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The Ultimate Hiroshima Day Trip Itinerary from Kyoto, Japan

Hiroshima, Japan is without a doubt known around the world for what happened on August 6, 1945 at at 8:15AM, the first use in the world of a nuclear weapon at war. During our visit to Japan we could not skip over the opportunity to visit the solemn sites of Hiroshima as another reminder of what the tragedies of war can bring.

With several days planned to stay in Kyoto as part of a longer Japan trip, we decided to visit Hiroshima as a day trip from Kyoto. Since it only takes one day to see the main highlights in Hiroshima, this meant we did not have to pack and move all our luggage again. It is definitely a long day trip, but absolutely worth it.

How to get to Hiroshima from Kyoto

The city of Hiroshima is located approximately 225 miles west of Kyoto, both on the southwest side of Honshu is Japan’s main island.

The easiest and fastest way to get from Kyoto to Hiroshima is on the Shinkansen bullet train with a total travel time of about 2 hours. Reserved seat tickets cost 11,300 yen each way, and you can expect to save about 500 yen for non-reserved seats. When we traveled on the bullet train without reserved seats we never had any trouble finding seats in the non-reserved train car, but the customer service at the train station warned that is not always the case.

If you have the Japan Rail Pass, this is the best option as the train ride is already included. Just make sure not to take the Nozomi or Mizuho Shinkansen, as those express trains are not included in the JR pass.

Without the Japan Rail Pass, the cheapest way to get from Kyoto to Hiroshima is via bus or car, it is a 4.5-6+ hour journey. The highway bus starts at 3,500 yen each way depending on availability and bus company. Your round trip journey on the bus will cost less than one way on the Shinkansen, but you will spend a good portion of your day on the bus.

There is the option of an overnight bus leaving late in the evening from Kyoto, arriving to Hiroshima first thing in the morning. This can be a good option if you are looking to save some money by skipping a night at a hotel and take full advantage of your day trip to Hiroshima. Just remember, the highway night bus has reclined and comfy seats, but do not lay flat so the quality of your sleep can be limited.

Morning in Hiroshima

Hiroshima Castle

Walking from the Hiroshima train station towards the center of town, our first stop was the Hiroshima Castle. It is a beautiful 16th century castle that was almost entirely destroyed by the atomic bomb and has since been rebuilt. Surrounded by a moat, it is a cool little oasis in the middle of the city.

For us the coolest thing is the Hiroshima Castle is home to three trees that survived the atomic bombing, called Hibakujumoku, where you can visually see the trauma caused on the tree and the struggles it has been going through since.

Atomic Bomb Dome

One of the most icon images from Japan and WWII is the Atomic Bomb Dome in Hiroshima. Built as the Hiroshima Prefectural Industrial Promotion Hall, it all changed on August 6, 1945. At 8:15AM on August 6th, the United States dropped the first atomic bomb on Hiroshima, with the center of the blast occurring only 150m horizontally and 600m vertically from the Dome.

While those inside were killed instantly, the stone and steel structure was only partially destroyed unlike the surrounding area that was leveled due to the blast. The building was ultimately preserved as both a memorial of the bombing and a symbol of peace. It is now a highlight of the Peace Memorial Park which surrounds the building.

Hiroshima Peace Memorial Park

The Hiroshima Peace Memorial Park is a massive memorial park in the center of Hiroshima with many notable monuments and museums to visit.

We started off at the Children’s Peace Monument to commemorate little Sadako Sasaki and the thousands of child victims of the atomic bombing. The statue is of a girl holding a folded paper crane above her head. To this day thousands of paper cranes are donated to honor this young girls dying wish.

Next to that is the Atomic Bomb Memorial Mound which is a simple, yet moving memorial, of a simple mound covering the ashes of 70,000 unidentified victims of the bomb.

We made our way further down the Memorial Cenotaph a mountain shaped monument that holds the names of all of the people killed by the bomb. Looking through the empty space in the Cenotaph it perfectly frames the Peace Flame right behind it, which will continue to burn until all nuclear bombs are dismantled, and the Atomic Bomb Dome in the background.

