Hiroshima City is on the east coast of Japan but more important than this geographical location is its location at the mouth of a delta, where the majestic Ohta River meanders down from higher elevations before branching out, sometimes only to converge again, across the city, before spilling into Hiroshima Harbor. The result is a city that is naturally divided into geographically distinct sections.
The area that visitors first become familiar with is the Hiroshima Station area, a bit northeast of the city center, although the addresses of many of the businesses here indicate "south ward." As you might imagine, this busy area features many businesses intended for tourists and travelers, including hotels and shopping centers with many eateries interspersed between them. Travelers with expensive tastes and a budget to match should consider checking-in to the Hiroshima Prince Hotel before heading to the Sun Mall . to get some shopping done. Directly in front of the station is a tram, the primary form of transportation to the center of the city.The Hiroshima City Tourist Association also has an office here to help get you started.
Hiroshima's geographical center is comprised of five districts. The first, Nagerakawa, is neon central. Here the signs of bars, restaurants of all classes, and sundry entertainment establishments set the swarming streets aglow. During the day, shoppers may be out in throngs, particularly around Mitsukoshi Department Store and Midorii Tenmaya.
Due west of Nagerakawa, and just south of the tram stops for Kamiyacho, Tate-machi and Hacchobori is Hondori. Actually, Hondori is the name of the arcade that runs through this section, leading you to correctly assume that there are many shopping opportunities to be had here. But apart from the PARCO and Fukuya shopping centers that act as anchors for smaller shops (Iena, Spick and Span, St. James and Hybryds to name a few) there are also a number of swank drinking spots, such as qoo .
Hacchobori and Nobori-machi form the district just north of the tram stops listed above, as well as the Ebisu-cho and Kanayama tram stops. Because of its location in Hiroshima central, the area is busy, but not quite as fast-paced as those previously mentioned. Tokyu Hands is the major shopping center here, though an abundance of restaurants is the area's main draw.
South of Hondori arcade lies the district formed by Fukuro-machi and Naka-machi. This region is host to a number of hotels, including the famed ANA Hotel . It is also replete with stylish clothing shops, such as Stereo Type and Factory, as well as small restaurants and miscellaneous shops. To the immediate south is the famed Peace Boulevard that leads to Peace Memorial Park and the Peace Memorial Museum .
The final district of Hiroshima central is Kamiyacho, just west of the other four, where shopping opportunities are innumerable. With Sun Mall , SOGO Department Store and others ready to serve you here, you hardly need to go anywhere else.
Hakushima & Kamihacchobori
Concentrically surrounding these central districts are less busy, but certainly no less important areas. Slightly north of the Kamiyacho and Hacchobori region lies Hakushima and Kamihacchobori. There are a few hotels here, including Hacchobori Shanty and Hotel Unizo Hiroshima to name but two, but the main attraction is the Hiroshima Prefectural Art Museum , adjacent to Shukkeien Garden . About a block west from here is the small but distinctive Hiroshima "Carp" Castle .
Nishihiroshima & Itsukaichi
West of the central district, Nishihiroshima begins to shed a little of the ultra-urban feel. Here you will find dozens of miscellaneous and family-run stores, as well as the charming Hiroshima Kannon Marina , and for those looking for tranquility, take a rest amongst the beautiful maple tree park and waterfalls of Mitaki Temple .
Continue following the JR Line west from Yokogawa and, after passing numerous other stations, you will arrive at Itsukaichi, the western extreme of Hiroshima City. In the west ward, Alpark Shopping Center is perhaps the biggest attraction, a shopping complex with many specialty stores, its own restaurants and a drive-in movie theater. Moreover, the more relaxed atmosphere gives a feeling of relief from the downtown area.
Hiroshima Prefecture has been nicknamed "mini Japan," and rightly so, for it sports the best of everything Japan has to offer. When it comes to food, Hiroshima is a virtual gold mine of culinary delights.
The city's location right on the Seto Inland Sea makes it a haven for seafood lovers but Hiroshima's specialty from the sea is without a doubt oysters. The month of February is devoted to oyster festivals (kaki matsuri). These are held both in the city and in every seaside town, where one can savor cheap, fresh oysters at outdoor stands. The famous tourist island of Miyajima is also a mecca for oyster lovers, with many shops specializing purely in oyster dishes. A visit to Miyajima must also include a stop in at one of the momiji manju shops, where one can try maple leaf-shaped sweet-bean cakes served warm with tea. The most famous momiji-manju maker in Hiroshima is Nishiki-Do. A box of their cakes makes a great gift.
