Active Fun in Hiroshima

Hiroshima is a great location to base yourself for a few months (or years) in Japan no matter how old you are, but for some reason, the active fun seems to take backstage in many Hiroshima guides to the more passive sightseeing activities.

There is actually a lot for the young and energetic to see and do, especially if you have the energy and enthusiasm to get off the beaten track and seek out new locations, try out a bit of Japanese, and meet other active locals.

(All year- City Center)

* Cycle, Walk or Jog around the Castle, Traffic-free riverside routes. You can start at the riverside area next to Chuo-koen (Central Park) head to the left (north) and follow the paths for about 30 minutes (15 km) before you have to stop for a light. This route is beautiful and interesting on any good weather day, but especially beautiful in Spring and Autumn when the trees are bursting with color. There are rental bicycles at many hotels and hostels in Hiroshima city, follow the basic cycling rules and wear a helmet- little accidents can be quite serious on a bicycle- better safe than brain damaged!

* Jog or walk around Hiroshima Castle- there is an easy 1.5km (nearly 1 mile) loop with beautiful views any time of day or year. Especially nice in the early morning or at sunset.

— As Hiroshima city offers easy access to the rivers…

Hiking/Trail running:

* Interesting trails through Mitaki temple/bamboo forest behind and Mitaki-yama,  Ushita-yama. See more routes and maps on MapMyRun-Hiroshima or see some other hikes here.

Festivals

  • Oyster festival in February is a fun day at Miyajima- Kagura and taiko performances while eating oysters cooked in every way possible.
  • Setsubun Festival at Gokoku Jinja (next to Hiroshima castle) will be held this year on February 3rd from 3pm~to dash out the evil spirits, end the hold of winter and eat roasted soy beans for luck.
  • Flower festival in May (Golden Week)- the streets fill with stalls, parades, dancing troupes and performances of all kinds can be found on multiple stages.
  • Streetcar festival in June features Hiroshima’s many traditional and modern trams. The Tokasan Yukata (summer kimono) festival is also in June.
  • Fireworks festivals in July and August : Ujina (port) and Miyajima are the most famous.

Ball sports

  • Futsal courts: it’s possible to rent a court at the Futsal Dome Pivox in the Ujina area or opposite Marina Hop in the Mizuno Futsal Plaza.
  • Tennis/Basketball courts: Public tennis courts and facilities are also available in each ward area of Hiroshima city. Basketball hoops in front of Big Wave (Higashi-ku sports center).
  • Rugby: The Yokogawa rugby club team “Hiroshima Maple RFC” in the city (near Yokogawa station)  welcome new players – students, adults and foreign players are all welcome. They practice every sunday from 10-12.

Spectator Sports

  • Carp baseball games are a fun experience at the Mazda stadium near Hiroshima’s main JR train station. Cheer on Hiroshima’s most popular team Japanese style. There are a few star American players on the team too.
  • San Frecce J-League soccer games are held at the big Arch (Edion stadium) accessible by Astram monorail. Last year, San Frecce won the league championships.

Gyms:
Green arena (pool, small climbing wall and sports facility pay as you go, open to the public), Big Wave.  Renaissance, Oasis, YMCA membership based gym/pool facilities.

Skating and BMX

  • Near Nagisa school in Hatsukaichi, there is the Hatsukaichi Skate Park [ja]: a concrete park and forested loop open to the public. For skateboarders, inline skaters and BMX riders to enjoy. It is open on weekends and most afternoons after 3pm (closed if it rains). Nearest streetcar or JR train station is Itsukaichi station. There are free information and training sessions and days to help out new and young riders by some local experts.
  • Dining Pool Bar FURY is a cool concept cafe and skating bowl created in an old warehouse near Soleiu AEON mall. FURY’s Google map.
  • BMX riders will want to see out Freebird. The shop owner is the local expert and great resource on BMX clothing, gear and where to ride. He does training sessions for kids once a month at the Hatsukaichi skate/BMX park [ja].
  • Inline skaters and skateboarders should enjoy the traffic free routes along the riversides– start from the riverside area next to Chuo (Central) park and keep going north under the bridges for over 10 km without having to stop at a traffic light (don’t forget to give pedestrians right of way).
  • Alice garden (the concrete area in front of the children’s museum) is popular with skateboarders and inline skaters as well as the Senda park (next to the Naka-ku sports center) as there is a lot of smooth concrete areas to skate on and areas to practice your grindz.
  • Hijiyama park (where the Hiroshima museum of contemporary art & manga library is) offers less smooth services but plenty of paved paths and side streets to explore and skate on around the park.

