Hiroshima, Japan things to do: Nine travel highlights


The Hiroshima Peace Memorial Museum was renovated last year in time for not only this year's 75th anniversary of the catastrophic World War II atomic bombing of the city, but also this year's Tokyo Olympic Games during which the fateful August 6 date will fall. One of the exhibitions at the unapologetically confronting museum, which opened in 1955, features actual belongings left behind by victims of the bombing which ultimately led to the deaths of as many as 146,000 people. See hpmmuseum.jp


The museum, designed by Kenzo Tange, one of Japan's most revered architects, is the centrepiece of the Hiroshima Peace Memorial Park which is dedicated to the memory of Hiroshima as the first city in the world to suffer a nuclear attack. The site of the park was the former political and commercial heart of Hiroshima but four years after the detonation it was decided not to fully reconstruct this ground zero site, with the city's central business district transferred to another area nearby. See jnto.org.au; visit-miyajima.com/en


The park encompasses the UNESCO World Heritage-listed ruins of the Atomic Bomb Dome, originally the Hiroshima Prefectural Industrial Promotion Hall built in 1915. Today it's a heart-wrenching symbol of the city and its diabolical misfortune. One of a few buildings to have even partially survived the attack, the Atomic Bomb Dome is located metres from the site of a bridge US Air Force pilots used as their target. Elsewhere in the park, at the wishbone-shaped Cenotaph for the A-bomb Victims, a moment's silence is observed each August 6 at 8.15 am, the exact time of the detonation. See jnto.org.au; visit-miyajima.com/en


On a happier, and morish, note, Hiroshima is considered the capital of okonomiyaki, a delicious Japanese savoury pancake-cum-pizza. Aside from visiting one of the city's many restaurants specialising in the dish, one of the best ways to learn about the dish is to cook it yourself, under the tutelage of a skilled chef at the Otafuku Okonomiyaki Experience. Not only will you prepare the dish yourself on a piping hot teppan, or iron griddle, you'll also get to devour it so do make sure you pay strict attention to your teacher. Touristy but fun. See otafuku.co.jp


The main attraction of Hiroshima's much-loved Miyajima Island, and indeed a symbol of Japan itself, is its spectacular floating, vermillion-coloured torii gate. Unfortunately, the gate is presently covered in scaffolding as it undergoes a major, once-every-70-years renovation. But don't let that deter you from visiting this beautiful island, within easy reach of the city, from where cable cars deliver visitors to scenic Mount Misen on the other side of the Miyajima, a popular location for nature walks and sublime ocean views. See jnto.org.au; visit-miyajima.com/en


Miyajima's great torii gate is actually only one part of Itsukushima, a rare floating UNESCO World Heritage-listed Shinto shrine that extends over the shoreline of Miyajima facing the Seto Inland Sea. The main shrine is an impressive sight at high tide and slightly less so at low tide. The complex, linked by boardwalks, includes a main hall, prayer hall and an outdoor stage for performances of Noh, an ancient form of Japanese theatre. See jnto.org.au; visit-miyajima.com/en


Oysters for breakfast, anyone? Hiroshima is famed for its seafood, particularly its molluscs. One novel and insightful way to enjoy them is to take an early morning "oyster landing" tour operated by Shimada Fisheries to see the delicacy harvested around the pristine waters of the Hanaguri Islands near central Hiroshima. On your return to Shimada Fisheries' base you get to cook these same fresh oysters over a spluttering traditional grill and hot rock. See shimadasuisan.com


Even in the serene and manicured confines of a public garden it's impossible to escape the memory of the atomic bomb. The construction of the city's showpiece Shukkeien Garden can be traced back to the 17th century with the A-bombing 75 years ago leaving behind just a single, 200-year-old gingko tree which miraculously survives to this day. The indefatigable Japanese wasted no time in restoring the gardens, today an essential stop on any Hiroshima visit. See jnto.org.au; visithiroshima.net


Few holidaying Japanese who visit Hiroshima miss a performance of kagura, a traditional, highly-theatrical form of dance celebrating the bounties of nature provided by the gods. Geihoku Kagura is the typical form of Hiroshima kagura and although its essence lies in its skilful dance and elaborate costumes its performers are supported by a quartet of musicians playing traditional drums, cymbals and a flute. A true cultural experience. See jnto.org.au; rccbc.co.jp



Hiroshima is not only a vibrant city of just over 2 million people it's also one of Japan's 47 prefectures, or provinces. One worthwhile sidetrip is to the port city of Onomichi, a haven of cycling with the Setouchi Shimanami Kaido route encompassing six islands and seven bridges spread across a sea strait . The best place to begin the route is U2, a stylish portside cycling-themed lifestyle precinct inside a restored warehouse. See onomichi-u2.com; shimanami-cycle.or.jp

Anthony Dennis travelled to Japan as a guest of the Japan National Tourism Organisation. See jnto.org.au