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In the early hours of August 6, 1945, the city of Hiroshima witnessed firsthand the devastating effects of the latest advances in military technology by becoming the first city ever levelled by an atom bomb. The bomb’s force tore through the city in seconds, and its radioactive cloud settled like a funeral shroud. The casualties: 51,787 of 76,327 buildings were completely destroyed by the atom bomb, 6,180 buildings were partly-damaged and about 140,000 people died by the end of 1945.
 
A new Hiroshima emerged from the ashes, spreading a message of peace and warning future generations of the horrors of nuclear warfare. The city’s zest for life is a testament to human resilience. Today, Hiroshima is a busy and prosperous city. Its inhabitants have built a thriving, liveable and diverse community attracting a steady flow of both Japanese and foreign business. The modern city is criss-crossed with rivers and wide, tree-lined boulevards and boasts some excellent museums. It is also the gateway to cruises on the Inland Sea and trips to Miyajima, an enchanting island just off the coast. Hiroshima’s history dates back to 1589, when the feudal lord Mori Terumoto named the city and built the Hiroshima Castle, which was reconstructed in 1958.

There are lots of places for sightseeing in Hiroshima prefecture. Two world heritages, famous shrines and temples, the historical places and parks charm visitors, and then several museums have each good distinctive feature. Moreover you would notice more attraction of Hiroshima if you experience particular cultures and hot springs in Hiroshima prefecture, and visiting the islands in the picturesque Seto Inland Sea is also pleasant. Staying in Hiroshima prefecture is very attractive through four seasons.

 Where You're Dock
Cruise ships dock at Ujina Pier about 2 miles south of the city center and east of the Ujina Ferry Pier. A streetcar stop, Kaigandori, is a 10 minute walk away.
If your Cruise ship is scheduled to be docked at Gaibo Wharf, it is four miles (6.4 km) from the town centre, a 20-minute taxi ride or 50 minutes by train (tram). Metered taxis are generally available; however, drivers typically do not speak English. They are inexpensive and metered, and drivers are invariably honest. An alternative would be to remain in the city after a ship's tour and take a taxi back to the cruise dock. Set out armed with the pier location written in Japanese.
 
Hanging Around
The ship docks in an industrial section of the port, and there is nothing in the immediate vicinity that's of interest to visitors.
 
Getting Around
Once in the city center, most sites can be easily reached on foot, and the excellent tram system will take you nearly everywhere. The fare is a flat 150 yen; board by any door, and pay with coins when you get off. If you need to transfer to another tram, ask the driver for one. To reach Itsukushima Shrine on Miyashima Island, one of Japan's top attractions, you have the choice of a short tram connection from the city center to Hiroshima's Ujina port and a 20-minute high-speed ferry ride or a longer tram connection to Hiroden-Miyajime-guchi stop, next to the ferry pier, for a 10-minute water trip. Allow a minimum of three to four hours for the island visit. Both Hiroshima and Miyashima Island can be visited in one long day.
 
Local Transportation
The tram is the best way to get around. Take line 1 or 3 to Hondori to get to the city center or line 3 to Genbaku Dome-Mae to go to Peace Park directly. Most fares are ¥160 (May 2014). Enter from the back and pay when you exit from the front. The fare box has slots to give change for ¥500 coins and ¥1000 notes. A day pass is ¥600 (tram only) or ¥840 (tram and ferry from Miyajimaguchi to Miyajima). When coming back, not all trams go to the end of the line so make sure the destination is marked Hiroshima Port or you will need to transfer at the last stop. Transfers can be obtained from the driver when exiting and paying. Guide to riding streetcars with map here http://www.hiroden.co.jp/train/rosenzu/streetcar_map.htm
 
