Hiroshima will always be synonymous with a single split second: the lethal one which occurred at 8.15 in the morning on August 6, 1945. That was the moment when America dropped the bomb on the Japanese industrial city on the coast of the Seto Inland Sea, unleashing devastation.
Echoes of that moment, which wrecked much of Hiroshima's heritage, abound. But with its handsome boulevards and abundant rivers that give it the nickname City of Water, Hiroshima retains an air of elegance. Plus, Hiroshima is reasonably easy to get to, fielding flights from Shanghai, Seoul, Dalian, Guam, and Taipei.
Discover what there is to see in Hiroshima, aside from the Mazda factory. If you feel inspired to visit, think twice before going in July or August when driving rain gives way to blazing heat.
1. A-Bomb Dome
Even before the dreadful moment, this domed art-nouveau oddity with an extraordinary story was a wow with tourists. When the Americans dropped the bomb, they failed to hit the original target, the T-shaped Aioi Bridge, directly. Instead, the bomb burst over the Dome designed by Czech architect Jan Letzel.
At first, locals wanted the resulting ruin knocked down. But as Hiroshima regenerated around the building, the belief arose that the ruin should be preserved because it would make a powerful memorial. It does. The Dome is now a key part of Hiroshima Peace Memorial Park.
2. Peace bell
Also part of Hiroshima Peace Memorial Park, this 1,200-kg peace bell stands near the children’s monument. You can hit it with the hefty wooden hammer hung beside it, to strike a blow for world peace, which may sound trite. But the bell has a nifty design that depicts a free and friendly borderless world.
3. Hiroshima Castle
Before Hiroshima materialised, in the 1590s a local warlord built the original castle sometimes called Carp Castle in a nod to the fish in its moat. The atomic bomb wiped out Hiroshima Castle. Rebuilt in 1958, the castle that stands on the north eastern side of the Peace Memorial Park retains some original concrete foundations and serves as a museum. On display you will discover swords, armour and ancient clothes from various eras that you can try on and be photographed in. Climb to the castle's top floor and, on a clear day from the observation deck, you can see beyond the cherry tree-dotted grounds all the way to a scenic icon: the shrine island of Miyajima.
¥360 adults, ¥180 kids. Hiroshima-jō, 21-1 Moto-machi, Naka-ku (Genbaku dome-mae tram stop), +81 082-221-7512. 9am-6pm daily, to 5pm Dec-Feb.
4. Manga Library
Like cherry blossom, manga is quintessentially Japanese: an obsession of the island nation. Hiroshima's manga library is said to be the only public one in the country that specialises in the comics characterised by linear storylines that ramble on for several volumes. The collection also includes a smattering of Western superhero comics. The manga library lies just round the corner from the Museum of Contemporary Art in Hijiyama Park, Minami-ku. Admission is free. +81 082-261-0330. Tuesday-Sunday 10am-5pm.
5. Seto Inland Sea
The idea of an inland sea is inherently strange and magical. Seto Inland Sea, which snakes through Hiroshima, is a great place to get away from Hiroshima's Ferro Concrete and neon into the soul of Japan. The Sea hosts several islands including Shodoshima, the island of olives. Known for its languid waters and balmy weather, the Sea is a popular sightseeing spot rich in history and beauty.