On August 6, 1945, the first atomic bomb fell on Hiroshima. Approximately 150,000 lives were lost, half of them on that first day. Almost 75 years later, it’s clear that emotions are still raw but that the people of Japan are resilient. In my opinion, if you’re in the area and can make a day trip to Hiroshima, it’s absolutely worth it.
Hiroshima suffered unimaginable devastation after the first atomic bomb was dropped on the city in 1945. They have since rebuilt with a focus on creating peace and harmony. The bustling city you’ll find today, and memorials commemorating the past, is the ultimate example of human resilience.
During my earliest adventures to Japan, I never visited Hiroshima. Growing up in Canada with American family, I’m grateful for the perspective it gave me of the city. Years later, I married a historian who specialized in World War II (we’re friendly exes now, co-parenting my oldest kids) and the things he shared gave me an even greater insight. That being said, nothing prepared me for what I found on our day trip to Hiroshima.
When my daughter and I traveled to Japan in 2019, we debated adding it to our itinerary. For most of our trip, we were based out of Osaka so it seemed feasible — but would it really be worth it? I’d noticed some posts on a travel board I follow where everyone said they wished they’d planned for more time in Hiroshima. After seeing those comments, we decided that we’d spend a day in Hiroshima. I’m so glad we did.
How to Get to Hiroshima From Osaka
From Osaka, there are several ways you can travel to Hiroshima. What you choose will depend greatly on personal preferences and how much time you’ve alloted for your trip. Let’s cover the options.
Day Trip to Hiroshima from Osaka by Shinkansen
The fastest and most convenient way to get to Hiroshima from Osaka is on the Shinkansen bullet train. We recommend buying a Japan Rail Pass for exploring as you won’t have to worry about fares as long as you choose the slightly slower trains (Hikari or Sakura in this instance).
Any Shinkansen is probably the best choice for a day trip to Hiroshima from Osaka, but we particularly love the Hello Kitty trains. If you’re going to be sitting for a few hours, it may as well be adorable, right?
- From Shin-Osaka Station, you’ll take the Sanyo Shinkansen Line to Hiroshima Station. Choose the Hikari (2 hours and 15 minutes) or Sakura ( just over 90 minutes) and ride for free with the JR Pass or pay a premium charge to board the Nozomi or Mizuho trains (under 90 minutes) to get there faster.
- Board the cutest train ever and book a seat on the Hello Kitty Shinkansen (see timetable here), which is covered with the JR Pass. Honestly, we had a blast and we hope to do it again!
Day Trip to Hiroshima from Osaka By Local Trains
If you’re hoping to see Hiroshima in a day, taking a local train from Osaka is a bad idea. Why? Because it will take forever! Not only will it take about six hours each way to get between Osaka and Hiroshima, but you’ll also have to complete a number of transfers.
From Shin-Osaka Station:
- Take the JR Sanyo Main Line to Himeji Station.
- Transfer to the Sanyo Main Line bound for Niimi. Get off at Okayama Station.
- From Okayama Station, take the Sanyo Main Line to Mihara.
- Board the Sanyo Main Line for Iwakuni. Get off at Hiroshima Station.
Of course, the price is much lower than the Shinkansen if you don’t have a JR Pass. So, if you really must do it this way, try to leave as early as you can in the morning to try to make the most of your time.
Traveling by Bus to Hiroshima
You can take a regular or overnight bus from Osaka to Hiroshima. It’s going to cost less than taking the Shinkansen or the train, but it will take five hours (which is an hour less than the local trains!).
- Daytime: Take the bus at Osaka Station’s JR Express Bus Terminal. Although operated by Japan Rail, the JR Express bus fare probably won’t be covered by the JR Pass.
- Overnight: At 11:00pm and 11:30pm, buses head to Hiroshima from Osaka Station. They arrive at 5:30am and 6:30am, so you can sleep while you travel (and save on hotel costs!).
There are benefits to all three modes of transportation, but we’d have to stick with our recommendation that you use the Shinkansen. The scenic route is absolutely gorgeous and can you really beat traveling on a Hello Kitty train?
