Leveled by an atomic bomb in 1945, a visit to Hiroshima provides invaluable insight into the devastation the city and its people faced, while also providing a sobering reminder of the dangers of nuclear warfare, a reminder that seems more pertinent than ever in recent months. Just off the coast from the city, the island of Miyajima offers small town charm and is home to the revered and frequently photographed Itsukushima Shrine with its iconic floating tori gate. Although a two day, one night visit is perhaps the best way to see both Hiroshima & Miyajima in their entirety, a one day visit from Osaka or Kyoto is both feasible and not to be missed even if time is tight.
9:00am - 9:15am Arrive in Hiroshima
Catch an early train from Osaka or Kyoto to arrive in Hiroshima around 9:15am. I highly recommend purchasing a Japan Rail Pass for any visit to Japan for efficient travel throughout the country (A Beginner's Guide to the Japan Rail Pass is coming soon!). Use Hyperdia to check train schedules whether you are using the Japan Rail Pass or not.
Once at the Hiroshima Station, leave via the South exit and head to the tram station just in front. Catch either Tram #2 or #6 and get off at the Atomic Bomb Dome (Genbaku-domu-mae) stop after a short 10-15 min ride. You can pay for the tram as you exit with 180 yen in coins or if you have an IC card from any region in Japan, you can scan it as you leave the tram.
9:30am Atomic Bomb Dome
Designed by a Czech architect in 1915, the Atomic Bomb Dome was once home to Hiroshima Prefectural Industrial Promotion Hall. The building was just 160m from the hypocenter, killing everyone inside. The structural remains of the building have been reinforced and were designated a UNESCO World Heritage Site in 1996, with the site remaining a symbol of the hope for lasting peace. Take some time absorbing this sobering site.
10:00am Peace Memorial Park
Just across the river from the A-Bomb Dome, a walk through the Peace Memorial Park offers a time for reflection as you make your way to the museum. Don't miss important monuments like the Cenotaph and the Children's Peace Memorial.
10:30am - 12:00pm Peace Memorial Museum
Although not too large, the Peace Memorial Museum has much to see and reflect upon. The contents of the museum are quite emotionally heavy, so take your time taking it all in. Definitely don't miss the recordings of the survivors, available in multiple languages. The entry fee is just 200 yen/person.
12:00pm - 1:00pm Head to Miyajima Island
Catch a bus from behind the Peace Memorial Museum to connect with the JR San-yo Line. Using your Japan Rail Pass or by purchasing a ticket take the San-yo Line to the Miyajimaguchi Station. Here, follow the signs leading to the ferry terminal. If you have the Rail Pass take the JR Ferry Line as your ride will be free, otherwise either of the two ferry lines works. The ride is about 10 minutes long (you can get a glimpse of the floating torii by standing or sitting on the right side of this ship).
Upon arrival head right outside the ferry terminal and follow the coastal path through the town, taking in the charming shops as you go. Continue meandering to the quanit and super cozy Cafe Lente full of an eclectic mix of furnishings and a beautiful view side angle view of the floating torii. The lunch menu is concise but everything we tried was tasty and they always have one vegetarian option. Coffee and teas are also available.
2:00pm Itsukushima Shrine
Mosey over to the brightly colored Itsukushima Shrine and take your time wandering the wooden hallways and of course take the obligatory straight on shot of the floating tori with or without you in it.
From Itsukushima, follow the clearly marked signs up the hill to the multi-structured Daijo-in Temple. Take some time exploring the buildings and the surrounding gardens. Don't miss heading into the underground portion of the largest temple for a pitch black walk.
Coffee & Dessert at Sarasvati
Stop for an afternoon coffee and a slice of cake at Sarasvati, a cozy, yet modern, two-level cafe full of concrete and soft wood details. Service is friendly and efficient.
Mt. Misen & Miyajima Ropeway
Follow the signs in town for the Miyajima Ropeway, about a 15 minute walk from Sarasvati. Take the gondola up to Mt Misen, but to reach the true summit walk about 30 mins to reach the temples, shrines and surrounding views. Enjoy the beautiful afternoon light. (Sadly, I have no photos of this as we got caught in a downpour, but take a peek at google images to see what it's all about)
5:00pm Ferry & train
Hop back on a ferry to the mainland and catch the JR San-yo Line back to Hiroshima Station.
5:45pm Okonomiyaki Snack
Okonomiyaki is a Japanese style pancake with each region having their own take on the dish. Hiroshima is particularly famous for their okonomiyaki which typically is made from layering batter, cabbage, pork, yakisoba noodles, a fried egg, and okonomiyaki sauce. If you have time before your evening train, head up to the 2nd floor ASSE eating area in Hiroshima Station and head to Yocchan (look for white curtain/banners with red letters) for some quick okonomiyaki deliciousness.
6:45pm Train back to Osaka or Kyoto
THINGS TO NOTE
This itinerary was designed with high tide in the mid afternoon, so that when visiting the Itsukushima Shrine the floating tori will in fact be floating. You can adjust your visit to the shrine slightly earlier or later to accommodate the high tide or you can flip the itinerary and start the morning in Miyajima if the high tide is in the morning. Check tide tables here. Additionally, if it is not feasible to visit during high tide, the tori is still impressive when surrounded by beach.