- Back from Japan: a life-changing experience
- JAL business class vs. Delta premium select (review of our flights to/from Japan)
- Japan sightseeing and transportation logistics for the lazy and/or mobility-challenged
- Why you should consider renting a machiya during your family vacation in Japan
- If you can only stay in one city in Japan, make it Kyoto
- Hiroshima: looking beyond the atomic bomb legacy (this post)
When I asked my husband why he wanted to visit Hiroshima, he gave two reasons. First and obvious one: it’s a place where a major historic event of the 20th century took place. But also, he wanted to pay respects to all the victims by visiting the ground zero. It was important for him to be there in person.
I wish I could tell you I felt the same way, but it would be a lie. I had zero interest in going to what (in my mind) amounted to a mass grave. Too depressing. I suspect many other would-be travelers to Japan feel the same way because you rarely see Hiroshima mentioned on Japan Travel Reddit itineraries.
And that’s a real shame. I’m so glad my husband insisted that we include a stop in Hiroshima. To begin with, I was planning to visit it as a day trip from Kyoto. I figured we would get on a bullet train, see the Peace Memorial Park/Atomic Bomb Dome, and get the heck out of there.
But after doing some research, I knew we absolutely had to visit Miyajima island and Yamato museum in Kure. Long story short, a day trip turned into three nights. And I have zero regrets. In my previous post, I said that if I had to choose one destination in Japan, it would be Kyoto. Well, if I could add another city, it would be Hiroshima. Yes, I would sacrifice Tokyo if I had to.
There is something special about Hiroshima that I can’t quite explain. It’s a large city, but folks here seem more relaxed compared to Tokyo and Kyoto. There are also way less tourists, so locals are more eager to engage in conversations. I’ve mentioned this story in my first post, but one interaction made a real impact on me and my husband. We talked to an elderly man sitting near Atomic Bomb Dome, whose parents left the city a few months before that fateful day in August. As a result, their lives were spared, but every one of their relatives perished.
Despite that, they decided to return to Hiroshima, rebuild their lives and raise the son there. He stayed as well. We had a fascinating conversation where he relayed his parents’ first-hand experiences and thoughts during WWII. It’s the kind of thing that you simply won’t get on a day trip or when rushing from place to place with a tour group.
Peace Memorial park itself is a beautiful place to just walk around and enjoy the scenery.
We’ve made a decision not to take the kids to the museum inside. I’ve read that it contains graphic photos, and wanted to spare them (and myself) the heartache. My husband was planning to go, but changed his mind. It’s a personal decision and something every family should choose for themselves.
One thing I strongly recommend is watching an anime movie called “In this corner of the world” before you visit Hiroshima. I’m not into anime at all, and I loved it. It’s a poignant tale of a girl named Suzu who grew up in Hiroshima, and the events of WWII that changed hers’ and her family’s lives forever. It’s hard to watch at times, but I promise it’s a beautiful story you won’t be able to forget. A bonus: you can see what Hiroshima looked like before the bomb and recognize certain present-day locations during your visit.
Here is a short trailer:
Hiroshima is a phoenix that rose from the ashes. It’s a thriving metropolis that honors its past, but was able to move beyond it. It’s a place that IMO you simply have to visit at least once in your lifetime.
Using Hiroshima as a base for memorable day trips
Even if Hiroshima’s sad history doesn’t particularly interest you, there are other reasons to stay here. The biggest one is easy access to Miyajima island. If you are in the area, this is something you must do. Fortunately, you can easily get to Miyajima right from the Peace park in only 50 minutes by taking a ferry.
The ride itself is quite scenic, and you can see many small islands along the way:
If the weather cooperates, you will be treated to a magnificent view of Torii gate:
When the tide is low, you can even walk to it
I also enjoyed seeing families from Hiroshima letting their kids play in the water:
My children absolutely loved interacting with local deer, who are quite friendly. Just watch your possessions, especially food.
There is a street where you can find many souvenir shops:
There are also many tiny eateries where you can enjoy local delicacies, like grilled oysters and matcha dessert:
Miyajima is the sort of place where I would have loved to stay overnight. I imagine that it’s even better after all the day trippers (like us) go home. But the logistics of doing so were just too complicated this time around. So, I’ll take what I can get. Bottom line: if you are in Hiroshima, definitely visit Miyajima.