(Winter)
* Ice-skating, ice-hockey, figure skating or speed skating at the Big Wave facility [ja].

Cycling in Hiroshima

Visit Hiroshima lists 3 good cycling routes on the nearby islands that have rental bicycles. Nekomoto bicycle shop offers high end Trek bicycles for sale, parts, clothing and repairs. The wife owner speaks a little English and they are all very helpful. The owner now runs a second shop at the Flex gallery [ja] shopping and dining area near Ujina port.

Dance Studios

Flex Studio [ja] in the city center offers a lot of classes in different styles: Hip-hop, freestyle, breakdance, jazz and other types of classes every week at their studio. There is a membership fee and then you pay for each class. There are quite a few ballet studios in Hiroshima city that practice classical as well as modern ballet, here is a list in Japanese, but if you follow the links to the different websites you could contact them by email or facebook to ask for more information. Many ballet schools and dance studios have English speaking owners as many of them spent time doing dance abroad*. (Ballet school owners and sushi chefs are notoriously snobby- apologies for any cold shoulders to your inquiries in advance, there are some friendly ones out there if you keep trying or get an introduction from a local dancer…)

Karate and Self Defense

Bugeido Shotokan Karate Dojo – kids and adult classes taught Sundays in English and Japanese in the city center (opposite Cusco cafe/near YMCA) by Australian certified Karate instructor, Brad Weston.

Outside Hiroshima city center (30~60 minutes away by car, train or bus)
All year
* Hiking- Sandankyo Gorge, Taishakukyo Gorge

Taishakukyo Gorge

Warmer months

Winter

  • Snowboard or Ski in the nearby mountains- bus tours available from Hiroshima station, drive to slopes in about an hour.
  • International igloo contest
  • Onsen – hot baths. Most famous area is in the town of Yuki.
  • Tondo matsuri- huge bonfires held in January after beginning of the year shrine and temple visits.

Fashion
Department stores:

  • *Sunmall has modern shops, vintage clothes, and tourist-souvenir shops. Shareo has lots of shops for young women- clothing, nail shops, florists, cafes and access to Astram monorail.
  • Sogo and Pacela offer many international shops as well as popular Japanese brands. Pacela has good restaurants and views of the castle.
  • Hondori– the covered street filled with shops and restaurants is the main shopping street in the city. Parco is located at the end of Hondori and offers many shops popular with young people.

Game centers

  • Round 1 game center, bowling, karaoke and more.
  • Park Lane: Bowling 2F, some purikua (print club) and video games
  • Hondori covered mall & Sunmall also have game centers- will update later

Boutiques  shops

  • Little Twitter– handmade leather and jewlery
  • Green Coffee– great coffee roasted on the premises and responsibly imported from growers. Castella’s coffee supplies many high quality restaurants in Hiroshima city.
  • Hair Salons- getting your hair done is a real treat in Hiroshima. Cleo International [ja] new Turkish tile designed salon in Pacela (9F) for a great quality haircut, color or perm in comfortable surroundings. Ippei-san at Laff also speaks English and provides quality cuts, color and perms near the Peace park. Both salons have English speaking staff, and Laff also offers an English telephone number for reservations.

Culture and Tradition

City Center

* Catch a film at Hatchoza– beautiful Japanese design, comfortable boutique theatre experience. A Japanese movie would be interesting, but they also have English films sometimes.

* Shukei-en gardens– tea ceremony, flower gardens, nice place to enjoy a wander, feed the koi and enjoy the quiet. Cultural events most months.

* Cosquerade.com– Cosplay events in and around Hiroshima city usually once a month. Take part or go to observe, chat with the cosplay-ers and take photos (make sure to ask first).

* Peace park and museum– most interesting with a guide the first time, then revisit to enjoy the park. The World Friendship Center offers guided tours and accomodation. The Hiroshima guide association (HIGA) can also organize guided tours and lectures for many places of interest in Hiroshima.

