Hiroshima is an amazing place. To both visit and to live. Though a small city, it is green and has the best of both worlds being urban yet at the same time having a small-town feel to it. Surrounded by mountains and the Seto Inland Sea with all its islands, I consider it to be a perfect spot for anything you might want to explore.
And it is here in Hiroshima where I fell in love with Japan over two years ago when I came around for a mere holiday. On the bank of Motoyasu River I sat down in silence and watched the hot August sun come down. Known as the Peace Memorial Park is where I pondered over of my first couple of days in Japan and where I first realized that I must live in this beautiful, fascinating country.
Yet it still amazes me that it is actually here, in Hiroshima, where I now call a place “home”.
Mostly everyone outside Japan knows Hiroshima as the “Atomic Bomb city” and it surely makes sense that herds of people pour into the city to visit the the Peace Memorial Museum or the Park as the city still proudly and passionately carries the message of atomic warfare horror and most importantly, the message of peace.
But to me that is simply not all there is to Hiroshima. Its gentle, humble people are kind and helpful down to a fault – and it is mostly the people who make Hiroshima feel so homey for me.
From a local’s point of view (I hope I dare to call myself one) Hiroshima has a lot of great things to offer, which might not seem very interesting to visitors at first, but nonetheless I would like to introduce some of them. Hopefully you will agree that Hiroshima has a lot more to offer than the atomic bomb “attractions”.
Motoujina Park, Ujina Island
With gorgeous views of the Seto Inland Sea, Motoujina Park is located in Ujina, a southern suburb of the city.
Motoujina Park is a secret gem not many tourists are aware of and a place where not even many locals venture often to.
A short walk from a streetcar stop brings you to a lush island with sandy beaches, dramatic rocky coastline, a trail leading up to a lighthouse, fishing spots, and in general just an amazingly beautiful, relaxing spot.
There is a very luxurious hotel located on the Ujina Island, the Prince Hotel, where anyone can go and enjoy a coffee, light meal or an extravagant buffet with amazing views.
No need to fear for crowds though: even the hotel has a subdued, slow vibe to it.
It is simply astounding how such a temple of unique beauty and serene atmosphere is so widely disregarded by a vast majority of visitors – and even locals. The Mitaki Temple is located a short bus or train ride away from Hiroshima station, though to reach the temple you do have to climb up….and then climb up some more.
None the less it is completely worth while to venture up to Mitaki Dera, Mitaki Temple. When climbing up the steep hill you will get away from the noises of everyday life and further up you go you will hear birds singing and enjoy the lush, green nature surrounding you.
As you enter the temple grounds, you will probably first admire the moss covered small statues wearing bright red garments while you listen to a trickling stream coming down the mountain. It is simply instantly relaxing. Some say it transfers you back in time, visiting Mitaki Dera. Mental time travel or not, it is a place of beauty and again: no crowds. You are unlikely to encounter other people than the local monks here.
Truly a place to indulge in beauty and serenity.
The Rivers of Hiroshima
Hiroshima has six main rivers and apparently it has been called the City of Water. As Hiroshima is green, so it is blue: it is easy to enjoy natural beauty right here in the city.
I find most of the riversides perfect for leisurely walks as the city makes an effort to beautify them with plants, flowers, art work and so on.
As an avid walker I love exploring any city on foot. From the first moment I started mapping my surroundings in Hiroshima I remember the thrill of seeing so many beautiful riverside walkways. During summer I never go walking during daytime due to the horrendous heat, but luckily Japan is so safe that I do not have to be afraid of after dark.
City lights reflecting on its rivers are magical.
Hiroshima Castle Moat
Unfortunately I do not think much of the castle itself in Hiroshima, but I find the moat surrounding the castle gorgeous. I always tell visitors who ask me about the castle that they should rather explore Himeji or Osaka castles instead, but that walking around the Hiroshima Castle park – and particularly the moat – is simply lovely.
Especially after the crowds have left the castle grounds for the day it is a beautiful spot to walk around, watch the sun set, sit down for a bit and see the lights turn on to lit up the castle.
What’s not to love!
There are so many more things I enjoy about Hiroshima, but these are some of the things that make it so special to me. Next time you are in the city I hope you can take time to enjoy it in a new light.