Located roughly around 330 kms away from Osaka, Hiroshima – a city widely known as the first city to be targeted by a nuclear weapon during WW2 – is a must visit on a trip to Osaka.
Is it safe to visit Hiroshima?
Yes. Absolutely safe. There is no lingering radioactivity in the city.
How to get there from Osaka?
If money is a concern and if you do not mind travelling through the night and, can sleep well in a moving bus, you can take a night bus from Osaka’s JR Express Bus Terminal at 11:00 PM and reach Hiroshima station at 6:20 AM, the next day. The next bus leaves Osaka at 11:30 PM and reaches Hiroshima at 6 in the morning, the next day. A one-way trip can cost you roughly around 5000 yen (~ Rs. 2800) (~USD 45). You can make your bookings online or directly once you arrive at Osaka. To return, you can take the overnight bus from Hiroshima Station. Buses also leave to Osaka from Hiroshima Bus Centre.
(Much of the details about travelling by bus to Hiroshima were obtained from other sources and not from personal experience)
The other, better option (in my opinion), is to take the Shinkansen from Shin Osaka to Hiroshima station. A one-way unreserved ticket would cost you roughly around 9000 yen (~ Rs. 5000) (~USD 80). I know this seems like an expensive down payment when compared to taking a bus but you will not only save a lot of time, you will also save money (if you buy the five-day JR Osaka – Hiroshima pass) over the span of your trip. This JR pass works out to be 18,000 Yen. Using this pass, you can go any number of times on any JR line for 5 days within the Osaka – Hiroshima stretch. This pass also allows you to take the JR ferry from Miyajimaguchi to Itsukushima shrine. You can also use this pass to travel locally within Osaka on any of the JR lines and also to visit Kyoto. So basically, this is a one-time down payment that covers most of your travel within Osaka and to some extent in Hiroshima and Kyoto. You can also use the bullet train (Shinkansen) any number of times within the five-day period. Meaning, you can visit Himeji castle on another day using the same pass (which lies in between Osaka and Hiroshima). So effectively, you will be saving money in the long run.
There are a total of five Shinkansen lines that go to Hiroshima from Shin Osaka (one stop away from Osaka station). Journey times vary between the lines. The fastest – Nozomi and Mizuho – are Super Express lines that take you to Hiroshima within an hour and twenty minutes. However, you will not be able to ride on the 2 lines using the JR pass. The slowest – Kodama – which stops at all stations on the way will get you to Hiroshima in 2 hours and thirty minutes. The other two – Hikari and Sakura – are Express lines and takes around an hour and a half to get to Hiroshima. You can use the JR pass on Hikari, Sakura and Kodama lines. Avoid the Kodama line since it is the slowest and takes an additional one hour to reach Hiroshima, when compared to Hikari and Sakura.
The frequency of the trains is quite high so you need not worry about missing a train. However, it would be best to leave Osaka early in the morning which gives you more time to look around Hiroshima. To return, you can take the Shinkansen from Hiroshima Station back to Shin Osaka.
Reserved vs. Unreserved – The JR pass gets you a seat on an unreserved coach. The difference is simple. If you have a reserved ticket (which obviously costs you more), your seat is reserved for you. You can reach the station five minutes before the train leaves and you will still have your seat. For an unreserved ticket, your seat is not reserved. However, we never had a problem getting a seat with an unreserved ticket. Of course, we came to the station fifteen minutes early. There are lines that queue up in front of the train. So first come, first serve. You don’t have to worry about fighting your way in. Unless it’s peak tourist season, you’re pretty much guaranteed to get a seat. Especially if you leave early and return late.
Places to See in a Day
The first thing that comes to one’s mind when planning a trip to Hiroshima is the atomic bombing of the city during WW 2. Naturally, the first two places you must visit when you reach Hiroshima station are –
Atomic Bomb memorial/Atomic Bomb Dome – Situated roughly around 2.5 kms away from the station, it takes around 30 minutes by walk and 15 minutes by tram to get here. We chose to walk. This dome is the only structure in the city of Hiroshima that remained intact enough after the bombing. As a token of respect and to preserve the memory of the bombing, the dome is left to stand in its place.
Hiroshima Peace Memorial Museum, Cenotaph for the Atomic Bomb Victims and Children’s Peace Monument – The Cenotaph, the Children’s Peace Monument and the Memorial Museum are all located in the Hiroshima Peace Memorial Park, all at walking distance from the Atomic Bomb Dome (a 5-minute walk). Walking from the Dome, towards the park, you first cross a bridge over the Ota river to enter the park. At the end of the bridge, the Children’s Peace Monument is located on your right and the Cenotaph and Memorial Museum on your left. The Children’s Peace Monument was erected as a sign of respect for the thousands of children who died during the bombing. After paying your respects at the monument, you can proceed to the Cenotaph. The Cenotaph commemorates all victims of the atomic bombing. A horse saddle shaped structure protects the flame of the cenotaph from the rains and through it, you can see the Atomic Bomb Dome. Walking further left, you will reach the Memorial Museum. The museum documents the events leading to and the events after the atomic bombing of Hiroshima. There are several pictures, videos, 3D demonstrations and artefacts that explain the events of the atomic bombing and its aftermath.
The watch that stopped working exactly at the time of the bombing
While Hiroshima is widely known for the atomic bombings and WW 2, there are quite a few places, unrelated to the bombings that are a must see on your visit to Hiroshima. Here are two such places you can cover on your day trip –
Hiroshima castle – The castle is a 15-minute walk from the peace park. The original castle was destroyed during the bombing and what you see today it the reconstructed version of the castle – still beautiful.
Floating Torii gate & Itsukushima Shrine at Miyajima – If I were to list down some of the best places I have been to in the world, Miyajima would be on the top of that list (at least for now). Despite the crowd, there was a serenity and calmness to the place that I find tough to explain. What’s special about this place, apart from its breathtaking beauty, is that this is the only place in Japan where you can see a ‘floating’ Torii gate – a gate that is partially submerged in water during high tide. During low tide, the water recedes and you would be able to walk all the way till the gate.
To reach this island, you must take the JR Sanyo line (covered by the 5-day pass) from Hiroshima Station to Miyajimaguchi. It is a 30-minute ride. Once you reach Miyajimaguchi, take the JR ferry from the mainland to the island (also covered by the JR 5-day pass). The ferry ride is about 10 minutes. Seat yourself at the top tier of the ferry so you can spot the Torii gate as you cross the river and, for some spectacular views. Once you reach the island, head towards your right and walk along the road to reach the Torii gate and the Itsukushima Shrine. The ideal time to visit Miyajima on a day trip would be just before sunset. The views are fantastic and there are fewer tourists but this also means the shops and shrines would be closed. If you plan to spend more than a day in Hiroshima, you can spend almost an entire day at Miyajima – exploring the several shrines, the five tier Pagoda, hiking Mt. Misen, visiting the old town, street shopping and finally, relaxing on the beaches right next to the floating Torii gate enjoying the sun set. A perfect end to a perfect day.
Vegan/Vegan Friendly Restaurants at Hiroshima
Art Cafe ELF – Situated very close to the Atomic Bomb Dome – Vegan Friendly (Japanese and American Cuisine)
Shanti Yoga Vegan Cafe – Japanese Cuisine
Rupari Indian Cuisine – Situated close to the Hiroshima station