street from the post office. ¥300 for membership; ¥180 first 30 minutes, and ¥70 every 10 minutes thereafter.
- [email protected], 2-22 Matsubara-cho, ☎ 082-568-4792, . 24 hours. Free drinks and soft-serve ice cream are included in the price. Just ask for a "net open seat" (or a "game open seat" to include a PlayStation). Right next to JR Hiroshima Station — on the sixth floor of the GIGA/Futaba Building immediately to your left as you walk out of the station (south exit). ¥105 for membership; ¥405 first 60 minutes, then ¥94 every 15 minutes thereafter.
- [email protected], 2-2-33 Kamiya-cho, ☎ 082-542-5455, . 24 hours. Same deal as above, but closer to the Peace Park (on Hon-dori) in the Futaba Tosho Building, first floor.
- Global Lounge, 1-5-17 Kamiya-cho, Naka-ku, ☎ 082-244-8145, . M-Th 12PM-9PM, F-Sa 12PM-11PM. Part of a hodge-podge of foreigner-centric businesses — Outsider is a language school, Book Nook sells used books (albeit with a sorry selection), and the Global Lounge offers Internet access (¥200 for 15 min) and a meeting space. Coffee, tea, and soft drinks (¥200) are served, with beer and cocktails on Friday and Saturday nights.
- Hiroshima International Center, 8-18 Naka-machi (Crystal Plaza Building, 6th floor), ☎ 082-541-3777, . Tu-Sa 9AM-8:30PM, Su 9:30AM-6PM. The HIC offers an English reference library and "friendship lounge" with books, newspapers, and local info. For long-term visitors, there are free Japanese language lessons, cultural events (such as the Saturday Salons), and help with residency issues. Take the tram or bus to the Fukuro-machi stop. Entry and basic facilities are free; some events require membership or a small fee.
Hiroshima has a rough reputation among Japanese people from other cities, thanks largely to the yakuza movies that were filmed in town. In reality, though, it's much safer than any large Western city. As with most places in Japan, petty theft is virtually non-existent. Nagarekawa, the nightlife district, does have its share of prostitutes, sex clubs, and rip-off hostess bars, but to no greater 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.
Mother and child, Peace Memorial Park
Hiroshima is a safe and friendly city, well-accustomed to foreign visitors. The average English level among Hiroshima residents is relatively high for a Japanese city, particularly around the Peace Park. Directions to the major sights are very clearly sign-posted in English throughout the city.
The Peace Memorial Park is a very popular school trip destination for Japanese students, and you may be accosted by kids working on school projects, asking you (in halting English) where you're from, what your name is, or whatever else their teacher has assigned them to ask. They travel in packs, so you should be able to see them coming from a distance and avoid (or engage) accordingly.
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, such as Chuo-koen or Shukkeien (see above), both of which are only a short walk from the Peace Park.
- Miyajima is an easy day-trip from Hiroshima - about an hour away by a combination of tram and then a short ferry ride. 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 from Hiroshima Port (which could be reached by tram) 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.