As a foreigner in Japan, people frequently ask me what my favourite city in Japan is so far. Just as frequently, they are disappointed by my answer. Despite having traveled quite a bit in Japan, I didn’t actually have a favourite city – until last week. I can now confidently say: My favourite city of the ones I’ve visited in Japan so far is: HIROSHIMA. Here are 10 reasons why.
Reason number 1: It’s green.
City life is stressful and it takes a toll on everyone. Hiroshima though has a lot of exceptionally green places where you can feel connected to nature and calm down.
Reason number 2: It’s the ‘City of Water’
A similarly positive effect have the several rivers that run through the city, providing many opportunities to just sit and meditatively look at the water as it floats by.
Reason number 3: People take the time to sit down and relax
Whether it’s due to the effects of nature mentioned above or the general mindset of people living in Hiroshima, you’ll see something you don’t see a lot in Tokyo: People chilling out just for the hell of it, preferably with a guitar in hand.
Reason number 4: It’s a paradise for bicycle lovers
A great number of people use their bikes to get around. To make it easier for them, there are actual bike lanes on the roads. If you’re the kind of traveler who likes to explore a new city by bike, this is the place for you.
Reason number 5: Public transport
Public transport in Japan is generally easy to use, but in Hiroshima it’s even easier because the city is well adapted to tourism. If you don’t want to bike around, you can either use the streetcar or several buses, some of them being special tourist ‘hop on-hop off buses’ that are idiot proof (and compared to tourist buses in Europe, extremely cheep). There is no chance to get lost in Hiroshima.
Reason number 6: Charming little places
Of course you’ll find all the common coffee and fast food chains in the city center, but you can also find places like these:
Reason number 7: The food
Obviously Okonomiyaki needs to be mentioned in this post. It’s a savory pancake cooked on a hot plate in front of you. It tastes amazing and it’s interesting to watch the cooks at work.
Reason number 8: History and Word Heritage Sites
Hiroshima rose like a Phoenix from the ashes after the drop of the Atomic Bomb in 1945 and is now a beautiful city that easily deceives visitors into feeling that nothing bad has ever happened there. It seems even the more important to actively learn about its history in the Peace Museum and to sit by the Atomic Bomb Dome and let sink in what happened there not all that long ago.
Reason number 9: Day Trips
Based in Hiroshima city, you can go on several cool day trips in the prefecture. I did three of them, but there are many more.
Trip 1: Shimanami Kaido
A chain of islands in the Seto Inland Sea are connected by suspension bridges and therefore can be traveled by bicycle. The whole bike trail is about 70km long and due to several steep hills along the way shouldn’t be taken lightly by inexperiences cyclists. (Trust me, I know what I’m talking about. I considered amputating several body party at the end of that day.)
Trip 2: Okunoshima, aka Rabbit Island
Yes, it does exist. An island entirely populated by hundreds of wild living but tame bunny rabbits that can be fed with special rabbit food. (Or if you want to go old-school, you can bring a carrot.)
Trip 3: Miyajima Island
More World Heritage Sites, tame deer and a gondola that goes high up into the mountains, overlooking the Inland Sea of Japan.
Reason number 10:
This is a personal one: Hiroshima reminds me of my German hometown Freiburg i.Br. So it probably doesn’t matter how far we go out into the world, we’ll eventually always find things and places that remind us of home.
To sum it up:
My week in Hiroshima was educational, exciting and soothing at the same time.
What will it be like for you?