How to Explore Hiroshima on Your Solo Trip to Japan
On my solo female travels, if there is one thing that I have learnt, it is that places that we visit are very much like people. They have their own story to tell, of good times and of bad. Of hardships that they have had to overcome and then triumph in life. During my solo travel to Japan, the city that I felt the most connected to was not Tokyo or Osaka. Or the traditional and historical Kyoto. Every city in Japan had its own charm and was brimming with surprises. But not many beautiful cities can rise from the ashes like Hiroshima and Nagasaki.
Now from our childhood history lessons, we are all aware of how these two cities were almost wiped out after nuclear bombs were dropped on these cities during World War II. But what the history books don’t talk about is how despite all odds, the people came together to stand up again. If this isn’t what life is all about, I don’t know what is.
While you book your trip to Japan to see how different traditions clash with the new in the most harmonious way possible, please do keep a day or two to explore Hiroshima. It is absolutely necessary because unless you see the pain of the country, do you even understand the beauty of it.
So if you are planning to visit Hiroshima, let me tell you why you should include the city in your itinerary.
Hiroshima, a city beyond the attack
It might be known to the world as the city where the first of the two bombs were dropped, but Hiroshima’s history actually dates back centuries. Founded in 1589 on the banks of River Ota, Hiroshima was a castle town. It became a major urban centre during the Meiji era. But when talking about the history of this bustling metropolitan, one cannot omit what happened on August 6, 1945. Everything within the 2km radius of the epicenter was absolutely obliterated, and the destruction was beyond human understanding. But after that, the city was rebuilt piece by piece, and we have Hiroshima of the present.
How to reach Hiroshima
Hiroshima is located in Japan’s Chugoku region and is just an hour and a half away from Osaka and Kyoto by a shinkansen (bullet train). If you are travelling from Tokyo, it will take you 4 hours.
Where to stay
A trip to Hiroshima can usually be completed in a day. But if we club a visit to Miyajima along with it, it is better to stay the night and pace yourself. Here are a couple of great accommodations in Hiroshima if you want to spend the night.
- Hiroshima Base hotel: A perfect blend of traditional and new, this hostel has dormitories, bunk beds, and even authentic tatami floored rooms if you choose. This is centrally located in the city, just 5 minutes away from the train station. Hiroshima Base hotel is a great option if you are on a budget.
- Dormy inn: As a female solo traveller in Hiroshima or, for that matter, anywhere in Japan, you have to be ready to walk a lot. And after a tiring day, you want to come back to a hotel like Dormy inn, where you can avail yourself of the public hot spring baths and sauna facility. The breakfast here is also included within the room fare. So that’s an added advantage.
1. Hiroshima Peace Park
This has to be the first on your list when you visit Hiroshima simply because of the significance of it. This park stands at the epicenter of the nuclear bomb that changed the history of the city. But it also serves as a reminder of the futility of war. Before the bomb struck, this area was a bustling part of the city. However, it gathered a whole new entity after the reconstruction.
One of the main attractions here is the Peace Museum which houses different relics and even has remains from the explosion. Being there is bound to make you pensive or bring a tear to your eye. The most thought-provoking is the Children’s peace monument, where you find people writing messages of hope. You can also see the peace flame that is supposed to burn until the production and use of nuclear weapons are banned worldwide and the peace bell.
2. Atomic Bomb Dome
This was a former Industrial promotion hall and was one of the buildings in the city to withstand the explosion. The remains of this building stand tall even today, and in 1996, it was named a UNESCO World Heritage site.
3. Meet a survivor
There is only so much you learn visiting a museum or flipping through the pages of history. If you want to know about the horrors of that fateful day, you can head over to the Social Book Café situated at Hachidori-Sha (2F, 2-43-2 Dobashi-cho, Naka-ku, Hiroshima-shi) on the 6th of every month between 1 and 3 in the afternoon. You will find survivors or descendants of survivors who will recount the horrors of the fateful day. It is an interactive session, and you are allowed to ask questions and share your opinions as well.
4. Hiroshima Castle
To catch a glimpse of Hiroshima before being ravaged by a nuclear bomb, you have to visit the castle around which the city grew. Also known as the castle of carp, this was built in 1593 and was an important seat of power in West Japan. It was spared during the period of Meiji Restoration, but it fell prey to the atomic bomb in 1945. Like the rest of the city, the five-storey castle was restored in 1958 with a semi wooden exterior, and the view from the balcony is breathtaking! You can see the city, the harbor, and even the island of Miyakojima from here. During the cherry blossom season, this castle, with a moat around it, is a premier destination for sakura.
5. Shukkeien Garden
Carefully manicured and beautiful gardens are a signature all over Japan, and Hiroshima is no different. Not far from the Hiroshima castle, you will find the garden that dates back to 1620. As a solo female traveller, it can get lonely sometimes and especially when you visit places with a dark history. Sitting in the lap of nature helps one feel happy and hopeful again, and for that reason, alone, the Shukkeien garden provides a much-needed respite. The most iconic object in this garden is the semi-circle rainbow-shaped bridge named Koko-kyo, but the highlight is simply the tranquility it provides.