2) Yamato museum in Kure
I’ve briefly mentioned this museum in my post on transportation This certainly won’t be everyone’s cup of tea, and I personally would have skipped it. But if someone in your party enjoys aviation and WWII history, Yamato museum is a must. It’s not too hard to get to from central Hiroshima via bus or taxi (the last one will obviously be pricey).
Be aware that most of the exhibits are in Japanese only. Also, you will likely be the only non-Japanese people in the museum. Seriously, we stood out like a sore thumb.
The movie I mentioned earlier was supposed to also take place in Kure, and I thought it was neat that they included a poster with one of the scenes:
Another reason to come to Kure is the real Japanese sub, located next to Yamato museum:
It’s free to enter the exhibit, and you can even walk inside of the sub:
My son sitting at the controls
If you are into this sort of thing, you absolutely have to come to Kure during your stay in Hiroshima. For my husband it was one of the highlights of the trip.
A brief review of ANA Crowne Plaza Hiroshima
We used IHG points and reserved two rooms for three nights at ANA Crowne Plaza Hiroshima. The cost was 16k points per room/per night and we got a 10% rebate due to being IHG cardholders. We were also able to reserve a bigger room (290 square feet) with two beds via points by booking 11 months ahead. At the moment, it looks like you can only get a small room (190 square feet) with one queen bed, which makes it less compelling.
Nevertheless, if you are swimming in IHG points and don’t mind paying extra for a confirmed upgrade to a larger room, this hotel is worth considering. First and foremost, it has a prime location, its biggest selling point. Whether you decide to stay here or not, I strongly recommend you stick to the area near Peace park, which gives you easy access to Miyajima ferry as well as ground transportation. There are tons of options, including AirBnB.
The biggest negative of Crowne Plaza is the fact that it doesn’t have a coin laundry room. We managed, but it made my first night in Tokyo quite stressful, since we ran out of clean clothes. If lack of laundry room is not a deal breaker, this is a decent choice. But aside from its fancy chapel for weddings, this hotel won’t win any awards.
Here is our view:
The bathroom has seen better days, but it had everything a traveler needs:
All the workers were very friendly, and helped us with directions and calling a taxi when needed. I was surprised when they gave me some samples of soy sauce to acknowledge my Platinum status with IHG. First time that ever happened. I was also informed that we would get a 15% discount on dining. My MIL appreciated the fact that she could order a hamburger via room service, since she hates Asian food. And I got to enjoy okonomiyaki, a famous Hiroshima dish, accompanied by Japanese beer:
I believe the hotel has a gym, though I didn’t check. Also, my apologies for not taking any photos of the breakfast buffet. We’ve decided to splurge one morning, and I recommend you do as well. There were many options, plus an omelet station. If I remember correctly, the cost worked out to be $17 per person after 15% discount, and my son was half price since he is 12. Not cheap, but not outrageous for a very high quality food. You can see some photos of the buffet on this Trip Advisor page.
So, to sum it up, this hotel was a perfectly acceptable choice in Hiroshima, but nothing more. I don’t think there is anything particular to recommend it above other nearby lodging options. If you do have Diamond status with IHG, your ROI calculation will change, as it should give you access to the club lounge and/or free breakfast. Platinum members won’t likely get anything above that 15% dining discount, plus soy sauce samples. I’ve noticed that chain hotels in Japan are kind of stingy on room upgrades, so I wouldn’t count on those.
But all in all, for a cost of 14.5k IHG points per night/per room after rebate, it’s silly to complain. I have no regrets and feel like we got a solid deal.
Heads up! The offer on IHG One Rewards Premier credit card (our affiliate link) currently offers 140k points+$100 IHG statement credit after spending $3k in the first three months. First year annual fee of $99 is not waived. This product gives you every 4th night free when redeeming points.
I must admit, I had low expectations for Hiroshima itself and mostly looked forward to our day trip to Miyajima. But the city surprised me in a good way. If you are planning a trip to Japan, I highly recommend you try to add it to your itinerary.
Leana is the founder of Miles For Family. She enjoys beach vacations and visiting her family in Europe. Originally from Belarus, Leana resides in central Florida with her husband and two children.