Hiroshima and nearby Miyajima Island should be on every traveller’s Japanese bucket list. From the iconic A-Bomb Dome [Official website, Google Maps location] in Hiroshima to the giant floating vermilion-coloured Torii off Miyajima [Official website, Google Maps location], there is an abundance of things to see and do. Whether you’re a history buff, a nature enthusiast or a foodie, our three-day itinerary will help you make the most of your time in this beautiful corner of Japan.
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How much time should you spend in Hiroshima and Miyajima?
Our short answer would have to be: As long as you can afford – there is plenty to see and do.
That said, we know many people wonder whether to include Hiroshima and Miyajima in a two- or three-week trip to Japan. If that’s you, we recommend setting aside three days, which will give you a good introduction to the area.
When is the best time to visit Hiroshima and Miyajima?
Based on our own experience, we recommend visiting between mid-February and mid-March:
- It will be chilly at night, but the days are (mostly) sunny with maximum temperatures in the high teens (Celsius).
- While you will miss the cherry blossom season, it’s a good time to see the plum trees in bloom, which is also very beautiful.
- It’s oyster season – a great opportunity to indulge in some local delicacies.
In Autumn (especially the first half of November), you can experience the foliage changing colours, offering a stunning display of nature’s beauty.
If you prefer it to be a little warmer (and you don’t care so much about oysters, spring blossoms or foliage colours), May (except during Golden Week) and October are also great periods.
We recommend avoiding
- the cherry blossom season (usually the second half of March) and Golden Week (the first week of May), which are way too crowded to be enjoyable, and
- the summer months (June to September), as they are not only very crowded but also (uncomfortably) hot and humid.
What are IC cards?
In Japan, you will come across the term IC card a lot (IC stands for Integrated Circuit). IC cards are essentially plastic cards that can be topped up and the amount stored on the card is used for transportation - simply by tapping on/off at the card reader - and more and more at convenience stores and other places.
Each region issues their own version of the IC card, for example
- If you enter via Tokyo Narita or Haneda Airports, you would buy the Suica Card or PASMO card.
- If you enter via Osaka Kansai Airport, you will find the ICOCA card for sale.
Fortunately, 10 of the most common IC cards (including the two above) can be used across regions (and likely more will be added over time). Some regions (including Nagano and Okinawa prefectures) only allow their own IC card (at this stage) or cash.
- Cards (including any stored funds) will expire after 10 years of non-use, which means you can reuse the card if you return to Japan within that timeframe.
- You can return it (and get a refund of the money on the card plus the deposit you paid for the card itself) - as long as it's in the region you bought it.
- You can load the IC card onto your smartphone - via Apple Pay or Google Pay - but you won't be able to get a refund of your deposit or any funds stored when you leave the country.
How to get to Hiroshima and Miyajima?
Hiroshima is conveniently located on the Sanyo Shinkansen route between Osaka and Fukuoka (Hakata), making it easily accessible from Osaka, Kyoto and even Tokyo. The Shinkansen takes around 1 hour and 30 minutes from Shin-Osaka, just under 2 hours from Kyoto, and approximately 4 hours from Tokyo.
Once in Hiroshima, it’s a short 30-minute ride on the San-yo JR line to Miyajimaguchi Station [Google Maps location], the access point to Miyajima island. From the station, it’s a quick stroll to the waterfront and the ferry terminal. The ferry ride to Miyajima Island takes about 10 minutes.
The ferry service to Miyajima Island is provided by two different companies. The JR Pass is only valid on the JR West Ferry. If you don’t have a JR Pass or want to use the other ferry, buy a ferry ticket at the ticket machines or use your IC card.
How to get around Hiroshima and Miyajima?
Hiroshima sits in the delta of the Ōta-gawa River as it enters the Seto Inland Sea, making it easy to explore the city on foot and by bicycle. Hiroshima also has a convenient public transportation system, comprising streetcars, JR trains, the Astram Line and buses.