What to Do at Hiroshima Station
We quickly discovered that Hiroshima Station was a destination in itself. There’s a lot to see, do, and eat, so if you can spare a few moments, look around. We often think about all of the things we saw but didn’t get to experience, so give yourself extra time to explore.
Here are some ideas for what you can do while you’re at Hiroshima station:
- Check out flights to South Korea. They are cheap and Seoul or Busan are closer than you think!
- Shop for souvenirs here. There’s a huge assortment and a lot of it is pretty cool.
- Eat and buy treats to go. Get the Momiji manju, Hiroshima’s most popular souvenir. As Canadians, we were delighted by this maple-leaf-shaped cake filled with sweet bean paste.
Expect crowds at Hiroshima Station because it’s really busy, but if you can push past the madness, you’ll probably find some hidden gems.
Popular Attractions in Hiroshima
The historic sites are a fair distance from Hiroshima Station. Fortunately, you can just step outside and hop aboard the JR Hiroshima Sightseeing Loop Buses, also called Maple Loop Buses or Meipuru-pu. Choose between three routes on the Loop Buses, all included on the JR Pass. For more information on the routes and timetables, visit the Hiroshima City official website.
As the location of the first nuclear weapon ever unleashed on our planet, it serves as a reminder of the need for world peace and harmony. Here are some of the important landmarks you can visit on your day trip to Hiroshima.
In case you’re unfamiliar, the United Nations Educational, Scientific and Cultural Organization (UNESCO), a specialized agency of the United Nations, seeks to “encourage the identification, protection and preservation of cultural and natural heritage around the world considered to be of outstanding value to humanity.” Keep your eyes out for the UNESCO World Heritage Sites as you travel — there are two on this list!
Hiroshima Peace Memorial Park
Once the political and commercial heart of the city, the Hiroshima Peace Memorial Park occupies 120,000 square meters full of trees, green space and walking paths. Rather than trying to restore it to its former state, four years after the blast, city planners decided to transform the space into a peace memorial.
At the Peace Memorial Park, you’ll find the A-Bomb Dome, Hiroshima Peace Memorial Museum, Hiroshima Peace Memorial Hall, and Children’s Memorial on the grounds.
The A-Bomb Dome
A UNESCO World Heritage Site, the A-Bomb Dome, also known as the Hiroshima Peace Memorial, took a direct hit from the bomb and survived. We were absolutely awestruck and transformed the minute we saw it.
Hiroshima Peace Memorial Museum & Hall
Established in 1955 with the Hiroshima Peace Memorial Hall, this site is dedicated to documenting the atomic bombing. Both are located at the Peace Memorial Park.
Children’s Peace Monument
To commemorate Sadako Sasaki, a young girl who died of leukemia from the radiation of the atomic bomb, and the thousands of children who also tragically lost their lives, Hiroshima created the Children’s Peace Monument. Nothing has ever given me the chills quite like standing near this structure.
Constructed in the 1590s, the atomic bomb destroyed this ancient castle. A breathtaking reconstruction stands near the original site where the foundation remains visible.
You’ll need to travel to nearby Miyajima and then take a ferry, but the trip out to the Itsukushima Shrine will be worth it. Another UNESCO World Heritage Site, the Shinto shrine appears to float on the waters of the Onoseto Strait.
Tips For Your Day Trip to Hiroshima One-Day Itinerary
We don’t have a lot of tips for your trip to Hiroshima aside from this one thing — be respectful. No matter where you stand on World War II, no matter what you think you know about history, and no matter what you believe about weapons and combat, be respectful.
The people of Hiroshima were among the most gracious, peaceful human beings I’ve ever met. The whole city felt surreal, as if the nuclear blast destroyed all ability to hate. Remember that some of the residents who live there today were alive when the bomb fell. Others are the children and grandchildren of those who both survived and perished.