The next stop was the Hiroshima National Peace Memorial Hall, which is free to enter. Walking down the slope to the Hall of Remembrance you can learn more about the history that lead to atomic bombing along with a timeline of the aftermath. In The Hall of Remembrance is a 360 degree tiled image of what Hiroshima looked like after the bombing, with a small central monument displaying 8:15 am, the exact time of the bombing.

Our last stop was the Hiroshima Peace Memorial Museum. Entrance to the museum is 200 yen per person and expect a line to get in. Here a main focus is showing victim’s belongings to highlight the absolute horrors that happened.

Afternoon in Miyajima

About 25 minutes west of Hiroshima is the island of Miyajima, famous for its waterfront shrine and torii gate that looks like it is floating in the sea during high tide. It is best to check the weather and tide charts to make sure you will get the experience you are looking for in Miyajima.

It was raining on and off throughout the entire day, so decided on a more relaxed day trip to Hiroshima. The trip was not worth it for us to go stand in the rain someplace else, while spending the additional time traveling.

How to get to Miyajima from Hiroshima

The best way to get from Hiroshima Station to Miyajima is to take the JR San-yo Line from Hiroshima Station to Miyajima-guchi Station, which is about 30 minutes. Then catch the short ferry from Miyajima-guchi Pier and Miyajima. The best part is both the ferry and train are included with the JR Pass.

Optional: Dinner in Kobe

We finished exploring Hiroshima in the late afternoon and decided to take an earlier train back towards Kyoto so we could stop in Kobe to try its namesake Kobe beef for dinner. With the Japan Rail Pass there is no additional cost, so we figured why not!

Arriving in Kobe we tried to find last minute availability at the top Kobe beef restaurants in town, which normally have reservations fill up days if not weeks in advance. Don’t make the same mistake as us, or you’ll have to find something else to enjoy for dinner. However, here are the top recommended restaurants in Kobe.

  • Kobe Beef Steak Ishida: Open for both lunch and dinner, you must reserve in advance online and prepay your multi-course meal. You can chose between the different quality, cuts and grams of Kobe beef in your meal. Dinner prices range from 6,670 to 20,125 yen depending on the quality of the meat.
  • Tor Road Steak Aoyama: This family run restaurant provides an intimate dining experience, as there are only 8 seats. Open for both lunch and dinner, the classic Aoyama Special Maya Course for dinner costs 9,900 yen. You can book a reservation by messaging them directly on Facebook, which we got a response to in less than 2 hours.
  • Biftek Kawamura Sannomiya: Here you will find the widest range of beef quality options, so if you are looking to go all out this might be your best choice. The kobe beef courses range from 13,310 to 35,640 yen. Reservations are required and can be made online.

Meriken Park

Meriken Park is most well known for the red Kobe Port Tower and the Kobe Maritime Museum. This waterfront park is the perfect place to see the Kobe skyline and watch the sunset over the harbor.

Kobe Harborland

Across the harbor from Meriken Park is the Umie, a massive commercial complex for both locals and visitors alike. Here you will find a supermarket, global retail stores, restaurants, and even the Mosaic Big Ferris Wheel. The ferris wheel costs 800 yen per person to ride and is colorfully lit up at night as well.

Chinatown in Kobe

Nankinmachi is the small Chinatown in the center of Kobe where you will find countless Chinese restaurants, shops, and a Chinese temple. It is a great experience to just stroll down the few blocks and take in the entire experience.

Return to Kyoto

After finishing your evening in Kobe it is time to head back to Kyoto on the Shinkansen bullet train. Just make sure to book a return ticket in advance, not only to ensure you have a seat, but also so you don’t miss the last trains in the evening. We bought our Kobe-Kyoto train ticket when we made the last minute decision to catch the Hiroshima-Kobe train to add another stop to our day trip.

We arrived back in Kyoto around 9:30 PM after a nearly 14 hour day trip to Hiroshima and Kobe. Hiroshima is the perfect day trip from Kyoto if you do not plan to venture any further south in Japan. You can also add Kobe and Miyajima to this day trip, but is best to add them in the summer when there is more daylight to explore.

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