* Hiroshima castle and Gokoku Jinja

Half-day excursions

The Botanical gardens, Asa Zoo and the Transportation museum (don’t miss the crazy bikes in back) make for fun half-day excursions.

Day trips

* Miyajima- Giant Tori gate, floating Itsukushima shrine, interesting back streets, walk or cable to top of Mt.Misen, Miyajima Aquarium, interesting Jizo statues, temples and traditions at Daishoin Buddhist temple. Many interesting shrines, pagoda, views of the surrounding islands and interesting shops and eateries too- Miyajima is always interesting no matter how many times you visit. Interesting festivals and events held throughout the year. At the annual Oyster festival (February), you can eat its famous oysters but also enjoy Taiko drumming, Kagura performances.

* Kure– Japan’s maritime history on display at the submarine shipyards and Yamato museum, interesting Hondori shopping street, local military flare goods and seafood.

Kumano Brush Festival – GetHiroshima

* Saijo- in Higashi-Hiroshima, home to most of Hiroshima’s famous Sake breweries and the Hiroshima university campus.

* Kumano – world famous brushes- 80% of Japan’s make-up, calligraphy and painting brushes are made in the small town of Kumano, located 13 km outside of Hiroshima city. Most of the brushes are still made by hand from domestic materials.

Kumano brush festival in Sept.

* Setoda island– Hiramoto museum and Kosanji temple area: colorful, weird & wacky temple with a white marble hillside above it.

* Onomichi- Temple walks, great views of the sea, famous Ramen noodles, starting point for the Shimanami-Kaido cycling route over the

*Iwakuni- Kintaikyo

*Tomo no Ura (Fukuyama)- the scene of Miyazaki’s anime Ponyo and the Wolverine movie.

2-3 days trip

*Hagi, Yamaguchi-pottery

* Matsue, Shimane -black castle / Izumo taisha- big shrine

* Tottori- sand dunes, beaches

* Matsuyama, Ehime (Shikoku island) – Dogo onsen, castle, travel by boat- gateway to Shikoku island

– Hiroshima is also a good base for trips all over Japan, you can reach most major spots around the country in 2 hours or less by Shinkansen bullet train (4 hours to Tokyo).

Performances

* Kagura – look out to see chances to see a kagura performance throughout the year. There are regular performances held at Marina Hop outdoor mall. There is also a Kagura-monzen village in the countryside where they do shows and you can enjoy this countryside area and an onsen hot bath.

* Noh theatre, Sumo and other types of traditional performances are also held in Hiroshima- see the event listings for details.

Art, Architecture and Design

* Yoshijima waste center- Hiroshima Naka Incineration Plant is one of Hiroshima’s most famous modern buildings and is the most beautiful waste disposal facility you have ever seen.

* Hiroshima museum of art (near castle) – go in the week to enjoy famous works of art without crowds, check schedule for interesting exhibits at all the museums. Hiroshima Prefectural Art Museum (next to Shukeien) is also worth a visit.

* Hijiyama MOCA (Museum of Contemporary Art), adjacent Manga library and park. Also a great place to enjoy walks, views of the city and don’t miss a Hanami in spring.

* Look out for the English book and online (PDF) guide for Architecture walks in and around Hiroshima city.

* Hiroshima peace park- T-bridge (look up: Project NOW), bridges designs and cenotaph.

* Bank of Japan building has been converted into an exhibition space- don’t miss a chance to see what’s on display while you are visiting and don’t forget to take a trip downstairs to see the original safes- the doors are impressive.

Eating Out

* Okonomiyaki and Teppan-yaki: Nagataya (Peace Park), and Ichiriki (Tokaichi)- these places are welcoming and friendly, and have English menus. But there are loads of wonderful okonomiyaki shops in Hiroshima to enjoy. Ask for recommendations from people you meet while you are here. Many visitors like to wander through Okonomiyaki-mura (near Parco/Alice Garden) to choose a place to try Hiroshima’s famous dish. There are other okonomiyaki cluster shops like the mura version opposite the JR station and around the city.

