Top 7 Free Things to Do in Hiroshima, Japan
It is almost impossible to think of Hiroshima without remembering the tragedy that befell it in World War II. But the city has since risen from the ashes and is now one of Japan’s most exciting.
Allow us to give you the lowdown on the seven best things you can do for free in this fascinating city:
1. Atomic Bomb Dome
No other structure in Hiroshima is a more striking reminder of its harrowing past than the Atomic Bomb Dome. On that fateful morning of 6 August 1945, the bomb exploded almost directly above the structure killing everyone inside. Officials decided to preserve what’s left of the structure as a memorial. In 1996, it was declared a UNESCO World Heritage Site.
Outside the Atomic Bomb Dome, you would usually see tables set up with pamphlets or other souvenirs that remind people of the horrors of wars. Sometimes you’d come across survivors who would share their memories of the bombing.
2. Hiroshima Peace Memorial Park
Hiroshima Peace Memorial Park is a sprawling, verdant space dotted with memorials related to the bombing and the Second World War. Within the park is the Children's Peace Monument.
The monument was built to commemorate Sadako Sasaki and all the young victims of the bomb. Sasaki was two years old at the time of the bombing and at 11, she developed leukemia from the radiation. Before she died, she started folding a thousand paper cranes, which according to Japanese tradition, you are granted a wish once completed. Sadako’s wish was to see a world without nuclear weapons. To this day, visitors leave garlands of paper cranes in honor of her memory and the many others who died during the war.
3. Hiroshima National Peace Memorial Hall
This Hall is one of two built for the same purpose, the other one is in Nagasaki. The Hiroshima National Peace Memorial Hall was designed by Kenzo Tange, the same architect who designed the Peace Museum, Cenotaph, and the Flame of Peace.
Curators of the Hall collect stories, memories, and photographs from survivors and their families to honor the victims. A room shows the names and photographs of those who died during the bombing and its aftereffects. The Hall’s fountain symbolizes the exact moment when the bomb was detonated (8:15 am) and the water represents relief for the victims.
4. Pond of Peace and the Cenotaph
Considered the Peace Park’s centerpiece is the tree-lined Peace Pond which leads to the Cenotaph. The Cenotaph holds the names of all the known victims of the atomic bombing. The monument’s curved shape represents a shelter protecting the souls of the atomic bomb victims. The Cenotaph frames the Flame of Peace that is built to keep burning until all nuclear weapons are destroyed.
5. Hiroshima Castle
Originally built in 1589 Hiroshima Castle, like most Japanese castles, was almost completely dismantled after the Meiji Restoration, was decimated during the bombing and was rebuilt in 1958.
Inside is a small museum on samurai culture and you can enjoy spectacular views of the city from the top floor. The castle grounds have a lovely park that’s perfect for a quiet stroll.
6. Hiroshima Gokoku Shrine
No trip to any Japanese city is complete without a visit to a temple or shrine. If you have time for just one in Hiroshima then do drop by the city’s Gokoku Shrine.
This huge shrine is just beside Hiroshima Castle and is almost always a hive of activity. What makes this place of worship even more special is that it is a Gokoku shrine, one that is especially for war casualties. Currently, there are more than 90,000 wartime dead who are enshrined within its grounds.
7. Hondori Market
Want to buy a keepsake or two? Want to check out the local dining scene? Head out to Hondori Market, the most expansive shopping street in Hiroshima. With more than 200 shops selling everything and anything from what is arguably the best okonomiyaki in Japan to the latest anime merchandise. Hondori Market is located right in the heart of Hiroshima and is also a transport hub which makes it a very accessible place to visit and shop in.
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