If you are visiting Japan and have a JR Pass (watch video), then Hiroshima is easily reached from Tokyo by Shinkansen. Not sure what to do whilst you're there? Well here are five ideas to help you plan that perfect day trip to Hiroshima. From fireflies to cruises through the rapids of Sandan-kyo Valley, there is plenty to keep you busy during your packed day trip to Hiroshima:
Learn everything you need to know about the JR pass here.
1. Watch fireflies on a deserted island
(image by ja.wikipedia.org)
It takes 5 minutes by ferry from Tomo-no-Ura. Located in the middle of Setonaikai National Park, the first of its kind in Japan, Sensuijima Island has nature that has not been touched by Man. Aside from the 2 hotels, there is no one else living on the island, and once the final ferry leaves at 9:35 pm, Sensuijima takes on the appearance of a genuine deserted island. It is the habitat of sea fireflies and their blue glow in the water gives that impression of a mysterious island. Between June and September, there are sea firefly tours held at night.
With only 55 sites in the world, Goshikiiwa is the only such site in Japan, located on Sensuijima. Rocks that are colored in blue, red, yellow, white and black continue for up to 1km on the shore going into the island. Called as the place where the spirit of Heaven has gathered, magma from the earth rose up long ago to create a high area of land protruding from the ground. With 4 hiking trails including courses for Senningaoka Observation Point which has been chosen as one of the Top 100 Sunsets in Japan, and Goshikiiwa, you can take a walk on the island as you like.
At the island hotel, Kokokara, there is a sauna in a cave that has recreated the baths from the Edo Era and has become one of the most famous things on the island. There are various open-air baths which include 3 kinds of plants: seaweed, mugwort and loquat leaves, and to get the full effect of an Edo bath, you have to soak for at least an hour. Restricted to people of middle school age and above, the detox effect makes it especially popular with women. Along with a campground and a swimming beach, the whole family can enjoy the island with many participatory events such as the Shio Kobo which has been selected for the Top 100 Salts in Japan where you can take part in salt-making and pottery.
- Guidebook from Planetyze about Sensuijima Island
- Reviews from TripAdvisor about Sensuijima Island
- Tours of Sensuijima Island
2. Go on an adventure through a mysterious valley
(image by 広島県)
A 1 hour-and-15-minute bus ride from downtown Hiroshima. The ravine which cuts deep into virgin forest has precipitous cliffs which soar 40m, deep pools, waterfalls and rapids. The marvelous landscape created from the fresh greenery and clear streams continues onwards, and especially during the autumn, the large variety of trees that can only be found in this valley take on color to create a form of natural art. A mysterious atmosphere is created from the sheer cliffs and forests at the entrance, and with the emerald-green mountain torrents, so that even from the start, the region is well worth seeing.
Along with the biggest highlight of Sandan-no-taki Falls which was behind the naming of the valley, there is Kurofuchi Pool, Mitsutaki Falls, Sarutobi Passage and Nidan-no-taki Falls to provide 5 great landscapes which are especially wonderful within Sandan-kyo Valley. There is a pleasure boat that you can board to enjoy the popular Kurofuchi Pool and Sarutobi Passage. The 20m-high rock cliffs of Sarutobi narrow down to a tight 2 meters in width so using a rope to navigate through this area provides some of that feeling of an adventure. To reach Nidan-no-taki, you must take the boat going through the passage so there is also that feeling of going into unexplored territory.
There are 6 courses ranging from a very short 10-minute course to the Seiko Lake course which goes all over Sandan-kyo. Recommended is the 3-hour course where you can view the biggest highlight of Sandan-no-taki Falls along with Sarutobi Passage and Nidan-no-taki Falls. There is a shuttle bus running on weekends and holidays that links the entrance with the middle area of the valley which is fine for tourists who may not have as much confidence in their stamina so that they can walk over to Sandan-no-taki and Nidan-no-taki in about 30 minutes on foot.
- Guidebook from Planetyze about Sandan-kyo Valley
- Reviews from TripAdvisor about Sandan-kyo Valley
- Tours of Sandan-kyo Valley
3. View a torii gate floating in the sea
(image by en.wikipedia.org)
Itsukushima Shrine is constructed in the architectural style of the Heian period (794 – 1185); it is a unique building which likens the Seto Inland Sea to a pond. This grandeur, red lacquer-coated shrine blends natural and man-made beauty in perfect harmony; the view completely changes during high tide when the shrine and corridors appear as though they are floating in the sea. The entire island is considered as a holy object in which a deity resides; in the front of the holy island is Seto Inland Sea and in the background is Mount Misen where the gods descend. Itsukushima embodies the form of the ancient Japanese Shinto worship in which people found gods in nature and worshipped mountains, oceans as well as natural phenomena. For this reason, it has been listed as a World Cultural Heritage site. The Island can be accessed by a 10-minute ride on a ferry leaving from the JR Miyajimaguchi Station and arriving at the Miyajima Sanbashiguchi. It is a 15-minute walk from here to Itsukushima Shrine. You will be walking through the Omotesando shopping avenue which is filled with souvenir shops and restaurants. While walking through this avenue, we recommend checking out the world’s largest wooden scoop on display. We also recommend munching on Hiroshima’s famous grilled oysters or maple shaped steamed sweet buns. The highlights of Itsukushima Shrine include the 60t, 16m high grand torii gate, the 275m long corridor, and the delicate yet extravagant main sanctuary.
