Greetings, Internet Stranger. Today is a special day in the life of this blogger. Normally I try to cram as many jokes into one itinerary as I possibly can. I often promise people that my blog provides a million laughs. That is so many laughs! But today we are spending one day in Hiroshima, and I’m afraid that laughs will not be appropriate for the rest of the day. There won’t be any chuckles or giggles either.
So join me as we spend time with the most tragic and meaningful things to do in 24 hours in Hiroshima. We will try not to cry too much in public. (I can pretty much guarantee that we will fail miserably on that score.)
One Day in Hiroshima
Where to Stay?
My hotel recommendation for your one day in Hiroshima is Hiroshima Washington Hotel. It’s affordable, spotless, and extremely well located in the center of Hiroshima. Plus you can get to the train station very quickly from the hotel. That way, you won’t waste your one day in Hiroshima.
One Day in Hiroshima
What to Pack?
You’ll need comfy shoes for all the walking we’re going to do today. If it’s summertime, I love my special pink Birkenstocks. These aren’t your grandpappy’s Birkenstocks anymore. They come in every shade, and I always get compliments on my electric magenta shoes.
Japan is hot in the summer, so don’t forget the sunscreen. My favorite is the Neutrogena spray bottle because it’s so easy to apply. And as a solo traveler, I can actually use it myself on my own back. I just put it in my purse and re-apply throughout the day.
Finally, if you’re not from Japan or the US, you need a universal adapter if you’re going to plug in electronics. Japanese electrical outlets don’t work with UK or non-UK European plugs. I suggest the NEWVANGA travel adapter. It’s usable with any electrical outlet in the world, so you won’t need to keep buying new adapters. I always carry two with me, just in case something happens to one.
24 Hours in Hiroshima
Morning: Hiroshima Peace Park
Even if Hiroshima had no historical significance, it is still a city people would want to visit. It is the capital of Hiroshima Prefecture, it is just a short trip from sacred Miyajima, and like any other decently-sized Japanese city, it has great food, lovely parks, and many shopping opportunities. But sadly, the reason that many people visit Hiroshima is to reflect on its status as the first city ever to be struck with an atomic bomb on August 6th, 1945. All of the major monuments to Hiroshima’s sad past can be found in Hiroshima Peace Park.
I recommend setting aside an entire morning to be able to really be able to engage and reflect on the artifacts and memories of the dead that you will find in this park. Ordinarily I love walking tours, but for Hiroshima I preferred to explore on my own so I could really be alone with my thoughts. You can find an excellent map that provides explanations for the over 50 monuments and memorials in the park. Here were some of the ones that spoke the most to me. I have chosen to limit myself to eight because, as you will see, the number eight is highly significant in Hiroshima.
EIGHT IMPORTANT MEMORIALS IN HIROSHIMA PEACE PARK
1) The Children’s Peace Monument
This is probably the first thing you will see when you approach the park. It is dedicated to Sadako Sasaki and the other children who were victims of the atomic bomb. Sadako was a little girl who was not killed during the bombing. Rather she died of leukemia at the age of 12 because of the exposure to radiation that she had absorbed from the atomic bomb.
In the United States, Sadako is well-known because of a book called Sadako and the Thousand Paper Cranes. The book is similar to Sadako’s true story, though certain elements have been fictionalized. In real life, Sadako believed the Japanese legend that if you make 1,000 paper cranes, your wish will be granted. Her wish was to have a world without nuclear weapons. That is why the monument is decorated with cranes. Though Sadako’s wish was not granted, children and adults from all over the world send cranes to Hiroshima as a symbol of their desire for world peace.
2) The Memorial Cenotaph
This monument in the middle of the park is shaped like an arch so that you can see the Atomic Bomb Dome directly on the other side of the Pond of Peace. It is shaped like an ancient Japanese house because the idea is that the arch is serving as a shelter for the souls of the people who were killed in the bombing. The stone chest under the arch contains the names of all the victims of the atomic bomb in Hiroshima, Japanese or otherwise. The list is almost 300,000 names long and names continue to be added to it.