Walk through the greenery and flora and admire the abundance of pools and streams for a relaxing afternoon. Japan is also known for its many traditions, and a tea ceremony is something that one must experience in the country. For an authentic experience at the Shukkeien Garden, drop in at one of the teahouses there for matcha and something to nibble on.
6. Mitaki Temple
With Buddhism and Zionism as the two most important religions in the country, temples and shrines are all over Japan. They are indeed a treat to one’s eye and their spiritual being. But as a solo female traveller in Japan, I have realised that it is the ones that are off the beaten path. These temples and shrines give an air of mystery, thus adding to the country’s charm. Mitaki-dera temple in the Northern part of Hiroshima is one such site.
Located at the foothills of Mount Mitaki, the temple is concealed by thick foliage and is almost like a hidden gem. The beautiful vermillion-coloured pagoda is accentuated during autumn, with bright red and gold foliage all around it. And trust me, it is a beautiful sight to behold! And if this was not pretty enough, the temple also boasts of three waterfalls that cascade around the temple grounds.
7. The Rabbit Island
While Nara is famous for hundreds of deer that roam freely, Okunoshima, just off mainland Hiroshima is known as the rabbit island. The island, located a couple of hours from Hiroshima, is easily accessible by ferry. You can spend hours with these furry friends who are anything but shy and will scurry around you in large numbers, looking for food. You can pat them, play with them, and even include their cute little faces in the selfies. But Okunoshima is not just a rabbit island. Unfortunately, it has a dark past as well.
This island was used during World War II as a place to manufacture poisonous gases like tear gas. You can actually see the dilapidated buildings, which were the erstwhile factories. The rabbits were also used as test subjects. But thankfully, that’s all in the past!
8. Mazda Museum
The other thing that Japan is known for worldwide is its technological prowess and cars. And if you are fascinated by cars, you will definitely enjoy seeing how everything comes together at the Mazda Museum. The car manufacturing company offers guided tours for visitors, taking them through the history, its innovative process, and also the plans for the future.
To visit the museum, you must make reservations beforehand, either over the phone or online. The tour also includes a visit to a museum where you can see earlier makes of the car. After that, the tour passes through an assembly line where you can see how cars are produced.
9. Nightlife in Hiroshima
If you think nightlife in Japan exists in main cities alone, let me tell you, you are wrong. Nagarekawa is an area of Hiroshima well known for its nightlife. Located roughly a 1-min walk away from Peace Park, this part of the city is full of life. It has clubs, pubs, bars, adult shops, and restaurants. Be sure to visit this area on your solo female travel to taste some of the best sakes you will get in Japan.
10. Hop over to Miyajima
One of the best getaways from Hiroshima, you cannot visit Hiroshima without exploring the beauty of Miyajima. Officially called Itsukushima, the island is commonly referred to as Miyajima, which is Japanese for shrine island. The most notable attraction here is the Itsukushima shrine and the torii gate, which floats in water and makes for a wonderful sight. The shrine and the gate are lit up after sunset, but unfortunately, you cannot enter the shrine after the sun goes down. Try and spend a night on this island at a traditional ryokan to enhance your experience. The island also houses deer, which you will find if you take the walking trails around Miyajima.
No visit to anywhere in Japan is complete without sampling its food. And while the country is known for its unique cuisine, every region provides a local twist to it.
Hiroshima is known for its okonomiyaki, and you cannot leave without trying this delicacy! Okonomiyaki is basically a savoury pancake and is made of batter, noodles, cabbage, meat, and sauces all fried up in a griddle. In the Hiroshima style of okonomiyaki, the batter is thin while the amount of cabbage put on it is a lot. You will find a lot of shops that sell okonomiyaki in and around Okonomimura and around the Hiroshima station. The best part about eating this dish is that it is prepared in front of you. So it’s served fresh and customized with the toppings of your choice.
Hiroshima prefecture produces around 70% of oysters in Japan, so it would be a shame not to try out this seafood delicacy while you are in Hiroshima on your solo female trip. Eat it raw to taste the ocean. If it is too much of an adventure for you, you can eat it with soya sauce. Or you can eat it baked, deep-fried, and even with a side of rice.
We are all aware that ramen and Japan are synonymous. But once you explore the country gastronomically, you realize that ramen is eaten in more ways than just one. The Hiroshima-style tsukemen noodles are eaten cold dipped in spicy sauce. The heat from the spice in the sauce and the cold noodles provides a burst of flavor in your mouth.
Your solo trip to Hiroshima will leave you waiting for more…
There is something unique and endearing about Hiroshima that will make you come back again and again. The fighting spirit of the people here will leave you in awe. Also, if you are a foodie, you will leave with a gastronomically content smile. So, what are you waiting for? Be sure to keep a day or two to explore Hiroshima when you plan your female solo trip to Japan.
An introverted blogger who is looking to make unforgettable solo travel memories with one short life.