🔖 6 min read

Let me introduce Hiroshima

Deciding to go on an autumn city break is like taking a much needed breath between the hectic summer season and the impending winter hibernation to come. If you’re considering such a breath, why not consider a slightly longer Japan city break? 

Before you go off and book a trip to Tokyo or Kyoto however; let me introduce you to an alternative city to explore, one that offers an experience for all tastes and presents a perfect autumnal atmosphere as if made for the occasion — the Japanese city of Hiroshima.

Although it’s most well–known for the terrible outcome thrust upon it in WW2 and it’s complete destruction, since then, the city has become a thriving metropolis of the Hiroshima prefecture that is home to spectacular scenery, a wealth of museums and gardens, an active nightlife scene and some of the best street food in Japan; all-in-all a perfect place for an autumn city break.

A view of Hiroshima castle across the moat

An Autumnal Wonderland

If you’ve never seen Japan in the autumn, then you’ve never seen Japan at one of the best times of the year. Sure, cherry blossoms in the spring are great and summer can be beautiful (if you don’t mind sweltering temperatures), but autumnal colours cascading down Japanese mountains in a cool and gentle breeze is truly a marvel to behold.

This is part of what makes Hiroshima a perfect autumn destination; the geography of the city plays an important role in creating this perfect environment. 

Hiroshima is located in a somewhat more west south–westerly part of Japan which gives rise to a milder climate, this means that autumn foliage doesn’t start to fully bloom until mid-November and can last into early December.

With this milder climate comes milder temperatures which makes for a more pleasant viewing experience. Through its position, which is nestled amongst surrounding hillsides and mountain ranges, it is often the case that you can bear witness to a breathtaking golden backdrop in the peak of the season.

But it isn’t just limited to being a backdrop, the surrounding environment is so integrated into the very fabric of Hiroshima that they form part of the city. This gives rise to plenty of elevated points of interest that puts you very much amongst its natural landscape; Mt Mitate and Hijiyama park are just two examples that are in very close proximity to Hiroshima’s downtown Naka Ward. So when autumn truly comes, the city itself changes to match the season.

Japanese maple leaves

The ‘city’ in Autumn City Break

At the heart of a great city break is the ability to get lost in everything that a city has to offer, and Hiroshima really does offer something for everyone. It’s very much a place of two halves in that ultra-modernity co-exists with tradition and culture.

A bustling metropolis

The Naka ward, being the downtown area, is home to a vast number of restaurants, hotels, bars, and some of the city’s most tourist friendly areas. On the east side of the ward is where you can find plenty of shops and where things begin to feel very Tokyo-esque especially in districts such as Ebisucho with its neon glow and nighttime vibe. 

Beyond the Naka Ward, are an abundance of museums and galleries, sports venues, and golf driving ranges to keep you occupied. There are also a large number of green spaces which showcases its autumnal presence without having to venture too far. The grounds of Hiroshima castle; the peace memorial park; are some fantastic places to view autumn changes all located in a central position.

To help get around this urban sprawl is Japan’s largest tram network spanning almost the entire south side of Hiroshima. 

Food plays a big part here too and okonomiyaki is a local favourite with a signature Hiroshima style: instead of ingredients being mixed together as per usual, they are layered on top. You can find a wealth of okonomiyaki restaurants in the aptly named Okonomimura district of the Naka Ward.

YouTube video

Food plays a big part here too and okonomiyaki is a local favourite with a signature Hiroshima style: instead of ingredients being mixed together as per usual, they are layered on top. You can find a wealth of okonomiyaki restaurants in the aptly named Okonomimura district of the Naka Ward.

Another local speciality is Momiji manju. This is a type of cake that comes in the shape of a maple leaf containing various different fillings. (Once again illustrating Hiroshima’s autumn affinity.) The significance of this cake is that it represents one of the most beautiful autumn spots in all of Japan — Momijidani park.

Downtown Hiroshima at Night

Outskirts and seclusion

Momijidani park is one of the locations in and around close proximity of Hiroshima that will appease those wanting an experience more closely resembling rural Japan. This particular example sits on an island called Itsukushima, also known as Miyajima, just off Hiroshima bay that forms part of the Seto Inland Sea; a region that is also renowned for its spectacular beauty. 

It consists of a walking trail under the canopy of countless maple trees, surrounded by pristine streams and ponds. The experience will also lead you to some shinto shrines, iconic red bridges and perhaps even some friendly deer, rivalling those found in the city of Nara.

The island itself is home to countless other shrines and temples, climbing trails, and mountaintop observation points that are beyond picturesque, all of which are quickly and easily accessible in a single day. It’s definitely one of the must see areas for a Japan city break to Hiroshima. 

In reality, there are dozens of similar spots dotted around the city that have a similar atmosphere. Gokurakuji and Mitake-dera are two more locations that are worthwhile visiting if you wish to remain on the mainland. 

Now imagine all of these fantastic spots in the autumn season, and you may begin to understand why Hiroshima would be the perfect place to visit. 

A view from Itsukushima/Miyajima looking back towards Hiroshima

What to see in Hiroshima

I’ve already mentioned a handful of worthwhile places to visit within Hiroshima such as Mt Mitake, Hiroshima castle, and Momijidani but there are loads more sights and locations that you should make time to visit. Here is everything you need to see:

  • Itsukushima Floating Torii Gate – The famous Torii gate that seemingly protrudes from the ocean.
  • Mt Misen – The highest mountain in the region of Hiroshima. Accessible on Itsukushima/Miyajima island by cable car.
  • Shukkeien – A beautifully scenic Japanese garden with central water features, diverse plant life and numerous observation points to enjoy it from.
  • The Hiroshima Peace Memorial – A place of remembrance following the atomic bombing of WW2. Here you can also see the historic A-bomb dome.
  • Mazda Museum – For all the car lovers out there. Recount the entire history and production of one of the biggest car manufacturers in Japan.
  • Mitake-dera – A beautiful 1200 year old temple that is atop an ascending mountainous pathway.
  • Ujina Natural Hot Spring – One of a number of public hot spring bath houses in Hiroshima. This one is one of the biggest with a central location.
  • Hiroshima Botanical Garden – A place home to a large collection of both native Japanese and exotic plants from across the world. 
  • Momijidani – A lush walking trail that is a must see in the autumn season
  • Hiroshima Museum of Art – A small museum housing European and Japanese art.
  • Mikumarikyo Forest Park – A scenic walking route to the east of Hiroshima with fantastic views and natural scenery.
  • Hiroshima Castle – A late 16th century castle that is at the centre of the city of Hiroshima.
  • Gokurakuji – A historic buddhist temple that sits on the western outskirts of the city. Another particularly beautiful autumn spot.
Shukkeien Japanese Garden

Everything in one place

In case you have yet to decide that Hiroshima is the perfect autumn Japan city break, let us consider what it offers in comparison to other Japanese cities. 

You might be considering Tokyo for its vibrant nightlife and neon glow — Hiroshima has that. You may be considering Kyoto for all its temples, shrines and autumn spots — Hiroshima’s are just as good. You may even be considering Nara for its famous bowing deer or a city further north for its rural feel — Hiroshima has them too. 

In essence Hiroshima is able to bring you a taste of some of the best parts of Japan into a single package and does it exceedingly well. However, add in Hiroshima’s natural affinity to the autumn season and there are very few places in Japan that can top it in this specific time of year. 

Nathan

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About Nathan Monk

Nathan is a writer who loves nothing more than discovering the intricacies of Japanese culture. He also has a keen interest in films, gaming, and exploring off the beaten track.