If the Nagarekawa scene does not suit you, try some of the options in other parts of Naka-ku, such as the more relaxed and spacious restaurant-bar atmosphere of Sam's Cafe 13 or Kemby's , two hangouts popular for their great American/Mexican-style menus and range of imported and local beers. As with any city in Japan, there is never a shortage of places to wile away your time snacking on local goodies and choosing from an array of sake types and vintages at places like Tsukiakari , one of Hiroshima's best-loved yakiniku (grilled meat) restaurants, where diners can grill right at their tables. And speaking of sake, Hiroshima is also home to the Saijo Sake Festival , where every October crowds throng the Higashi-Hiroshima town of Saijo to sample sake from its famous breweries.
Staying with local specialties, a trip to Hiroshima is not complete without getting a taste of Hiroshima-style okonomiyaki (literally meaning "as you like it"). This inexpensive dish is often described as "Japanese pizza." It is a doughy mixture filled with various meats, seafood and vegetables, cooked in front of the customer (or by the customer) on a hot plate at the table, and served with its trademark okonomiyaki sauce. It is eaten throughout Japan, but the addition of soba (buckwheat noodles) or udon (rice noodles) to the filling is unique to Hiroshima, hence its fame. In fact, a whole section of the downtown area has been designated Okonomimura (okonomiyaki village), a large building bursting with four floors of okonomiyaki shops.
For a more substantial meal, diners are spoilt for choice. In the Pacela shopping complex alone, four floors are devoted entirely to restaurants, offering anything from authentic Indian cuisine to high-class Japanese kaiseki-ryori, cheap Italian and all-you-can-eat buffets. Even a fine night of gourmet French cuisine is available at such formal hot spots as Restaurant Ogawa .
Located on the North side of Naka-ku, Hacchobori is just one of the many parts of the central district that you'll want to check out if you're hungry. If you're a beer lover, don't miss Heiwa Koboh , which features two beers brewed in-house, as well as a selection of others, along with a host of Japanese and Chinese specialty foods, such as Oden and spring rolls. If you have a large group, Neko Matagi can accommodate groups of up to 50 people, and has a large, continually changing menu to match its equally impressive selection of beer and cocktails. For a local taste, Mitchan has several branches dotted around the city that offer a wide variety of options for okonomiyaki.
Hiroshima is infamous for the speed at which new eateries and bars appear and disappear. Even monthly publications have trouble keeping up to date with all the changes. The Nagarekawa district is a prime example of this, though this area is dedicated far more to drinking than dining. A maze of narrow backstreets filled with tiny, hole-in-the-wall snack bars and other adult entertainment, Nagarekawa is a navigational exercise in itself but it is worth all the wrong turns when you stumble across such popular nightspots as Jamaica , Snappers, Cross , Mac Bar or Twisters. Chokotto-Ya is a particularly tempting option if what you're looking for is food and drink, with as many as 150 local varieties of sake and a three-story izakaya (Japanese pub) that serves simple, unpretentious food.
Whatever your preference, you are guaranteed to find an array of tempting places to satisfy your palate in Hiroshima.
There is much more to see in the countryside surrounding Hiroshima than one might imagine. While there are that must-see places in Hiroshima City proper, such as Peace Memorial Park and Itsukushima Shrine , outside the city lies a wealth of natural treasure. This is not so much due to the city's relatively small size, but more to the abundance of sights in Hiroshima Prefecture.
The most popular destination associated with the region is without question Miyajima . A pleasant one hour ride west along the coast brings you to the port where ferries cross over to this beautiful, albeit heavily visited, island. The island's Itsukushima Shrine , originally built in the late 6th Century and rebuilt in 1146, is legendary. The unusual torii, or shrine arch, stands out in the water and is considered by many to be one of the most beautiful sites in all of Japan. After inspecting the other architecture of the area, including the five-story pagoda, a trip to the top of the 530-meter/1,739-foot Mt. Misen is recommended. Or hike the trails of nearby Momiji Tani Park. Among the many other sights and attractions here not to be missed is the Miyajima Oyster Festival , which is held every February.
Sandankyo & the Coastline
If you are going to be in the western reaches of the prefecture, you may also want to consider visiting some of Hiroshima's famous outdoor areas. In Ohtake City, Mikura-dake, a group of three peaks, the highest of which is 702-meters/2,303-feet tall, provides pleasure for campers and rock climbers alike. Deeper inland, toward the rugged, forested and rural area known as Sandankyo, you will encounter some of the most splendid natural scenery in the prefecture. Sandankyo, while also the name of the district, is more specifically the name of a scenic gorge. There is a boat tour through the gorge to a 30-meter/98-feet tall waterfall, and the quiet surroundings alone make the trip worthwhile for many. A few kilometers to the west, at an elevation of 1,341meters/0.8-miles, is Hiroshima prefecture's tallest peak, Osorakan-zan. In the winter, the area provides some good skiing opportunities, as well as a number of fine hot springs.