While the sights on Miyajima are all within walking distance from the ferry terminal, Miyajima is a very mountainous island, and some sights on this itinerary include walking uphill. There is a ropeway partway up Mt Misen providing access to the Mount Misen Observatory [Google Maps location], but be aware that the ropeway is closed for maintenance twice a year for a few weeks (February/March and June/July). If the ropeway operating is important to you, check the website and/or contact the ropeway operator before your visit.
Map of Recommended Accommodations, Points of Interest, Eateries, and Transport
Below is the map of the accommodation, points of interest, eateries. and transport terminals/stops mentioned in this article.
Day 1 – Travel to and first exploration of Miyajima
Today you will travel by train to Miyajimaguchi Station [Google Maps location], with a change at Hiroshima Station [Google Maps location]. This journey can be combined with a stopover in Kobe and/or Himeji if desired.
Once in Miyajimaguchi, walk to the Ferry Terminal and take the ferry across to Miyajima. Upon reaching the island, drop off your luggage at your accommodation and then head straight to the Daishō-in temple complex [Official website, Google Maps location] (the temple closes at 1700h).
The complex is built into the mountainside above Itsukushima-jinja [Official website, Google Maps location], the shrine with the Giant Floating Torii you’ll be passing on the ferry over. Daishō-in is one of the most important temples of the Shingon School of Buddhism. Like Koyasan [Google Maps location] in the mountains of the Kii Peninsula in Wakayama, it was founded by the monk Kūkai (posthumously known as Kōbō-Daishi) in 806. Take your time exploring the grounds and temple structures – it’s a truly serene place.
Afterwards, enjoy watching the sunset overlooking the Giant Torii. We also recommend buying some provisions for the next day at Foods Shop KUMAKIN [Google Maps location] (closes at 1900h).
What and where to eat on Miyajima
We recommend Okonomiyaki Kishibe [Google Maps location], known for its Hiroshima-style Okonomiyaki (The restaurant is closed on Thursdays and Fridays). Or, if you’re craving Miyajima specialities, such as delicious oysters and conger eel (anago), Mikotoya [Google Maps location] is the place to go (closed Sundays and Mondays).
Miyajima deer advice
You’ll notice the beautiful Sika deer as soon as you arrive in Miyajima Island. Sika deer are native to Japan, and there are about 500 of them roaming freely around Miyajima.
While the deer may appear tame (and indeed some may come a bit too close for comfort), they are wild animals. Those living in the forests around the island actually avoid humans, and that’s how it should be. Disturbing the deer, taking selfies up close or even worse, feeding them, alters the deer’s behaviour and puts them in harm’s way.
Unfortunately, a lot of tourists coming to Miyajima, get up close and personal with the deer, just for the sake of an Instagram shot. Please don’t be one of them. Observe them from a distance and definitely do not feed them. It is actually an offence to feed the deer and there are a number of posters and signs requesting tourists not to feed them.
Day 2 – Miyajima and Hiroshima
This morning, you’ll be hiking up Mt Misen, the sacred mountain of Miyajima.
It’s a 3-hour round trip (approximately 8 kilometres with a 490-metre elevation gain) – we recommend hiking the Momijidani Course up (approximately 2 hours) and the Daishō-in Course down (approximately 1 hour).
The ropeway opens at 0900h, so aim for a 0700h to 0730h start of your hike to reach the top before the first ropeway users arrive. The hike is categorised as moderate. It requires at least a basic level of fitness and reasonably healthy knees, as the hike involves a large amount of walking up and down stone steps.
Kūkai himself used Mt Misen for ascetic practice. The fire lit by Kūkai 1,200 years ago still burns to this day in the Kiezu-no-Reikado pavilion [Google Maps location] near the summit (unsurprisingly, the structure is covered in soot). The fire was also used to light the Flame of Peace [Google Maps location] at the Peace Memorial Park in Hiroshima.
If you prefer not to do the full hike, you can still experience the beauty of Mt Misen by taking the ropeway to the top. In this case, check out before you head to the ropeway (and ask your accommodation to keep your luggage for a few hours).