Most of us will never experience what they’ve had to face or overcome, but the innocent people who had nothing to do with the conflict have every reason to be angry and hateful. They aren’t, though. They are open to tourists and gracious with visitors. While they shine a spotlight on the horrors of the past, they do so with the intention of preventing history from repeating itself. It’s a beautiful place, and I’d live there if I could.
What to Eat in Hiroshima
We were in Hiroshima for just a few short hours, so we didn’t really get to eat much. In fact, we really only had time for four of our favorite corn dogs at 7-11. Yes, even the corn dogs in Japan are better!
Obviously, this incredible area has so much to offer, so do your best to check out the local fare during your short visit. This will go a long way towards combatting some of the local complaints about overtourism (although, it will be interesting to see how the COVID-19 pandemic changes this dynamic!).
Be on the lookout for some great foodie opportunities:
- You’ll find Okonomiyaki (pancakes made with a thin batter, across Japan, especially in Osaka. The ones in Hiroshima, though, are famous for being unique, savory, and generally more healthy.
- Approximately 60-70% of Japan’s oysters come from Hiroshima. I’m allergic to fish and seafood so it’s not something we’ll try, but if you love oysters, these might be worth trying!
- Tsukemen are cold noodles dipped in a spicy sauce. Usually, customers choose the level of spiciness. Typically, the noodles come with sliced meat, eggs, cabbage, shredded leeks, or cucumbers.
- Don’t overlook convenience stores as options for quick, tasty meals in Japan. They have everything from ready-to-eat fried chicken and corn dogs to microwavable meals like spaghetti and meat sauce or even curry.
Hiroshima Tours & Experiences
There’s a lot to learn and understand about Hiroshima. You can explore on your own (Google is your friend!) but if you’d prefer something more structured, you could always take a tour. Here are some options for you to consider:
- Hiroshima Cycling Peace Tour with Local Guide: We personally love cycling tours (like in Vancouver!), so the idea of pedaling through Hiroshima with a local guide sounds great to us!
- Hiroshima Peace (Heiwa) Walking Tour at World Heritage Sites: Learn more about the important history of Hiroshima from local guides, many of whom were born and raised in the area and have first-hand knowledge of what it took to overcome the tragedy. End the experience by learning about paper cranes, a Japanese symbol for peace.
- Hiroshima Bar Hopping Food Tour: Things can get a little heavy in a place like Hiroshima. After a day of immersing yourself in stories of survival, enjoy some great food and drinks at local “izakayas” and other bars.
- Hiroshima and Miyajima Day Tour from Osaka, Kyoto, or Hiroshima: Discover the way Hiroshima recovered from the atomic bomb and tour sites such as Hiroshima Castle, A-Bomb Dome, Hiroshima Peace Memorial Park and Museum, Miyajima Otorii Gate, Itsukushima Shito Shrine, and Daisho-in Temple.
Hiroshima With Travel Anxiety
While we thoroughly enjoyed our adventure on the Hello Kitty Shinkansen to Hiroshima, there was a part of me that was quite nervous. A million questions flowed through my mind. What should I expect from the city? Is this going to be too dark for my teenage daughter? Will people be angry to see North Americans walking around?
Once we made it to our first stop (Hiroshima Castle), it was very clear that there was nothing to fear. In fact, we felt incredibly calm and peaceful the entire time we were there. The locals set the tone, and they make it clear that they want to learn from the past and live harmoniously in the future.
It’s Japan, which we’ve identified as a country that lowers our anxiety levels, so we weren’t being triggered as much as we normally are on trips. We only designated a few hours for Hiroshima, but we could have stayed much longer. Yes, it was sad to see the devastation, but the prevailing feeling of hope was so infectious. We’d live there permanently if we could!
There’s a good chance that you will feel emotional walking through the streets of Hiroshima. You may have learned about it in history class, but it’s very different to be there and see the remnants of the destruction firsthand. You won’t believe how incredibly warm the people are despite the tragedy, which makes this such a must-see destination if you visit Japan. A day trip to Hiroshima will touch your heart and leave a lasting impression. It’s worth it!