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Hiroshima and Miyajima

Hiroshima is renowned for its phoenix city status and has truly risen from the ashes, with tree-lined boulevards, friendly locals and tram system which lend a laid-back European feel. This cosmopolitan vibrancy astonishes many on arrival bearing in mind its tragic history, which is paid homage to by the beautifully orchestrated Memorial Peace Park.

The lively city is home to a bustling Downtown, great nightlife and a thriving food scene – try Hiroshima’s specialty, okonomiyaki (a savoury pancake), a surprisingly delicious and skilfully cooked snack, cooked right in front of you on a hot plate. The Peace Park comprises an evocative museum, the Atomic bomb-damaged dome and various moving memorial sites, and the memory of the children who were affected here is immortalised by a vast origami-style crane, sitting high on a beautiful landmark.

As well as being a sombre and sobering reminder of 1945, and ultimately spreading a plea to end nuclear combat, the Memorial Peace Park focuses on the future and stresses the importance of human nature’s positives, togetherness and compassion, so a visit here is not wholly disheartening. The Memorial site’s central dome is, of course, moving in any season but is especially poignant when viewed between the cherry blossoms in spring. In the nearby Shukkei-en, one of our favourite gardens, you may catch herons landing in the water between ornamental bridges.

Picturesque Miyajima, home to the iconic floating red torii gate, is a short train and ferry journey away from Hiroshima. As soon the sacred Itsukushima shrine comes into view from the ferry deck, it’s no wonder that it’s recognised as a UNESCO World Heritage site and famed for being one of Japan's three most beautiful views. This landmark is truly astounding in the throes of golden evening light at high tide, when the iridescent water glows. A tranquil atmosphere emanates from the traditional stone lanterns, as well as the surrounding rural landscape, in which deer peacefully stroll along the seashore. With many hiking routes and spectacular views around the sleepy island’s rolling hills, it is the perfect destination for keen walkers. If experiencing traditional Japanese culture sounds tempting, one could stay at a ryokan here to luxuriate in a natural hot spring and enjoy a gourmet kaiseki meal.

Hiroshima has an array of useful transportation hubs, with bullet train access around Japan and a local airport. We recommend flying via Tokyo for an unforgettable bird’s-eye view of Mount Fuji!

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I can't think of anything that excites a greater sense of childlike wonder than to be in a country where you are ignorant of almost everything.
Bill Bryson