This photo of the view through the cenotaph is a popular one, so you’ll probably have to wait on line in order to take the picture. This felt so peculiar to me like I was some sort of tragedy tourist. But if this blog post helps to educate even one person about the horrors that happened in Hiroshima, then I hope it was worth it.
3) The Peace Bell
This bell is a traditional Japanese style bell that is rung with a wooden log. You might see this type of bell at any Buddhist temple in Japan. But this bell is different for two reasons. The first is that it is decorated with a map of a world without borders. The second is that the point on the bell where the log will hit the metal to ring the bell is inscribed with the atomic symbol. This means every time someone rings the bell, it symbolizes a wish to end atomic weapons. I encourage you to ring the bell when you visit Hiroshima, but just once, please!
4) The Hiroshima National Peace Memorial Hall
This hall is dedicated to mourning the victims of the atomic bomb. There is a sister memorial in Nagasaki, which is the other Japanese city that was subjected to the atomic bomb. There is no charge to enter the hall.
The most powerful room in the hall is the Hall of Remembrance, pictured above. Each element in this hall is significant. The basin in the center is pointed to the time 8:15 AM when the bombing took place. The basin is also supposed to be giving water to the victims who died thirsty because of the bomb’s searing heat.
The image on the wall is of Hiroshima after it was bombed. It is a mosaic made of about 140,000 tiles because those were the number of people who had died because of the atomic bomb by the end of 1945. (The number is much higher now because so many died of radiation and cancer for years after the bombing.)
5) The A-Bomb Dome
This dome is the most instantly recognizable visual symbol of the atomic bomb. It used to be the Hiroshima Prefectural Commercial Exhibition Hall until the A-Bomb was dropped directly over it. Everyone inside was killed immediately, but the walls and wires of the dome were strangely unharmed. I gather that this is paradoxical because the building was right underneath the blast, but I don’t know enough about bombs or architecture to understand exactly why. Because of the dome’s symbolic significance, it is on the UNESCO World Heritage List.
6) The Peace Clock Tower
This tower uses symbolism that can be found in many other monuments in the Peace Park. Once again, the number 8:15 AM is significant because the clock chimes at 8:15 AM every morning to express a wish for world peace. As with the bell, the sphere is meant to represent the world and all of humanity. The pillars of the clock represent the hands of the people of Hiroshima supporting the world in peace.
7) The Memorial Tower to the Mobilized Students
This tower is one of the saddest monuments in Hiroshima. It is dedicated to the Japanese middle school and high school students who were conscripted into working in weapons factories to make up for the fact that at this stage in the war, Japan did not have enough adult workers to support the manufacture of new arms. After the war was over, the Japanese government did not enshrine all of the mobilized students in the Yasukuni Shrine for war heroes in Tokyo. So the families of mobilized students who were killed in Hiroshima created their own monument here.
8) The Atomic Bomb Memorial Mound
Because each monument is sadder than the last, we end with the Atomic Bomb Memorial Mound. This mound houses the ashes of victims of the atomic bomb who were never claimed by friends or relations. To this day, there are over 800 atomic bomb victims in this mound who have never been identified.
One Day in Hiroshima
Afternoon: Explore Hiroshima
I don’t want to give the false impression that the only thing to do with one day in Hiroshima is suffer. It’s important to understand the lessons of history, but remember that Hiroshima is a thriving and modern city full of friendly citizens. Get out and meet them! Let’s get started with…
Approximately top 5: one day in Hiroshima
1) Lunch at Ekohiiki
At this point in your one day in Hiroshima, I’m assuming that you’ll need a lunch break. I highly recommend the Hiroshima oysters, which are a local delicacy. One of the best spots in town to get oysters is Ekohiiki, which is right near the Hiroshima Peace Park. The staff speaks English and it’s easy for a solo diner to walk in and get a seat at the counter.