The Hiroshima coastline is perhaps the most jagged in Japan, blessed with hundreds and hundreds of islands. Before hitting the coast, start by visiting the peaceful maple tree park and two-story pagoda at Mitaki Temple , then continue on to Hiroshima Kannin Marina , where you can take a peaceful stroll while enjoying the scenic waterfront. Southeast of Hiroshima City, you may wish to visit Kure City, location of the Kure Maritime Museum , and by extension into the Inland Sea, the Ondo and Kurahashi areas. West of these quasi-islands are Etajima and Ogaki. If you are looking for quietude, nice beaches or great seafood restaurants, this is the area you will want to visit. Or, for an even more remote atmosphere with similar characteristics, the twin islands of Shimokamagiri and Kamagiri about 10-kilometers/6.2-miles to the east are recommended destinations.
Due east of Hiroshima City is the area appropriately named Higashi Hiroshima (east Hiroshima). The city of the same name is home to Hiroshima University and some of the nation's most-acclaimed sake (rice wine) breweries. If you are around in October, you will not want to miss the Saijo Sake Festival , where over 700 varieties can be tasted. But even if you are a teetotaler, there is still much to see in the way of historic buildings and parks, such as Minagasuigenchi with its 335-meter/1,099-foot tall wisteria trellis, and 7-kilometer stretch of waterside cherry trees that attract visitors from all around the region. Fudoin Temple is also a great place to view the cherry blossoms when they bloom in April.
South of this area, along the coastline, is Takehara, a region rich with ancient buildings and coastal islands. In Takehara City itself, there is a famed preservation area that dates back to the Edo period (mid-19th Century). This area and the several museums here could easily occupy you for a day. Otherwise, ferries to some of the islands may make for a wonderful diversion. Ohzaki-kamijima and Ohzaki-shimojima, located north and south, respectively, are highly popular destinations offering not much to do but relax. Then, on your return trip to the city, stop back in Eastern Hiroshima at Kaki-den to enjoy some fresh, delicious oysters.
If island hopping turns into a hobby for you, there are plenty more to explore. Starting at Onomichi, the coastal region northeast of Takehara, where you can enjoy the Onomichi Betchya Festival , you can cross the Onomichi Bridge and follow a highway that runs through a handful of major islands all the way to Ehime Prefecture (parts of this new highway are still under construction). Your first stop is Mukaijima, famed for its high annual rainfall, which provides for lush scenery, and its scrumptious seafood. From there, you will pass to Innojima, another island famed for seafood, as well as its castle and lovely flower parks. Next stop is Ikuchijima, famous for, what else? Seafood. But do take a trip to the absolutely exquisite Kosan-ji Temple located in Setoda-cho. Onward to Ohshima, where you will find Ohyamajumi Shrine (a national treasure), several great museums, such as the Ohmishima Art Museum , and a number of quiet parks. The last two islands before Ehime, are Hakatajima and Ohshima. Both have roads that allow you to circle the islands and appreciate their unadulterated natural beauty.
Sea sick? Try the mountains. Hiroshima has plenty of them. But prepare yourself for a slower pace of life and a particularly rural setting. Miyoshi City is not attractive per se, but it is conveniently located off a major highway junction, making it a great place to launch your adventures into the countryside. But before you head out, stop in at the Miyoshi Becken Beer microbrewery to have a brew made with the areas incredibly pure water. And where will you go from there? Kimitason, Funoson, Sakugison, Mirasaka-cho and Kisa-cho are all quaint valley villages that make for great day trips. Or simply grab a map, pick a point and go! It is hard to imagine a destination in the Hiroshima countryside that does not have its own unique charm.
Hiroshima Convention & Visitors Bureau (+1 81 82 261 1877/ http://www.hiroshima-navi.or.jp/)
Hiroshima Tourist Navigator (+1 81 82 513 3389/ http://www.kankou.pref.hiroshima.jp/foreign/english/index.html)
JALPAK domestic Tours(http://domtoursearch.jal.co.jp/jal_dom/)
JTB Sunrise Tours (+1 81 75 341 1413/ http://www.jtb.co.jp/shop/itdw/info/e/list2011.asp#fromHiroshima)
Aqua Net Hiroshima (+1 81 82 240 5995/ http://www.aqua-net-h.co.jp/sekaiisan_course_english.html)
First Flying (+1 81 82 233 3123)