The spectre of the atomic bomb, dropped on the residents of Hiroshima in August 1945, still casts a sombre shadow over the city – but also acts as a motivating force, a unifying event to learn from. The Peace Memorial Park and Museum are a stark reminder of humanity’s darkest days, but also give a lot of hope for the future: a world without nuclear weapons, where the level of devastation inflicted on this city need never be repeated.
Far from being a depressing place to visit, Hiroshima is an ebullient city that rebuilt itself as one of Japan’s most liveable areas. Great restaurants and local cuisine, understated nightlife, pedestrian-friendly shopping and a cheer-worthy homegrown baseball team (Go Carp!) make this a surprising favourite of anyone who takes the time to visit.
The aforementioned Peace Memorial Museum should not be skipped – an eye-opening, heart wrenching, but informative look at the tragic reasons that we all know the name Hiroshima. The other key attraction here is the island of Miyajima – home to the famous Itsukushima Shrine, with the much-photographed ‘floating torii gate’ – a vermilion icon, set out in the water. Roaming deer, traditional ryokan (Japanese inns) and spectacular views from the top of Mount Misen, make this an essential place to visit or stay.
A couple of nights in either the city of Hiroshima, or upon the island of Miyajima, is highly recommended – though with the efficiency and velocity of bullet trains, even a day trip from Kyoto or Osaka is possible for those willing to get up early.