The lunch set is a great value. As usual with a Japanese set lunch, it kicks things off with rice, miso soup, and pickles. The soup here was special because it added clams to the typical clear miso broth. I never say no to bonus clams!
24 hour treat: hiroshima oysters
Then came the main event. There was a luscious barbecued oyster, fried tofu, fried chicken, and salmon sashimi. None of those things sound like they would go together, but individually they tasted great. So I recommend eating each dish one at a time so as not to mix up the flavors. My favorite was the smoky bbq oyster. Hiroshima is famous for the size of its oysters and this one was very plump and tender.
Japan isn’t known for its desserts, so I was pleasantly surprised that one was included with my meal. It was a sweet coffee jelly topped with a layer of custard. The slight bitterness of the coffee jelly was perfectly complimented by the mild custard. Coffee jelly is so popular in Japan that Starbucks serves a coffee jelly Frappuccino there. This trend needs to catch on here in the US!
24 Hour Treasure
I saw that someone had put this Coke Zero high up by the grate in the ladies’s bathroom at Ekohiiki. Why did someone do this? It must have been difficult to get the bottle up there, so what was the purpose? If you have any idea, please leave your thoughts below.
2) Hiroshima Peace Memorial Museum
The Hiroshima Museum is dedicated to education about the effects of the atomic bomb and to housing artifacts from the atomic bomb explosion. Most of the exhibits in the main building are about the suffering of atomic bomb victims, so I don’t recommend this museum for children. I hope the information I have provided below will help you decide if this museum will be too intense for you and your traveling companions to experience or not.
THREE FACTS ABOUT THE ATOMIC BOMB IN HIROSHIMA
1) what happened to the victims?
Many of the victims of the bomb were killed because of burns incurred from the extreme heat of the explosion. Their clothes were often obliterated as you see from the school uniform pictured above. It was possible for the victims’ skin to peel off and yet for them still to survive in pain for several days before dying from their burns. Many of the objects on display belonged to the Junior High School students living in Hiroshima at the time.
2) what happened to hiroshima?
The dirt and debris from the mushroom cloud turned radioactive and was absorbed by water vapor in the sky. When it rained, this radioactive debris combined with the water vapor created “black rain” that stained Hiroshima and exposed its citizens to further radiation poisoning. This fragment of a wall, pictured above, is an example of a building damaged by black rain.
3) how is hiroshima still important today?
Many world leaders and celebrities have come to the Hiroshima Museum and left their messages and signatures. These messages are on display at the end of the exhibits in the main building. I was curious to see the names of leaders from former South African president F.W. Deklerk to Boris Yeltsin because it was just as interesting to see the countries that hadn’t sent a representative as it was to see the countries that had. The only American President listed was Jimmy Carter, and he went in his capacity as Former President, not while he was still in office.
3) cherry blossom viewing
I know I sound like a broken record, but it really is the best thing to do anywhere in Japan if you are there for cherry blossom season. The prettiest ones I found (pictured above) were on the banks of the Motoyasu River. If you have some extra time in your one day in Hiroshima, you can also buy a ticket for one of the boats that goes up the Motoyasu River to Miyajima. I didn’t do that because I’d already been to Miyajima and I wanted to stay in Hiroshima for the rest of the day. So if you take one of these river cruises and the boat sinks, don’t blame me, Internet Stranger!
4) Drink a Hiroshima Cola
This is a locally produced soft drink that tastes deliciously like an old-fashioned sarsaparilla. The bottle is decorated with carp, which are also the mascot of the local baseball team. The drink is widely available, so just go into any store that seems to be selling soft drinks and pick one up.
5) Go Shopping
Hiroshima has a ton of stores selling everything a person could think of, and some things a person could not possibly think of. My favorite stop on my one day in Hiroshima was in a chain store called Don Quijote that is several stories high and sells all of the things in the world. I seriously think I saw my third-place figure skating medal from elementary school there. However, I opted not to buy it, and instead chose an electrical adapter, a tiny pair of scissors, a bottle of sparkly pink nail polish, and a box of momiji monju cakes.
