Hiroshima is a city with deep historical roots, evident in its ancient gardens and castles. During the 20h century, Hiroshima became the center of unenviable international attention after the first atomic bomb was detonated there on August 6, 1945 – destroying everything within two kilometers of impact.
Like the phoenix of legend, Hiroshima and its residents emerged from the ashes. Historical structures were restored, and the city took on aspirations of continued peace. Today, it is home to over one million people and a favorite stop for international tourists, thanks to the bullet train.
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Where is Hiroshima
Hiroshima is the capital of the Hiroshima Prefecture and the largest city in the Chugoku region of western Honshu (main Japanese island).
You will find travel to the deeply meaningful city of Hiroshima a breeze when using your Japan Rail Pass.
Tokyo to Hiroshima by train
You can use your JR Pass to take the Sanyo Shinkansen line’s Hikari bullet train from Tokyo Station to the Shin-Osaka Station. You will then transfer to the Sakura train (on the same line) and arrive in Hiroshima at Hiroshima Station.
This trip takes approximately five hours to complete. Non-shinkansen train lines are also available, as is an overnight bus. Several 90-minute flights also connect the Tokyo and Hiroshima airports each day.
Kyoto to Hiroshima
Similar to the trip from Tokyo, you can take the Hikari bullet train from Kyoto Station to the Shin-Osaka Station, then transfer to the Sanyo Shinkansen line for the remainder of the trip. This trip takes about 3 hours.
Osaka to Hiroshima
Airport transfer the Hiroshima Airport
If you are flying into Hiroshima Airport, the city center can be reached by the shuttle bus. The bus ride lasts approximately 50 minutes.
But the best option is to take the so-called Shiraichi Route (a combination of the JR Sanyo Shinkansen line and the shuttle bus). Take the shuttle bus from Hiroshima Airport and drop off after 15 minutes in JR Shiraichi Station (the closest JR station of Hiroshima Airport).
There you will be able to take the train to Hiroshima Station, where you can also exchange your Japan Rail Pass. This route is less affected by congestion on the Sanyo Expressway, and is less expensive.
Things to do in Hiroshima
Whether you come to contemplate the past, look to the future, or enjoy the beauty of nature, Hiroshima is home to several attractions that can be found nowhere else in the world.
Peace Memorial Park
Standing in contrast to the surrounding urban structures is the Heiwa Kinen Kōen, or Peace Memorial Park. This 120,000 square meter park marks the target of the atomic bomb. The area had been the center of commerce and politics in Hiroshima, but four years after the disaster it was decided that this portion of the city would not be rebuilt – it would stand forever as a symbol to honor the memory of nuclear horrors and advocate world peace.
The park is home to the Peace Memorial Museum, which details Hiroshima’s history, the advent of atomic weapons, and the human suffering that followed. This moving exhibit includes graphic elements that may be disturbing to some visitors. This, however, makes the point that peace should not be taken for granted. A nearby tomb, called the Cenotaph, holds a register of over 220,000 names of victims of the blast. This monument is aligned to frame the Peace Flame and the A-Bomb Dome, making for great, symbolic pictures.
Also on the grounds is the Hiroshima Peace Memorial, or Atomic Bomb Dome ( A-Bomb Dome). Declared a UNESCO World Heritage Site, this building was formerly known as the Prefectural Industrial Promotion Hall. The Hiroshima City Council decided in 1966 to indefinitely preserve the structure, so the shell that remains provides a tangible and undeniable connection to the events of that fateful day.
Also called the Carp Castle, this five-story structure was originally built in 1589. The castle served as the seat of power as well as Hiroshima’s economic center. The original castle was destroyed by the atomic bomb but has since been rebuilt in the traditional fashion. Along with the castle, its moat, shrine, and Ninomaru, or second circle of defense, were also reconstructed. The castle now houses a museum and visitors can enjoy scenic views of the city from its top floor.
Constructed in 1620, this garden’s name literally means “garden of shrunken scenery.” The carefully cultivated plants and features mimic in miniature a mountainous, forested landscape. Visitors can enjoy the scenic views from the comfort of several tea houses, located around the pond.
Getting around Hiroshima
While traveling in and around Hiroshima, you may take advantage of the city’s tram network. The eight tram lines are extensive – the largest in Japan – with four of the lines passing through the main train station. Please note, however, that your JR Rail Pass is not valid on the tram lines. One-day passes for the tram lines can be purchased for ¥600.
City buses provide another good transportation option. The Maple-oop (a combination of the word “maple” with the term “loop bus”) bus provides free transportation for JR Pass holders. This bus runs twice per hour and serves the train station, the Peace Memorial Park, Hiroshima Castle, Shukkeien, and other locations.
Did you know that your Japan Rail Pass allows free passage on the ferries to nearby Miyajima Island as well? Check out our Miyajima travel guide for more on this small island famous for its torii gate and scenic views.
For in depth travel information on other destinations in Japan, please visit the destinations category of our article archives.