Getting to the ropeway still requires an uphill walk of about 1.5 kilometres. The ropeway ride itself takes about 15 minutes. Once at the top, you can visit the Shishiiwa Observatory (100 metres above the top ropeway station) or continue hiking to the summit of Mt Misen (approximately 1 kilometre or 30 minutes largely uphill) for stunning 360-degree views over the Seto Inland Sea.
Afterwards, head back to your accommodation for a shower before check-out and/or to pick up your luggage before heading to the ferry terminal.
If you’re looking for an edible souvenir of the island, buy a box of Momiji Manju (a sweet in the shape of a maple leaf, available with a variety of fillings – our favourites were smooth red bean paste and lemon curd).
Take the ferry back to the mainland, then the train back to Hiroshima and check into your accommodation for the night.
What and Where to Eat in Hiroshima
Another must-try speciality is Hiroshima beef. Great places are Rokutsuboya in Noboricho (closed Sundays), Fuoco Yakiniku in Tatemachi [Google Maps location] or Aohige [Google Maps location] near the A-Bomb Dome.
If you missed out on Miyajima oysters or conger eel, Ekohiiki [Google Maps location] is an Izakaya restaurant near the A-Bomb Dome where you can try both.
Day 3 – Hiroshima
Today is all about exploring beautiful Hiroshima. So, after breakfast, check out of your accommodation and ask them to store your luggage for the day.
Your first stop will be the Peace Memorial Museum [Official website, Google Maps location] housed in two connected buildings near the southern end of the Peace Memorial Park. Take your time exploring the exhibits as you learn more about the events leading up to the atomic bomb, the immediate aftermath, the city’s rebuilding and the lasting impact of the bombing on the city and its people.
Make sure to join the talks with the descendants of survivors if you have the opportunity.
Afterwards, if you need a bite to eat or just a break to let it all sink in, the museum has a nice, but simple café on the ground floor.
After your museum visit, take a leisurely stroll through the Peace Memorial Park, making sure to stop and pay your respects at the Hiroshima Victims Memorial Cenotaph, the Hiroshima National Peace Memorial Hall, and the Children’s Peace Monument.
The temple complex is beautifully tranquil with forest paths meandering along streams and waterfalls, between old temple buildings and shrines (some of which survived the A-Bomb blast), and past countless Buddha statues and rock carvings. There is also a stunning 16th-century pagoda which was brought here after the bombing for the spiritual support of the people of Hiroshima.
End your visit with a stop at the lovely Mitaki-dera Temple Tea House [Google Maps location] before you return to your accommodation to pick up your luggage and head to Hiroshima Station for your onward journey.
What else is there to do in Hiroshima (if you have more time to spend)?
If you are able to spend additional days in Hiroshima, we can also recommend:
- visiting the Hiroshima Castle Keep [Google Maps location] for historic insights into Japan’s feudal period and panoramic views over the city centre;
- hiking the 10-kilometre-long Futabanosato Historic Trail;
- joining a guided tour of the Mazda Museum [Google Maps location] and assembly line (Monday-Friday, advance reservation is required); and
- experiencing a game of baseball at Mazda Stadium [Google Maps location].
A note on the Mazda Museum: Even if the tour is only offered in Japanese on the day of your visit, we can recommend attending. The museum exhibits have English signage, and the assembly line is (largely) self-explanatory. Our guide spoke English and was more than happy to answer any questions we had.
Other Recommended Experiences in Hiroshima
And if you’re an avid cyclist, Hiroshima is a great vantage point for two epic cycling tours:
- the 70+km long Shimanami Kaido from Onomichi on Honshu Island to Imabari on Shikoku Island (budget at least two days, the more the better), and
- the 1,000km Shikoku Circuit – a complete circumnavigation of the island of Shikoku, starting and ending in Imabari (budget at least two weeks).
Onomichi can be reached by train from Hiroshima in just over an hour.
What did you do in Hiroshima and Miyajima that I forgot to mention?
I wrote this Hiroshima and Miyajima itinerary and guide based on my own experience. If you have been to Hiroshima and/or Miyajima and you have something to add, please feel free to contact me. If you liked my article and tips and found them helpful, I would appreciate it if you could share them with your friends and family via the Share buttons below. Even better, link to the page from your personal blog or social media platforms.