The reason I decided to enter this store in the first place is that I was so excited to see a place named after one of my favorite novels, Cervantes’ Don Quixote. But all my hopes were dashed when I saw Don Quijote’s mascot.
How can Don Quijote’s mascot possibly be a penguin wearing a Santa hat? THERE ARE NO PENGUINS IN THE BOOK DON QUIXOTE! Why couldn’t it be a windmill or an old nag named Rocinante? I felt I would be driven mad trying to figure this problem out.
My other favorite store was an adorable women’s clothing boutique called Whim. I’m a little tall and curvy for most clothes designed for Japanese women, but I did find an adorable mini umbrella decorated with cherry blossoms that I keep in my purse all the time in case of emergency rain. The young women here were very friendly and let me practice my Japanese on them. The store is also conveniently located next to our next destination…
6) Hang Out in Alice Garden on 8 Shintenchi
Alice Garden is an adorable little Alice in Wonderland themed urban square. There are sculptures shaped like the different suits from a deck of cards and stairs you can walk up and down to make yourself bigger and smaller.
When the weather is warm, there are musical performances outside here. For me, it was a pleasant place to pause during my one day in Hiroshima, read a book (with no pictures in it) and keep an eye out for a white rabbit. There was also a food truck selling Alice Crepes with all sorts of goodies like chocolate and bananas on top. I deeply regret not getting one for myself as an “Unbirthday Present”.
One Day in Hiroshima
Evening: Dine on Okonomiyaki
Okonomiyaki are Japanese pancakes made with flour, cabbage, egg, and other goodies. The exact ingredients are different depending on the city in which you purchase the okonomiyaki. Hiroshima is famous for layering the ingredients while cooking them instead of mixing them together first. The whole thing is then topped with noodles and a sunny side up egg.
I finished my one day in Hiroshima with okonomiyaki at Okonomimura, which is located at 5-13 Shintenchi. This is an “okonomiyaki” theme park with 25 okonomiyaki stands spread out over three floors. I didn’t catch the name of the stand I chose, but it was the first one on the right when you exit the elevator on the third floor, and it served delightful treats!
The chef asked me lots of questions, mostly in my broken Japanese and mostly about why I wanted to learn Japanese, while he prepared my okonomiyaki and cooked it exactly as long as I wanted. It was so exciting to eat something fresh off the grill like that. That is what I call fast food!
24 Hour Tip
You shouldn’t need me to tell you this, Internet Stranger, but don’t put the okonomiyaki in your mouth right away because it will burn your tongue. I know this because I burned my tongue. Mash up the okonomiyaki with your utensils to let some steam emerge and mix up the ingredients and then you can eat it.
After the emotionally draining experiences I’d had earlier that day, it felt like a perfect way to end the day: a middle-aged Japanese man and a young American woman speaking in Japanese about what makes Japan so special. If Japan and the United States can go from enemies to allies in such a short amount of time, perhaps there is hope that Sadako’s dream of a world without nuclear weapons will come true some day too.
Related Reading: One Day in Hiroshima
Are you ready to start booking your hotel in Hiroshima right now? Then let me give you some suggestions for further reading. I like the Lonely Planet guide to Japan. It’s divided according to the regions of Japan, which makes it easy to use for planning purposes.
If you want to add a nonfiction book about the atomic bomb, I suggest To Hell and Back by Charles Pellegrino. This book is a devastating account of the destruction the atomic bomb unleashed on Hiroshima and Nagasaki. Everyone should read it before visiting Hiroshima.
If you’re a fan of fantasy literature, I really think the Japanese are some of the best in the world at the magic stuff. Read Kappa by Ryonusuke Akutagawa. It’s like Alice in Wonderland if Alice in Wonderland were about underground lizard people. So I suggest reading it in Alice Garden.
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