For most people, Hiroshima is familiar because of the atomic bombing that occurred here, but beyond this exterior, it is a city rich in cultural history with plenty to do. Visit one of the many museums, attend one of their festivals (don’t miss the oyster festival in February), and dine out in one of their 4,000 bars and restaurants. It’s a beautiful city that has recovered greatly since its bomb-scarred past.
Hostel prices – There are only a few options in the city, but they are a good value. Expect to pay about $25 USD per night for a dorm. Privates start at about $35 USD. All the hostels have free wi-fi.
Budget hotel prices – A night in a centrally located hotel is about $45 USD for single bed room. Some hotels will offer a slight discount if you book way in advance or stay multiple nights.
Average cost of food – While eating out, a cheap way to go is trying the Okonomiyaki (a traditional local speciality) which is comprised of egg, meat, and seafood. You have it cooked as you like it for $7 USD. Buying groceries will cost you $30-40 USD per week. Most restaurant meals cost around $15 USD. Mid-range restaurants can will cost around $30 USD. Sushi trains cost around $1-5 USD per piece. Fast food is around $6 USD.
Transportation – Bus tickets within the city are a flat fee of $2 USD, and one day passes are available for $6 USD. Astram, the city’s metro system, runs every few minutes from 6 am – midnight and trips range from $2-5 USD depending on the distance.
Money Saving Tips
Walk around – Hiroshima is very walkable. Avoid spending money on transportation and walk. I never found the distances too far, and it’s a good way to see the city.
Eat curry, ramen, and donburi – I essentially lived off these staple foods during my three weeks in Japan. Curry bowls were as cheap as $3 USD per plate. Donburi, bowls of meat and rice, are around $3-5 USD. Ramen is never more than $7 USD.
Couchsurf – Using sites like Couchsurfing that allow you to stay with locals not only gets you a free place to stay, but lets you interact and learn about local life. Make sure you ask early – the response rate is not always good!
Top Things to See and Do
Visit the Atomic Bomb Memorial Museum and Peace Park – This museum depicts the history of Hiroshima before and after the atomic bomb. It’s a very educational experience, with a lot of photos, and videos, and lots of information about the effect the radiation has had on people. It’s a very moving place, especially the Children’s Monument.
Visit Hiroshima Castle – Although the original was destroyed with the atomic bombing, the reconstructed castle serves as a great opportunity to get to know Hiroshima’s history and see what life used to be like in historic Hiroshima.
Visit Miyajima Island – Miyajima is an island just outside of Hiroshima and is famous for its torii gate, which rises out of the water. The name “Miyajima” means ‘shrine island’ so make sure to visit Itsukushima, a shrine that sticks out above water. There are also walking trails in the area that make the island worth a day trip. Take the ferry to reach the island. The ferry ride is much far more scenic than the train.
Visit the Hiroshima Museum of Art – Half of the art pieces are by some of the greats such as Monet, Degas and Renoir but the other half are by Japanese artists. It’s a good mix of world and local art. It costs $11 USD to enter.
Visit the Bitchu Matsuyama Castle – Not only is this Japan’s highest castle but it’s also Japan’s only remaining original castle. The castle was originally built on a nearby mountain in 1240 AD by Akiba Shigenobu. After the Edo Era ended, the castle was partly destroyed, and the rest of it was abandoned and slowly fell into disrepair. In 1929, restoration work began on the castle. Three parts were saved and still stand today.
Attend the “Oyster Festival” – If you’re passing through Hiroshima in the winter months, make sure to check out this fun and festive event. In this part of Japan, locals eat a lot of oysters, and during the oyster festival, you can enjoy oysters at a discounted price. It’s basically a festival celebrating how awesome an oyster is.
Wander the Shukkeien Garden – This compact and beautifully landscaped Japanese garden is well worth a visit, and is an ideal place to decompress from the atomic bomb sites. Shukkeien can feel like an entirely different world, with little paths crossing ponds on bridges and winding their way around graceful teahouses and waterfalls.
Attend the Sake Festival – The suburb of Saijo is famous for its sake breweries and in October they have an annual boozy blowout. For the price of entry, attendees can drink their fill of sake from local breweries. Outside the festival area, tours of sake breweries are also available, with wood sake cups as souvenirs for your visit.
See the Mazda Museum – Mazda’s corporate headquarters are a short distance outside of Hiroshima. The tour is a must for any automobile fan, but if you have any serious technical questions, then you should go on the Japanese tour, and bring along your own interpreter, as there’s less detail on the English tour. You are taken to their Ujina plant and the actual assembly line, and get a look at some of their concept vehicles. The tour is free.
Get active in Chuo Park – Found in the middle of the city, this green expanse is home to Hiroshima Castle, Gokoku Shrine, a few museums, and great walking and running paths. Often, there are football, soccer, and even frisbee games going on.
Attend the Flower Festival – A major event in Hiroshima, this festival occurs annually during the first weekend of May. There is an array of performances, ranging from Japanese pop bands and jazz combos, to comedians and Okinawan bands. There are always a ton of food vendors and novelty crafts stalls. Admission is free.
Catch a show at Shimizu Theater – While the shows here are only in Japanese, attending one offers an interesting look into Japanese culture. Shows are usually based on classical dramas, with cast members sporting crazy costumes and elaborate make-up. Tickets run around $20 USD.
Enjoy a wild night out – There are a number of bars, beer gardens, and pubs throughout Hiroshima with the highest concentration found in Nagarekawa. You can easily find low-key wine bars and sake breweries, or dance clubs and lounges. There are a lot of college students in this city, so there’s plenty of nightlife!