From tragic to thriving - the miracle of modern Hiroshima

by Jon F

Hiroshima will never fully escape its awful history. But this ultra-modern and chaotic Japanese now city offers plenty to entice visitors seeking an exciting long-haul city break

It will take much longer than 65 years for Hiroshima to become more known for its tourism than the atomic bomb that destroyed it and its people at the end of the Second World War. But this renewed cosmopolitan city, on the south-west of Japan's main Honshu island, now offers luxury shopping, culinary delights and natural beauty that belies its tragic history.

Hiroshima was completely rebuilt following the bom in 1945. Now home to more than one million people, it has must-see historical sites and its own distinct atmosphere. It feels quite unlike the sprawling metropolis of Tokyo, the quaint beauty of Kyoto and the grimy charm of Osaka. Travelling around this compact city is easy thanks to the frequent buses and charming street cars.

A visit should start at the exquisite Peace Memorial Park. It exudes an eerie ambience, even when teeming with tourists. The centrepiece of this vast park is the thought-provoking and moving Peace Museum. The bilingual museum is undoubtedly worth the nominal 50¥ fee (around 30p). It shows both the material and human cost of the bomb. As is the case in many Japanese museums, there are intricate models that show what happened when the bomb was dropped. However, it is the bloodied clothes, scorched metal, victims' stories and images of burning flesh drawn by survivors that really hits home.

After the museum, a pleasant to stroll round the park will clear your head. Impressive sights include The Cenotaph, Peace Bell, sparse Memorial Hall and the crane-adorned Children’s Peace Monument. None of these compare with the haunting A-Bomb Dome, a skeletal shell of a building that somehow survived the atomic attack. The dome is now a UNESCO World Heritage site. The park sits between the Ota and Motoyasu rivers, and benches by the waterside provide an excellent spot to sit and contemplate the memorial before exploring the rest of the city.

Hiroshima offers everything you would expect to find in a modern Japanese city, with an impressive business district with prerequisite skyscrapers. Shoppers are catered for by the covered mall Hon-dori, huge department stores and quirky small shops.

The Hiroshima branch of Parco is typical of Japanese department stores, split into two separate buildings and boasting 11 floors. When hunger calls, sample the Hiroshima-style Okonomiyaki - batter, cabbage and noodles topped with all manner of vegetables, meat and fish, covered with a special sauce. This appetising dish is cooked in front of diners on a hot grill and has been likened to a pancake or pizza. Sample this delicacy in one of many specialist Okonomiyaki restaurants, conveniently located together in Okonomiyaki-mura village. Some restaurants have menus in English and photographs of the food, so it is easy to choose one. Expect to pay between £5 and £10 at most restaurants.

A short distance from Hiroshima by boat is the Miyajima Island, a place of outstanding natural beauty. It boasts the famous gate or ‘torii’ that stands in the water, which is attached to the Itsukushima Shinto Shrine (admission is 300¥, approximately £1.50), open daily between 6am and 6:30pm. The view of the ’torii’ in the water has become an icon and the shrine is another World Heritage site. It encapsulates both the spirituality and the physical attractiveness of Japan.

Where to go:
Peace Memorial Park, containing the Peace Memorial Museum (
is 20 minutes from JR Hiroshima station by bus or tram.

The main shopping and entertainment district, including Okonomiyaki-mura, is about 10 minutes from JR Hiroshima.

Where to eat:
Try Okonomiyaki at
Okonomimura (
Mitchan (

Where to stay:
Cheap: J-Hoppers (
Medium: Hotel Granvia (
Expensive: ANA Crowne Plaza (

How to get there:
Hiroshima is on the JR West Shinkansen line and is 2 hours from Osaka by bullet train on the Tokaido line. The city is served by two airports, Hiroshima airport and Hiroshima Nishi airport.
Miyajima Island is accessible via a train from Hiroshima station to Miyajima-guchi (270/400¥ - £2/3) and then a boat to the island (170¥ - £1).