Over the weekend, I had the grand opportunity to explore Hiroshima and its smaller cities: Onomichi, Fukuyama, and the famous Rabbit Island. Despite the tragedy that occurred here [which you can still see the remains of at places like the Atomic Bomb Dome], Hiroshima has rebuilt itself into a beautiful city where many people live, work, and come to travel–it has both a sense of peace and adventure to be had.
I had previously visited central Hiroshima and the Peace Memorial Museum when I was 19 years old and first studying abroad in Japan, but it took me 6 years to find the proper time to come back here. I feel so fortunate that I was able to go backpacking and explore the fascinating cities here, because they are truly unlike any place I’ve explored in Kanto, Kansai, Kyushu, or Hokkaido. You’ll notice that this area is definitely more quiet than other places, but it’s perfect for reflecting on life and spending time with yourself. I found that it’s also easy to make friends at the local eateries and bars as well.
Getting to Hiroshima
From Tokyo, I booked a flight in advance for around 25,000 yen from Haneda Airport to Hiroshima Airport through ANA because that is the fastest an most cost-effective way to get here for someone living as a long-term resident in Japan.
You can also travel by train (which I recommend for everyone who purchased a JR Pass because it will be covered), but it can take up to 5 hours from Tokyo. It is better to take the shinkansen from Osaka, Nagoya, or Kyoto if you plan on exploring multiple areas of Japan.
I stayed at at Hostel Mallika for just under 1800 yen per night (the accommodations are extremely affordable).
Things to do in Hiroshima
My top recommendations for Hiroshima are going to the Peace Museum and Memorial Park, seeing the castle, trying some okonomiyaki, and also checking out Miyajima Island, which is just a short boat ride away! I boarded the ferry at the pier near the Memorial Park because it was near by hotel (you can see the exact location and time tables from the Miyajima Tourist Website). Roundtrip tickets are 4000 yen, but I think the experience is extremely worth it!
Exploring Miyajima Island
On Miyajima Island, you can see friendly deer, visit the highly aesthetic Itsukushima Shrine (you will see it on many postcards in Japan), and eat some fresh oysters. There is a shopping street, a lovely beach, and a ton of other shrines and historical monuments to visit. It’s recommended to come here during the summer season since the weather will be more pleasant, but I came during late November and was surprised to be able to see lovely fall foliage around the island.
Though Miyajima is a popular tourist destination (attracting grade school Japanese tourists and some foreign ones as well), you will find that it’s far less crowded and more peaceful than other places in Japan. I had a lot of fun reminiscing here. Though it’s been 6 years since I’ve last been here, I was surprised to find that it’s almost exactly the same as I remember. The only thing that has changed is that some of the shops and cafes have become more modernized, but you can still find traditional Japanese food here.
For food recommendations, I suggest trying the green tea ice cream topped with the deer cookie and the oyster soba sold near the pier. Though it doesn’t really suit the style of the island, I came across some interesting Rilakkuma burgers sold on the shopping street. You can choose to have an eel or oyster croquette burger, or a dessert burger made. I tried the eel croquette burger, and I couldn’t believe how delicious it was! Additionally, I found a bar called “Oyster” on the same street. You can order your first alcoholic beverage for 600-700 yen, and refills are 200-300 yen depending on what you order. This is a cost-effective way to turn up on Miyajima, as the convenience stores are quite limited here.
Another thing I loved about this island is how many people brought their dogs. I saw five dogs and one deer approaching them out of curiosity, yet all of them coexisted in harmony. I wish that we [as humans] could do more of this. The other picture I captured of the deer is arguably the most meme-worthy photo on this trip. Being on this island really taught me a lot! The average time that people spend here is usually 2-3 hours.
Eating at an Anime Okonomiyaki Restaurant
After fully exploring Miyajima, I decided to head back to the mainland to meet a friend of my boss. Since I am an avid anime fan, he took me to a popular anime izakaya called “Momijitei“. This restaurant is small, but has an amazing atmosphere and absolutely delicious food! The restaurant is plastered with Love Live and Idolm@ster posters, there are cute anime girls beckoning you to order Coca Cola (and other drinks), and anime openings loop continuously on tiny TV screens. This place definitely is a vibe, and serves some of the best okonomiyaki in town.
I had a nice conversation with one of the staff about Touhou Project. He was surprised to know that a foreigner knew about the series, but if only he knew how popular the fanbase was outside of Japan!
I decided to order the seafood okonomiyaki with shrimp, drink a few glasses of wine, and enjoy the small but definitely fun nightlife of Hiroshima. As a special service, the staff brought out a dessert with little ice cream bunnies. At this point I was definitely tipsy and overcome with happiness.
The irony was that I was planning on going to the Rabbit Island the next morning, so this was the perfectly chosen dessert. I was sure to thank everyone there for their hard work and hospitality.
In my next articles, I will be covering smaller towns outside of Hiroshima and also the Pasocom Ongaku Club events I went to at small event spaces here. If you have any questions regarding Hiroshima, please feel free to ask me!