Looking for gluten free– get oysters, vegetables, meats and other dishes cooked on the grill with butter, garlic and salt. Vegetarian/Vegan diners can enjoy okonomiyaki made without the fish flakes (katsuo-bushi) or bacon easily by asking when ordering: “niku-nashi, katsuobushi nashi, dobutsu abura nashi” Vegans should also ask for no egg: “tamago-nashi” (always add pleasekudasai” on the end)

* Buffet dining- great if you can’t decide or in a large group. Roan (near Peace park) has shabu-shabu to cook on the tables as well as a good selection in the buffet. Nonobudoh buffet in Pacela offers a range of local, fresh and delicious foods.

* Cinnamon cafe– homemade cakes and filling savory dishes served in this retro style eatery next to a public bath. Run by a friendly, young international couple.

* Organza [ja]– live house bar at night, cafe, avant guard, underground- regularly host various performances and art events. Kissaten (old-fashioned coffee shop) style foods and decor.

* Gelato- Polar Bear is a Hiroshima gelato institution

* Pizza Riva– world class pizza (won a contest in Italy!) served in a bistro in Yokogawa. There is also cheap and fast pizza at Zona Pizza and many quality Italian restaurants in the city in the Mario chain.

* Michelin guide [English] to high quality dining in Hiroshima- most restaurants are in the city center and offer a list of great Japanese, French, and Italian restaurants as well as Teppanyaki and Okonomiyaki eateries as well as Izakaya (Japanese style pubs).
Vegan and Vegetarian: Shanti vegan cafe (vegan) and Maison de Croissant (macrobiotic) are Hiroshima’s two most committed meat-free restaurants. The Indian restaurants and Italian restaurants in the city also offer many vegetarian and vegan options to choose from. At other restaurants, you should always ask if there is any meat in a dish (肉 niku) and many times you have to ask more specifically putting two fingers up crossing in front of you while you say “no bacon, no ham, no sausage, no chicken, no beef, no meat, right?” It seems silly but is sometimes necessary.

Gluten-free: Avoid flour (小麦粉 komugiko) and barley (麦 mugi). When ordering say you have a “komugiko to mugi allelergy” (allergic to flour and barley). Stick to plain rice and plain salads, plain grilled meats or fish and carry around your own gluten-free sauces that you like. There are a lot of Indian curry restaurants in Hiroshima to choose from (Japanese curry is not gluten free), edamame (fresh soy beans) and plain tofu and Japanese pickles are always available in Japanese restaurants. If eating at an Okonomiyaki shop, choose dishes cooked on the grill called “teppanyaki”, ask the many vegetables, seafoods and meats on offer to be cooked only with oil, butter, garlic and salt. “Ume” pickled plum rice balls are a good staple and available in every convenience store and many Japanese restaurants. If eating sushi, stick to the sashimi, raw fish, as some sushi rice has dashi (stock) containing flour.

The less beaten path

*Ninoshima- Hiroshima has loads of islands, but Ninoshima is particularly easy to get to and navigate around. It is a small island just off the coast of Hiroshima without any modern conveniences. It’s a great place to cycle around, go for runs, enjoy the beaches and coastline. Famous for its signature “Aki-no-Fuji” Hiroshima’s little (mt.) Fuji mountain as seen in this picture by littleforeigner.

To get a realistic idea of what it’s like to cycle round the island, have a look at this fun go-pro youtube video by sr20det808 of his summer day trip around the island.

* Shimanami kaido route over the bridges from Onomichi – interesting towns along the way, beautiful views of the Seto inland sea, also a car route- take turns cycling, riding, walking.

* Okunoshima- rabbit island

* Yacht, ferry and boat cruises of the islands

* Fruit picking, flower viewing in Sera

These are only some of the great places in Hiroshima, we will keep adding our favorites and I hope your adventures in Hiroshima will take you to many more wonderful places.

If you’d like to share your experiences with others, you can earn points for goods or even flights by writing for JapanTravel.com

We would also love to hear any comments or updates you may have and insider knowledge for residents of Hiroshima at GetHiroshima.com (will be back online by February 2014).

jjwalsh

Been enjoying living, working in and writing about Hiroshima since '98- co-founder, editor, photographer and writer for GetHiroshima.com / GetHiroshima map + GetHiroshima magazine

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