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Text by Steve John Powell.
Photos by Angeles Marin Cabello
1. The City of Water
Hiroshima is often called “The City of Water” for the six rivers that carve the city into a series of islands. It’s particularly spectacular at cherry blossom time (late March-early April), when mile after mile of riverbank turns pink. Watch the world go by from a riverside café, or take a sightseeing cruise. Fancy something ¬racier? Hail a Ganji Taxi speedboat.
2. Miyajima’s Munchies
With its “floating” shrine and huge red torii gate rising out of the sea, Miyajima Island is acclaimed as one of Japan’s three most scenic spots. But locals also love Miyajima for its scrumptious food. Try anago-udon (rice topped with conger eel) and momiji-manju (maple-leaf shaped cakes filled with chocolate, custard or azuki bean paste).
3. Art & Nature
Ride the Skywalk elevator up Mt. Hijiyama to the Museum of Contemporary Art, which rises above the surrounding forest. When opened in 1989, it was Japan’s first public Modern Art museum. Designed by Kisho Kurokawa (co-founder of the Metabolist Movement), it won the 5th World Festival of Architecture’s grand prize. Outside, Henry Moore’s massive Arch frames panoramas of the city.
4. No. 1 for Oysters
Hiroshima has been farming oysters since the 1500s. Today it produces 25,000 to 30,000 tonnes of oysters a year, 60 to 70 per cent of Japan’s total production. Known locally as sea milk for their nutritional value, they are eaten boiled, fried, grilled, with rice, in stews, or raw. Cultivation involves suspending oysters from floating rafts, hundreds of which are dotted all over Hiroshima Bay.
5. Walk across the water
Mountains surround Hiroshima on three sides. The fourth side looks onto the Seto Inland Sea National Park. Explore its sleepy labyrinth of misty islands via the Shimanami Kaido, a stunning 65-kilo-metre road and bridge route that joins Honshu, Japan’s largest island, with Shikoku. En route, it traverses six smaller islands, with cycle and pedestrian lanes all the way.
6. Mystic Mitaki
Dense woodland, three waterfalls, a 16th century pagoda and a 9th century temple – just two stops from Hiroshima Station! Mitaki Temple lies at the top of Mt. Mitaki and the way up is lined with hundreds of statues of Buddha. Follow the trail beyond the temple into a shady forest of towering bamboo – you may even spot some wild boar.
7. Mobile Museum
After the war, Hiroshima needed to get its transport system up and running fast. Tram cars were donated from cities all over Japan and even abroad, earning them the nickname Mobile Museum. Today the tram fleet ranges from pre-war clunkers to the futuristic Green Mover Max. It’s the cheapest, easiest and most eco-friendly way to get around town.
8. Football champions
San Frecce Hiroshima is one of Japan’s top football teams, winning the J-League Division 1 title in 2012 and 2013, and the Japanese Super Cup in 2008, 2013 and 2014. Their magnificent Edion Stadium is set in landscaped parkland on a hill outside town, complete with cherry trees and koi pond.
9. Brush Capital of Japan
Kumano, a village 20 kilometres east of Hiroshima, produces 15 million calligraphy, make-up and artist’s brushes a year. That’s 80 per cent of Japan’s production. Of the town’s 27,000 inhabitants, 1,500 are brush craftsmen, hand-making brushes the traditional way. Visit on September 23 when 10,000 brushes festoon the streets for Kumano’s spectacular Brush Festival.
10. Samurai Garden
A sublime city centre oasis, Shukkeien Garden was built in 1620 by Ueda Soko, a samurai warrior who became a Buddhist monk, tea-master and landscape gardener. He designed it for Asano Nagaakira, feudal lord of Hiroshima. Monthly tea ceremonies are held, including one for moon-viewing in September. The adjacent Prefectural Art Museum is also worth a visit.
1-1 Hijiyama koen Minami-ku. 732-0815
Take a train east to Onomichi (about 90 kms). The bridge network starts there.
Mitaki-yama, Nishi-ku. Two stops from Hiroshima station on the JR Kabe line.
San Frecce, Edion Stadium
4-10-2 Kanonshin-machi, Nishi-ku. 733-0036.
Take an Astram Line train to Koiki-koen-mae.
Just 45 minutes by bus from Hiroshima JR station.
2-11 Kami-nobori-cho, Naka-ku, 730-0014. A 10-minute walk from Hiroshima JR station.
This article was first published in the February 2015 issue of Finnair's monthly in-flight magazine Blue Wings.