Updated: Nov 1
With Japan cruise itineraries including hectic, jam-packed days in massive cities like Tokyo and Osaka, Hiroshima's smaller footprint comes as a respite for peace and calm during a one day cruise port stop. Although the day may be tranquil, there's a lot to see (and a lot to eat!) so it's important to start early and plan ahead. Here are the absolute must-see sites if you have just one day off your cruise ship in Japan's Hiroshima cruise port.
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In this article you will find information on things to do in Hiroshima in one day:
Hiroshima Cruise Port (dot on cream landing near Mizutorinohama Park below)
Hiroshima Peace Memorial Museum (dot near top right corner)
Hiroshima Peace Memorial (same area)
Hiroshima Peace Park (same area)
Miyajima Island (area with my picture icon):
Ferry to Miyajima Island (dot to the left of my face!)
Tips for Visiting Hiroshima and Miyajima Island including:
Hiroshima Cruise Port
There is not much of note in this cruise port, unlike many of the others. Plan to take a taxi or excursion for this day.
Go early before the tour buses arrive and plan for about an hour at a moderate pace in the museum. Those with young children may choose to go faster, but expect some grisly photos and sobering text to read throughout the museum. As my Australian tour guide told me six years back, "It's full on". You'll understand what that means once you've completed the museum tour (self-guided). Nonetheless it is an important part of our history and absolutely worth the visit.
This is the name of the area where the atomic bomb fell. The domed building that stands in this memorial is one of the last structural remnants in the modern city of when the city was destroyed. Take some photos, but don't stay long, it's a big day!
Hiroshima Peace Park
Don't expect much here. It's a nice place to stroll. You may see colorful peace flags and paper cranes. Respect the park and enjoy some tranquility.
A very special place of tranquility and peace, Miyajima Island in south Hiroshima is an absolute must-see and cannot be missed. Take a leisurely ferry across the water to enjoy shrines, friendly deer, wonderful souvenir shopping, and a plethora of tasty regional treats. Paired with serene mountainous vistas and peppered with iconic red torii gates, a day trip to Miyajima will be pleasant for the whole family.
Ferry to Miyajima Island
There are two ferries to Miyajima island. One is a more scenic ride, passing along the iconic torii gates, and the other is just a direct shot across the water to the island.
Both ferries take a similar amount of time, and as far as I could tell the cost difference between the two was minimal, if different at all.
Upon arriving at the ferry terminal it may seem overwhelming. Simply approach a ticket booth, make a sign with your hand for 'round-trip' (gotta love sign language to get by) and you'll get a tiny ticket to take with you to the next ferry. Keep this ticket for your return trip.
The ferry ride is quick, so settle in somewhere comfortable (tip: if you are traveling with a stroller there is a nice quiet, uncrowded lounge on the downstairs deck for enjoying views and grabbing a good seat). Most passengers will ride on the top deck but it can be very crowded and potentially standing room only in bad weather.
After departing the ferry, make a right out of the ferry building and follow the crowds (and deer) towards the main pedestrian areas.
Related: Private Miyajima Rickshaw Tour
Shrines on Miyajima Island
If you came to this article to read about shrines, I can't help you much. I do remember enjoying walks through the waterfront shrines 6 years ago, but this last trip was too rainy to bother.
Related: Mt. Futaba Hiking Tour
Simply purchase entry tickets at the door and bring your camera, because the shots of the lake and torii gates will be stunning.
Deer on Miyajima Island
The deer on Miyajima Island are a draw in and of themselves. Purchase food to feed them with, or take pictures with them. They're very curious and not shy.
Shopping on Miyajima Island
The souvenir shopping on Miyajima Island is wonderful. Find mazes of pedestrian shopping streets that wind all the way back towards the shrines.
Purchase patterned toe socks like these (perfect for wearing flip flops) or take back some food souvenirs to the ship.
Seek out a small teashop (read more about their food offerings below) called Cafe Miyazato in the back alleys to purchase used, but beautiful kimonos.
Pro tip: Nagasaki cruise port sells really inexpensive used kimonos (I'm talking $10 USD) so you may want to hold out, unless you want something special.
Other souvenirs you may want to purchase include all manner of plush deer toys and knick knacks, paper fans, chopstick holders, etc. My advice is to only buy something truly special when you see it, because Japan's 100 Yen Shops will have a lot more to offer for lower prices.
Dining on Miyajima Island
Listen up - Miyajima Island is busy, which means you will either wait in line to sit down somewhere for lunch, or you'll be grabbing street snacks. Be prepared for either, because we marched around in a hungry daze for about an hour in the rain and cold before finding a charming place to eat.
Related: Sake Town Tour
Your best bet to find a sit-down restaurant will be by the ferry terminal. Along the road there are about half a dozen larger restaurants for soups and stir frys. I was in search, however, of a famous Miyajima treat - okonomiyaki.
My search led us with empty stomachs, as every place was full. Each establishment has only 10 or 12 seats, so it's a waiting game. My advice? Don't have your heart set on anything, just follow your nose and intuition.
Some of Miyajima Island's best bets include:
Find oysters at many street stalls and choose how to eat it. I love it with cheese, five spice and a little lemon, but to each his own.
An island specialty, oyster okonomiyaki is a bold winner. Much like a pancake, it's cooked as a flat batter of cabbage and vegetables and topped with a variety of tasty options like kimchi, oysters, meat, or seafood.
Related: Okonomiyaki Cooking Class
Matcha tea ice cream
This was recommended on my first visit by my guide, and I found them everywhere. Get a cone covered with chocolate pieces, yum!
Filled with bean paste and other options like chocolate, these waffle-like cakes are so popular, you can find shops where you can view them making them on site. Expect to at least try one, or take a box home as a souvenir.
Recommended Restaurant: Cafe Miyazato
Tucked in a back alley further up and away from the pedestrian chaos, find a tranquil tea shop built into an old geisha house.
Related: Authentic Tea Ceremony with Kimonos
They offer simple tea set meals, including a curry dish, sandwich or soup.
A tea set also included traditionally whipped matcha tea with a warm maple cake.
Tips for Visiting Hiroshima and Miyajima Island
How to get around
I have visited Hiroshima and Miyajima two times - once on an overnight stay, and once on a cruise. With an overnight stay I had the luxury of time, in which case I'd suggest using the well-connected public transportation and trains.
For cruise excursions, I 100% recommend taking taxis to and from the cruise terminal and your destinations for the day.
BE CAREFUL: There are multiple cruise ship ports in town so DROP A PIN on your phone before you get off the ship so you can instruct your driver where to go.
Advice for planning your cruise day
Start your day EARLY. I can't stress this enough. By 10am you and ten dozen tour buses will be arriving at the Peace Museum so do yourself a favor and get off the ship early, grab a taxi right there at the port (there will be a line of them) and get the museum out of the way and done with by 10am.
From the museum, grab another taxi and request that they deliver you to the Miyajima Island Ferry. Again, talk into your Google Translate app to help.
Taxi costs and duration of trip:
Taxi to museum = $25-40, plan for 20-30 minutes in the car
Taxi from museum to Miyajima = $25-40, plan for 25-40 minutes in the car
Taxi from Miyajima to port $25-30, plan for 15-25 minutes
Cash and credit cards are both accepted as payment.
Lastly, plan ahead for any kind of weather. Both times visiting the island I found it was much chillier there than anticipated. Bring a jacket, umbrella, good walking shoes, and some snacks.