As part of our time in Kyoto, we decided to take a day trip to Hiroshima and Miyajima. While this did cut into our temple hopping time, we were able to pack a lot into our first two days in Kyoto. Hiroshima is important to visit given its history and Miyajima is an easy add-on. Here’s your perfect itinerary for a day trip to Hiroshima and Miyajima from Kyoto.
- A Brief History of Hiroshima and Miyajima
- Getting to Hiroshima and Miyajima from Kyoto
- Sightseeing in Hiroshima
- Exploring Miyajima
- Alternative Options
- Final Thoughts
A Brief History of Hiroshima and Miyajima
Hiroshima is, unfortunately, most well known for the atomic bombing on August 6, 1945 by the US during World War II. The consequences of this attack were horrific, but the city has done a wonderful job of memorializing the victims through some of the sites highlighted later in this post.
Hiroshima was originally established in 1589 by a warlord, Mori Terumoto. By 1871, Hiroshima was the capital of Hiroshima Prefecture and a major urban center of the imperial period. The city was important for military transport during the First Sino-Japanese War with Emperor Meiji using Hiroshima Castle as a headquarters. Hiroshima was further industrialized to produce military supplies during the Russo-Japanese War. It was also an important city for the Japanese military during World War I with 500 German prisoners of war being held on an island in Hiroshima Bay.
Miyajima, or Shrine Island, is more formally called Itsukushima. The island is located in Hiroshima Bay and is part of the city of Hatsukaichi. Miyajima is famous for the Itsukushima Shrine which was established during the time of Empress Suiko (593-628 AD). Only one battle was ever fought on the island, the 1555 Battle of Miyajima. The battle was important for the Mori clan in advancing control in western Japan. The island is considered sacred and no death is allowed, so the island required extensive cleansing after the battle.
Getting to Hiroshima and Miyajima from Kyoto
Kyoto to Hiroshima
Traveling from Kyoto to Hiroshima is easy with the JR Pass (click here to purchase). Most of the itineraries require a transfer at Shin-Osaka, but even so, the trip will likely take less than two hours. If you are willing to leave Kyoto around 7:00am, it’s possible to take the Hikari train directly to Hiroshima. We did this on the way there but decided to play it by ear on the way back. We ended up switching trains at Shin-Osaka and it was no big deal. It only added about 15 minutes to our travel time and we were able to get seats in the unreserved car. The trick is to line up immediately once you get to Shin-Osaka!
Note that you will not be able to use the Nozomi Shinkansen if you plan to use a JR Pass. If you don’t have a JR Pass, this is the fastest option at about 1 hour and 15 minutes of travel time. I recommend searching HyperDia to see what might work with your schedule.
Hiroshima to Miyajima
There are two options for getting to Miyajima from Hiroshima.
Direct Ferry to Miyajima from Hiroshima Peace Park
If you are short on time or don’t like figuring out logistics, you can take a direct express ferry leaving from Hiroshima’s Motoyasu Pier at the Peace Park. The trip takes 45 minutes and costs 2,000 JPY one-way or 3,600 JPY round trip. The express ferry leaves about once per hour.
JR Pass Option
If you have the JR Pass, I highly recommend this option as it’s completely covered by the pass. First, travel from Hiroshima Station to Miyajimaguchi Station on the JR Sanyo line (about 25 minutes). Once you reach Miyajimaguchi Station, you’ll see clearly marked signs for the ferry to Miyajima. Both the train and ferry are covered by the JR Pass. The ferry ride is only 10 minutes long with frequent trips to and from the island.
This option is slower than the Express ferry because you will likely have to wait for the train to Miyajimaguchi Station and a few minutes for the ferry.
Sightseeing in Hiroshima
Hiroshima Sightseeing Loop Bus
The meipurū-pu, or loop bus, is an easy way to travel between Hiroshima’s sights. Best of all, it’s covered by the JR Pass! The bus has three loops: green, orange, and lemon. We caught the bus at Hiroshima station and got dropped off at Hiroshima Castle. We decided to walk from the Castle to the Peace Park (about 20 minutes) but took the bus from the Hiroshima Peace Memorial Museum back to Hiroshima Station. I was worried about figuring how to take the bus, but the bright red bus is very easy to spot!
You can check out the routes and timetables here.
The original castle was destroyed during the bombing so what you’ll see is a replica built in the 1950s. Inside is a history museum that’s worth a quick visit if you have some time. Otherwise, walking around the grounds of the castle is a good way to see it.
Atomic Bomb Dome
The Atomic Bomb Dome is the remains of the Prefectural Industrial Promotion Hall after the bombing. The building was almost directly under the explosion yet a majority of the structure remained intact. It became a UNESCO World Heritage Site in 1996 and serves as a reminder of Hiroshima’s past.
Hiroshima Peace Park
The Hiroshima Peace Park has several key landmarks. Be sure to stop by the Children’s Peace Monument and the Peace Flame.
The Memorial Cenotaph is another must-see as it was built to frame the Peace Flame and Atomic Bomb Dome.
Hiroshima Peace Memorial Museum
After visiting the park, save a couple of hours for the Hiroshima Peace Memorial Museum. The exhibits cover both the time leading up to the bombing and the aftermath. Visiting can be somewhat emotional as exhibits include pieces of victim’s clothing and graphic photos, but it is one of the most worthwhile stops in Hiroshima.
Miyajima isn’t called Shrine Island for nothing. The most notable shine is the Istukushima Shrine with its famous torii which appears to be floating in the sea. Keep in mind you will only see this effect during high tide. If you prefer to visit at low tide, it’s possible to walk out to the torii.
You may also wish to visit the Daisho-in Temple at the foot of Mount Misen. Senjokaku is another shrine close to Istukushima Shrine and can be easily spotted by its Five-story Pagoda.
Walking Around Miyajima
Miyajima is a small island easily explored on foot. Take some time to walk around and you may run into some friendly deer. The island has many walking paths through the town or leading up to Mount Misen.
If you have 1.5 to 2 hours, you can hike one of the three paths to the top of Mount Misen: Momijidani, Daisho-in, and Omoto. Alternatively, you can take the ropeway (aka cable car) for 1,800 yen round trip. The ropeway station is a 20-minute walk from the ferry and the ride takes 20 minutes. From the top of the ropeway, it’s another 30-minute walk to the summit.
Visiting both Hiroshima and Miyajima from Kyoto is definitely doable in one day. However, I felt we could have used a little more time exploring Miyajima as it ended up being one of my favorite stops in Japan. An alternative option to the day trip is exploring Hiroshima upon arrival from Kyoto (you will have to store your luggage at the train station) and spending the night on Miyajima. You can spend most of the next day exploring the island before heading back to Kyoto or onward to Osaka. You could even stop at Himeji Castle on your way back!
Visiting Hiroshima and Miyajima from Kyoto made for a long day but it was well worth it. The Peace Park and Museum in Hiroshima are beautiful tributes to those who lost their lives or were impacted by the bombing. Miyajima was one of the most peaceful stops on our Japan itinerary, and I’m so glad we decided to add it to this day trip.