If you want to go to Miyajima, you have three options.
JR Train from Hiroshima Station to Miyajimaguchi. 25 min, ¥400 (Nov 2011) and the ferry across (10 min, ¥170). You will need to first take the tram from Kaigandori on line 5 to the train station (30 min, ¥160).
Tram line 3 to Hiroden-Nishi Hiroshima and transfer to line 2 to Hiroden-Miyajimaguchi 90 min, ¥270. Ferry across as well.
Ferry from Ujina Port. Departures hourly. 24 min, ¥1800. Docks at Miyajima directly.
Tram operator website http://www.hiroden.co.jp/en
 
There is also ferry service directly from Miyajima to Peace Park which gives you bit of a river cruise on the way there. This ferry is run by a separate company. The pier and ticket booth in Miyajima is just east of the main ferry building. In Peace Park, it is south of the dome by the bridge on the east side. (One way fare ¥2000, Nov 2011). Schedule and info here http://www.aqua-net-h.co.jp/english/
 
Watch Out For
Be aware that, as a westerner, you may attract some notice from others when visiting the atomic bomb museums and memorials. Depending on your own nature, you may feel a bit uncomfortable when viewing the more graphic details, especially among a crowd of Japanese.
 

Thing to See
 
Atomic Bomb Dome, Peace Memorial Park and Museum - Museum ¥50 entry (Nov 2011). Don't miss the Peace Memorial Hall located underground directly east of the cenotaph.
 
Hiroshima Castle
 
Miyajima - home to shrines and temples and the torii gate which is a symbol of Japan. See the Local Transportation section. If you plan on visiting both Miyajima and Hiroshima, it is recommended to head to Miyajima first. It is always a good idea to start furthest away and make way back to your ship in case you encounter unexpected delays.
 
Peace Memorial Park and Museum are the main attractions. Allow three to four hours to properly take in the outdoor sites and indoor exhibits (with time for contemplation afterwards in the leafy park).
 
The most prominent structure is the A-Bomb Dome, located just across the river from the park. Built in 1915 as the first western-style brick building, it served as the industrial promotion hall for a prosperous city. The atomic bomb exploded 2,000 feet above the building and instantly killed everyone inside. In 1996, its stabilized ruins were declared a UNESCO World Heritage Site, a poignant reminder, much like the ruined Kaiser Wilhelm church tower in Berlin.
 
In the park itself, there are memorials with the names of all the known victims, a grave of unknown persons, an eternal flame that will be extinguished when the last nuclear weapons are destroyed, a peace bell and the most moving -- the Children's Peace Memorial. A young girl named Sadako developed leukemia at age 12, about 10 years after the bomb was dropped; according to an old Japanese custom, if she could fold 1,000 paper cranes, her wish to live would come true. While she never quite made the full count, her classmates finished the task, and others continue to make them to this day.
 
Within the museum complex, a city model and photos show Hiroshima -- including the military defenses that were mounted to counter the expected land invasion -- before the bomb. As the city had not been previously bombed, Hiroshima was chosen so American scientists could observe the A-bomb's full effects. One set of photos shows burn victims immediately after the bomb was dropped, and display cases contain a burned school uniform, bicycle, bottles and dishes. An exhibition of children's drawings reveals what they saw in the initial days after the attack. Most exhibits are labeled in English.
 
In an adjacent building, a hall of remembrance contains the victims' names and memories. Moving first-hand accounts include not only those of Japanese people, but also that of an Australian prisoner of war, who worked in a Hiroshima factory at the time of the bombing. About 100,000 survivors are still living, but they are dying at the rate of about 5,000 per year.
 
 It's an easy walk from the park to Hiroshima-jo, just north of the bustling city center. Also known as Carp Castle, it was first constructed in 1589 but was mostly dismantled following the Meiji Restoration and then rebuilt in an attractive moat/lake setting after the war.
 
Hijiyama-koen, a park -- located on an axis east of the shopping arcade and south of JR Hiroshima Station -- offers the Hiroshima City Museum of Contemporary Art, featuring works by Japanese and international artists. Cherry blossoms abound in the spring.
 
