Travel

6 reasons to put Hiroshima on your travel bucket list

6 reasons to put Hiroshima on your travel bucket list
In autumn, Miyajima Island in Hiroshima enchants with its crimson foliage surrounding beautiful structures like this 27.6m-tall, five-storey pagoda. Photos: Japan National Tourism Organization, Japan On-line Media Center, iStock and Shutterstock
If you’re looking for a destination that promises a culturally enriching experience, delicious food, spectacular sights and fun times, look to this historically important city
Published: 6:00 AM, August 11, 2017
Updated: 6:00 AM, August 11, 2017

Looking at the vibrant city that Hiroshima is today, it is hard to imagine that more than 70 years ago, it was decimated by the historic atomic bombing that took place towards the end of World War II. Home to over a million inhabitants today, Hiroshima has since risen from the ashes and prospered into a destination with attractions that are worth discovering.

Getting to this famed city is now also easier, thanks to SilkAir. From Oct 30, the full-service regional airline will be offering direct flights from Singapore to Hiroshima.

There will be thrice-weekly return flights on Monday, Thursday and Saturday, with flights departing Singapore at 1.45am, and return flights leaving Hiroshima at 10.25am.

Get more mileage out of your holiday by visiting nearby cities: Osaka, Kyoto and Fukuoka. Hiroshima offers direct access to these three cities in southwest Japan via its shinkansen (bullet train). In fact, it only takes 90 minutes on the bullet train to reach Osaka from Hiroshima.

Now that you’ve got your flight covered, here are six reasons why Hiroshima makes for a memorable holiday destination.

1. TAKE SELFIES WITH HUNDREDS OF RABBITS

The sight of hundreds of fluffy bunnies roaming freely on Okunoshima Island (nicknamed Rabbit Island) will put a smile on your face. Many of these wild, long-eared denizens will hop up to you the minute you step off the ferry. You can buy rabbit feed from Tadanoumi Port or bring your own cabbage leaves and carrots. The rabbits are so docile, they will let you pet them.

The bunnies aside, there are also beautiful beaches, cycling and walking paths, and a visitor center where you can learn more about the island and its inhabitants.

Accessible by ferry from Tadanoumi and Omishima, Okunoshima Island is great as a day-trip destination. You can also stay on the island in the hotel Kyukamura Ohkunoshima or camp out at the designated site.

2. GET HIT AND POKED BY 'DEMONS' FOR GOOD HEALTH

Don't be alarmed if you get hit by a bamboo whisk or prodded with a ceremonial rod at the Onomichi Betcha Festival held yearly from Nov 1 to 3.

The festival features a lively procession with portable shrines being carried through the town. Young men dressed as the demons Soba, Beta and Shouki dance to the beat of drums to perform the purification rituals, and dole out blessings for good health, fertility and intelligence.

3. CATCH THE BEST VIEWS IN HIROSHIMA

Miyajima Island in southwestern Hiroshima is the place to be, and it’s not hard to see why. The rugged mountains, shimmering waters and calm surroundings form the perfect backdrop to the centuries-old Itsukushima Shrine. Its most notable trait is the great torii gate (a traditional Japanese Shrine gate) that sits in the middle of the sea and appears to float on water during high tide.

The second view to catch on this small island is from Mount Misen. At 500m above sea level, it is the highest peak on Miyajima Island. Take a ropeway up to the top for the remarkable view of the Seto Inland Sea. On clear days, you may even see Hiroshima City. Along the way, see if you can spot wild sika deer, many of which are not afraid to approach you for food.

4. BE AWED BY THE COLOURS OF 200 MAPLE TREES

Near Mount Misen's valley is a park that makes for one of Japan's top koyo (Japanese for autumn colours) spots. The Momijidani Park or Maple Leaf Park is home to 200 maple trees of five varieties, and it is said that the saplings were planted between 1603 and 1868.

In November and December, the leaves turn crimson to display a foliage ablaze with colour. It is no wonder this park also attracts many bridal couples to have their wedding photos taken against the romantic backdrop.

While on Miyajama Island, be sure to grab a box of delicious momiji manju -- small, maple leaf-shaped cakes with various fillings like red bean, chocolate and custard cream.

5. BITE INTO GRILLED OYSTERS AND OKONOMIYAKI

Hiroshima is famous for its succulent fresh oysters, with the peak season in autumn and winter. The city has been farming them since the 1500s and produces about 30,000 tonnes of the shellfish a year — about 70 per cent of Japan’s total production. If you have the time, take an oyster farm tour to learn how the shellfish is cultivated and harvested.

The tasty, meaty mollusks can be boiled, fried, smoked, baked or used in stews. But the most popular cooking method is grilling. You’ll find numerous food stands on Miyajima Island selling grilled oysters served with olive oil, lemon wedges and ponzu sauce (a Japanese citrus sauce).

The average cost per oyster will usually set you back by 300 yen (S$3.70), but it'll be worth it.

Another food specialty is Hiroshima-styled okonomiyaki. This savoury pancake is typically made with a mixture of flour, meat, cabbage and egg elsewhere in Japan. But here, the locals use noodles and vegetables to create the mixture, then top the pancake with a savoury-sweet sauce.

Hiroshima has 2,000 okonomiyaki restaurants, and there's even an Okonomimura or Okonomi Village. This food-themed park has more than 20 okonomiyaki restaurants, each offering different okonomiyaki variations amid a lively atmosphere.

6. GAIN PERSPECTIVE ON HISTORY

The Hiroshima Peace Memorial Park, which sprawls across 120,000sqm, is unmistakable. Although it is located in the centre of the vibrant city, the park exudes a sense of peace and quietness.

The A-Bomb Dome is the park's most iconic structure. It was constructed in 1915 and survived the bombing on Aug 6, 1945. Today, the A-Bomb Dome is a symbol of peace and a Unesco World Heritage Site.

Gain a deeper understanding on the event that changed the world with a visit to the Peace Memorial Museum. The accounts of survivors lend sobering insights and are reminders about the importance of world peace.

Book SilkAir's special launch fare to Hiroshima now, from S$519. For details, visit bit.ly/2futFmq or silkair.com/hiroshima.

Created by Mediacorp Brand Studio Productions