What You Need To Know
Hiroshima is the capital of Hiroshima Prefecture and the largest city in the Chūgoku region of western Honshu – the largest island of Japan. The city’s name, means “Broad Island” in Japanese.
Hiroshima, a modern city on Japan’s Honshu Island, was largely destroyed by an atomic bomb during World War II. Today, Hiroshima Peace Memorial Park commemorates the 1945 event. In the park are the ruins of Genbaku Dome, one of the few buildings that was left standing near ground zero. Other prominent sites include Shukkei-en, a formal Japanese garden, and Hiroshima Castle, a fortress surrounded by a moat and a park.
Population: 1.174 million (2010)
Area: 350 mi²
The Japanese currency is the yen (円, en). One yen corresponds to 100 sen. However, sen are usually not used in everyday life anymore, except in stock market prices. Bills come in 1,000 yen, 2,000 yen (very rare), 5,000 yen and 10,000 yen denominations. Coins come in 1 yen, 5 yen, 10 yen, 50 yen, 100 yen and 500 yen denominations. Counterfeit money is not an issue in Japan.
Japan has a reputation of being a cash-based society, but trends have gradually been changing, and there has been a significant increase in the acceptance of other payment methods.
In Japan, currency exchange is usually handled by banks, post offices, some larger hotels and a handful of licensed money changers found especially at international airports.
Hiroshima has a humid subtropical climate characterized by mild winters and hot humid summers. Like much of the rest of Japan, Hiroshima experiences a seasonal temperature lag in summer, with August rather than July being the warmest month of the year. Precipitation occurs year-round, although winter is the driest season. Rainfall peaks in June and July, with August experiencing sunnier and drier conditions.
Hiroshima has a rough reputation among Japanese people from other cities, thanks largely to the yakuza movies that were filmed in town. In reality, though, it’s much safer than any large Western city. As with most places in Japan, petty theft is virtually non-existent. Nagarekawa, the nightlife district, does have its share of prostitutes, sex clubs, and rip-off hostess bars, but to no greater extent than Tokyo or Osaka.
There have been a few surprise police raids on bars that offer dancing after 1AM, in accordance with a semi-obscure local law about public immorality that Hiroshima occasionally feels compelled to enforce probably in order to catch people who are in the country illegally. Japanese citizens are generally allowed to leave right away, but foreigners have been made to stand in line to have their paperwork checked. If you find yourself in one of these situations, just stay calm, show the police your passport, and you’ll eventually be allowed to leave without any trouble.
Hiroshima University was established in 1949, as part of a national restructuring of the education system. One national university was set up in each prefecture, including Hiroshima University, which combined eight existing institutions (Hiroshima University of Literature and Science, Hiroshima School of Secondary Education, Hiroshima School of Education, Hiroshima Women’s School of Secondary Education, Hiroshima School of Education for Youth, Hiroshima Higher School, Hiroshima Higher Technical School, and Hiroshima Municipal Higher Technical School), with the Hiroshima Prefectural Medical College added in 1953.
Hiroshima has an extensive tram (streetcar) network, which is operated by Hiroden. It’s a slow but reliable way of getting around. The trams themselves are a mix of classic trams (Hiroden bills itself as a working museum of trams) and sleek, new “Green Movers” — although they all run on the same lines for the same fares. There’s no difference other than the smoothness of the ride. Because the trams were bought from other cities, you’re getting a tour of Japanese transit history — some have been in service for more than fifty years, and that might be an old Kyoto tram taking you through Hiroshima.
Bus lines run through Hiroshima and out to the suburbs. Generally speaking, these serve areas more likely to be used by locals than visitors. Signs include English, and buses depart next to the tram depot in front of JR Hiroshima Station.
The modern Astram links the city center with the northern suburbs, although there aren’t many tourist sights out that way. Trips range from ¥180-470 by distance, with departures every few minutes between 6AM-midnight. The underground station at the end of Hon-dōri, near the Peace Park, is the terminus in the city center.
Hiroshima is a great city for cycling. Most of the sidewalks are fairly wide by Japanese standards; the paths along the branches of the rivers offer a very pleasant ride, and if you’re looking to test your legs, head up to the hills around Hijiyama Park. Many hotels will be happy to arrange bike rentals.