Mount Misen is another spot you don’t want to miss. The cable car stop “Koyodani Station” is a 15-minute walk from Itsukushima Shrine. When heading to this station, you will be walking through the Koyodani Park where you can enjoy cherry blossoms in spring, tender new leaves in summer, and colored leaves in autumn. Especially, the park’s approximately 200 maple trees display a spectacular view of vibrant colors in November. Enjoy a “walk in the sky” on the cable car while looking down at the magnificent views of the Seto Inland Sea and virgin forests. The final stop is Shishi-iwa Station from which you can walk to the Shishi-iwa Observation Deck and then onto the Seikado building of the Daishoin temple that houses the “ever burning fire” which is said to have been burning for 1,200 years. After that, walk through the tunnel of the enormous Kuguri-iwa rock to get to the best highlight of the mountain, the Mount Misen Observation Deck. It is located at the mountain peak from which you can enjoy a panoramic view of the islands dotting the Seto Inland Sea. Before leaving the island, we recommend watching the sun set into the sea at Miyajima’s sunset spot Mikasa-no-hama. Enjoy the magical view of the grand torii gate “floating” in the sea, lit up by the setting sun.
Admission: Adult: ¥ 300 / Child: ¥ 100
- Guidebook from Planetyze about Itsukushima Shrine
- Reviews from TripAdvisor about Itsukushima Shrine
- Tours of Itsukushima Shrine
4. Travel back in time to the Showa Era
(image by 広島県)
The profound townscape and townspeople culture were created from the development of salt field cultivation along the coast of the Seto Inland Sea during the Edo Era. The area flourished from salt production along with sake brewing so that this old town came to be known as the LittleKyoto of Aki. This preserved district is made up of old mercantile houses, temples & shrines and streets so that a traditional Japanese commercial town can be seen. Centering upon the main street of Honmachi Dori, there are numerous historic buildings that are open to the public along with cafés and restaurants built within the old town residences.
Takehara is also famous as the birthplace of the founder of Nikka Whiskey, Masataka Taketsuru, who was the inspiration for the NHK morning serial drama “Massan” in which the surviving Taketsuru Brewery was also actually used in filming. The brewery is still in operation and has garnered high praise for its brewing techniques of sake. Sampling of the sake is possible, and the museum inside the brewery can also be toured for free. The Hinomaru Photography Studio became the setting for the television anime series “Tamayura”. Its wooden 3-floor building and log evoke feelings of the Showa Era. Also in connection with the anime, there is an anime corner on the 2nd floor of the old Kasai residence.
“Take”, or bamboo, is the official special product of Takehara. At Machinami Take Kobo (Town Bamboo Workshop), you can observe the creation of handicrafts and even try your hand at bamboo ware. Every year in May, the Takehara Bamboo Festival is held in which there are various events such as the Princess Kaguya parade. There is also the Takehara Shoukei-no-Michi in which the light of candles placed in the hollow bamboo stems lights up the town in a mysterious glow. The artwork that uses the bamboo during this time is also wonderful.
- Guidebook from Planetyze about Preserved District of Takehara
- Reviews from TripAdvisor about Preserved District of Takehara
- Tours of Preserved District of Takehara
5. Visit a temple built on the side of a cliff
(image by 広島県)
Senko-ji Park is located on the north side of Onomichi Station, and spans from the middle of Mt. Senko-ji to the summit of the mountain at 144.2m. In spring, 1500 cherry trees bloom all at once, and the entire park is enveloped in pink flowers. The park has been selected as one of the Top 100 Places for Cherry Blossoms in Japan. The town with its old houses that can be seen from the observation point and the intricate scenery of the island silhouette are things that can only be viewed at the Seto Inland Sea. With it being part of lists such as the Top 100 Scenes and the Top 100 Nightscapes, you will view it as a nostalgic landscape of Japan that has touched the hearts of many people.
Senko-ji Temple is located in the heart of Senko-ji Park on top of a sheer precipice. The vermilion Main Hall which has also been called the Red Hall and the Bell Tower which was chosen as one of the Top 100 Japanese Soundscapes are symbols of the temple. Many large and strangely-shaped rocks exist within the temple grounds, and the huge Tama no Iwa (Ball Rock) that has a circumference of 50m and a height of 15m is famous for a legend that states that it once had a shining gem placed on it. Currently, another gem has been placed at the top of the rock, and when night falls, it glitters in 3 colors. There are also many other notable sites such as Kusariyama which is accessed by scaling a rock; Tsuzumiiwa, a rock which makes a hollow sound when tapped; and Iwawari-no-Matsu, another rock which has a giant root growing out of a huge crack in it.
The observation point can be reached within 10 minutes on foot, but there is also a ropeway which can access the point. The ropeway climbs from the foot of Mt. Senko-ji to the summit within 3 minutes. From the ropeway, the scenery changes as you view the old city of Onomichi, the massive camphor trees of Ushitora Shrine that are Natural Monuments, the Three-Level Pagoda of Tenneiji Temple, Senko-ji Temple and the islands of the Seto Inland Sea. On sunny days, you can see as far away as the island of Shikoku.