Other Sites
Hiroshima City Museum of Contemporary Art
Designed by renowned Japanese architect Kurokawa Kisho, the museum contains trend-setting contemporary pieces, and is an excellent place to discover the postwar Japanese art scene. Much explanation is provided in English. There is also an outdoor sculpture garden.
 
Hiroshima Museum of Art
This small private museum has a collection that is half French and half works by Japanese artists painting the Western-style.
 
Been There, Done That
Miyajima Island is the hilly and heavily wooded setting for not only one of Japan's most revered shrines, first erected in 593, but also for a fishing industry and oyster farming. Seventy percent of Japan's bivalves are raised here, and they make a very popular snack item. The Japanese flock here in the thousands, so your presence will form a tiny, foreign minority.
 
Most prominent, the lovely 19th-century torii (a red-orange Shinto shrine gate) sits in the water as a symbolic entrance to the Itsukushima Shrine, a wooden complex mostly built out over the water. In the Shinto sanctuary, there are spirits, rather than statues, and Japanese kneel, toss a coin, clap twice and make a wish. Buddhism, borrowed from India via China and Korea, is also a part of the religious mix, as are Chinese architectural features that have been adapted to Japanese tastes. In addition, there is a stage for performances; a treasure house with 12th-century Buddhist scriptures; a five-story pagoda, atop a knoll; and temples, dating from the 13th to 15th centuries, dotting the hillsides.
 
Along its perimeter, the island offers numerous walking paths to seaside beaches and parks and into the hills. For the best panorama, follow the signs to Misen, a 1,730-foot peak, best reached by using a two-part cable car. Getting off, there are deer and monkeys to amuse you and a 15-to-20-minute walk to the top. There are views in all directions. Allow an hour to retrace your steps if entirely on foot.
 
Dining Out
Hiroshima is noted for its seafood, particularly oysters, and okonomiyaki, a type of Japanese pancake filled with cabbage, meat and other ingredients. You might want to check out Okonomi-mura, a group of about 24 food stalls on the 2nd, 3rd and 4th floors of the Shintenchi Plaza Building. The opportunity to experience this boisterous local hangout is half the fun.
 
Both Hiroshima's city center -- particularly along the shopping arcade -- and the pedestrian lanes on Miyajima Island offer an abundance of moderately priced eateries and snack bars. Oysters, grilled in their shells and sprinkled with lemon juice, make a most tasty snack. Various seaweed concoctions are also great purchases, and free samples are readily available. Cuttlefish and octopus on sticks, dipped in one of several sauces, are additional snacks. Restaurants with pictorial menus are easy to navigate, and people seated next to you may offer suggestions, if only by their example. Nearly all meals come with rice or noodles, often attractively presented on a lacquer tray. Candy and pastries, some made right on the spot in small storefronts, round out the meal.
 
Just off the east end of the Hondori Arcade, more than a score of small restaurants (Okonomi-mura) are located on the second through fourth floors of the Shintenchi Plaza Building, just to the rear of Parco Department Store. The atmosphere is intense, so have a look around first, eyeing the places that either have English menus or photo menus. The specialty here is Hiroshima-yaki, egg-based pancakes, made with buckwheat noodles (soba) and fried eggs.
 
Two blocks south of the Peace Park, one floor up, Kinchai-ya -- in the Clover Building, a former warehouse -- offers an organic buffet for lunch and dinner. Choosing your meal is easy.
 
Shopping
Hiroshima Hacchobori is the city’s main shopping area in the centre of town. The city’s main department stores include Sogo, Mitsukoshi, Fukuya, and Tenmaya, all of which have different closing days so that there are always options available. The city’s newest mall, Pacela, is a sightseeing attraction in itself, complete with external escalators. A popular souvenir is a carved, wooden rice scoop-shaped amulet that has been decorated with elegant calligraphy and blessed at Itsukushima, the famous shrine on Miyajima Island.



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