We travelled from Kyoto to Hiroshima (a two hour shinkansen journey) arriving mid morning. After a super quick check in to our very conveniently located hotel, the Sheraton Hiroshima Hotel, we were off to maximise our single day of exploring the area!
Itsukushima, commonly referred to as Miyajima Island, is a small island in Hiroshima Bay famous for its giant floating Torii Gate. A day trip to the island came highly recommended from friends and with a small amount of research we discovered it was a very easy journey via train and ferry from Hiroshima.
Being a Unesco World Heritage Site, the island is a photographers dream.
Stepping off the ferry one of the first things you will see is the friendly local deer just hanging about the place. From here walk down the main street past all the shops and restaurants, on to the iconic postcard view of the bright orange Torii Gate. We were lucky to arrive at high tide and could not stop taking photos of the giant “floating” Torii with the bay and mountainous islands filling the backdrop. Warning: this is prime selfie stick territory!
I would then recommend escaping the thick of the crowds and heading up to Mount Misan for incredible views over Hiroshima Bay. You can opt to hike the whole way up, but it is very steep and takes about 2 hours to get to the top. As we were short on time, we went for the cable car route. The cable car (or ropeway as i think they called it) is a two part journey which takes about 30 minutes over the beautiful and steep forest views. Hop off the cable car and its then a rather steep 30 minute walk to the summit viewpoint. You might be puffed and you might be sweaty – but when you get to the top you realise your efforts have been rewarded! Excellent clear views and plenty of space to find your own quiet spot to take your shoes off, cool down, and recover while taking it all in.
If you need a pick me up following the hiking activity, take a coffee break at the very cool Sarasvati cafe. Located in a beautifully restored historic wooden storehouse, and with beans roasted in house, it was a great place to get an afternoon caffeine hit (and seriously good coffee it was!).
Re-energised I would then recommend heading inside Itsukushima-jinja Shinto Shrine. This Shrine is also built to “float” over the sea at high tide.
At low tide you can walk on the sand surrounding the Shrine and the Torii which allows for some more photo opportunities – as well as getting to see the sheer size of the Torii up close and personal.
From Hiroshima Station take the JR Sanyo Line to Miyajimaguchi Station. Trains run approximately every 15 minutes and journey takes 30 minutes. This route is also covered by the Japan Rail Pass.
From Miyajimaguchi Station its a short 5 minute walk to the ferry pier where there are two ferry operators – JR or Matsudai. If you have a Japan Rail Pass you can use the JR Ferries, which depart every 15 minutes, and journey takes 10 minutes over to Miyajima Island. You can check the JR ferry timetable on their website http://jr-miyajimaferry.co.jp/en/timetable/.
With only about 1 hour of daylight left we arrived back into Hiroshima, and headed straight to the Hiroshima Peace Memorial Park and the Atomic Bomb Dome, located either side of the Ota River . The A-Bomb Dome is a very saddening reminder of the destruction caused during WW2 but is well worth a visit to read the informative plaques located around the dome which serves as a marker for the epicentre of the explosion.
Visiting the Hiroshima Peace Memorial Park afterwards is a beautiful reflective place to walk through – and made even more beautiful during sunset.
From here it is an easy 15 minute walk into the very centre of the city and gave us a chance to see a little more of Hiroshima. It is a modern and beautiful city, quite different from the other cities on our itinerary (small enough to explore easily on foot!), and it had a more relaxed modern feel about it. With cafe and restaurant dining lining the city streets, trendy fashion shops, and an independent and youthful vibe, it was the kind of city that we could have spent some more time in to hang out, rest, and recover from all the sightseeing we had squeezed into the week!
Food & Drinks
If you only have one night in Hiroshima then you absolutely must eat at Okonomumura!! It is a multi story complex housing multiple teppanyaki grills (each independent businesses) who each specialise in their own version of Okonomiyaki. A Hiroshima speciality, this is a crepe-like pancake filled with layers of cabbage, bacon, fried noodles, eggs etc etc that is cooked up in front of you on the grill. Our research told us that any of the grills would offer a delicious version of the local specialty, so its just a matter of choosing one that offers the ingredients you like and an atmosphere you like and sit down and enjoy. Warning – it gets hot eating directly over the grill and no matter how ravenous you thought you were, you will still struggle to finish the meal! A really great experience.
Right outside Okonomumura is a craft beer bar called Raku Beer. With 15 taps of Japanese craft beers, its a great place to sit and taste the night away!
We were limited on time and thus wanted to be located as close to the main train station as possible – but still somewhere that looked modern and comfortable. The Sheraton Hiroshima Hotel ticked all the boxes for us, with huge modern rooms, an amazing shower, giant comfortable beds, and friendly service.
Also worth mentioning their cocktail bar had a great vibe. We wanted a night cap to round off our busy day – and sitting at the bar we could watch the bartender whip up tasty concoctions.