Hanami in Hiroshima Peace Park

Cherry blossom viewing in Hiroshima's symbolic park

By Ashley Haley    - 4 min read

Plenty of foreign tourists make Hiroshima one of the stops on their journey through Japan - in fact, the very first question I was asked on my first trip home, at a school reunion, was “Have you been to Hiroshima or Nagasaki yet?” I put aside the regrettable pronunciation of both cities and told the inquirer that I hadn’t, but I was hoping to go there eventually, though as a foreigner I felt a little uncomfortable about it. I had to do a little bit of soul-searching after I had returned to Japan.

A visit to the A-Bomb Dome seems to be on many visitors’ to-do lists while in in the country - whether to educate themselves, pray, or even simply satisfy a sense of morbid curiosity, many of the foreign tourists whom I spoke with in Japan included Hiroshima on their itineraries. I wasn’t sure how I felt about seeing the Dome firsthand, though; especially when a Japanese co-worker commented “You’re thinking of going to Hiroshima? But why? Isn’t it depressing?”

I decided that rather than visit Hiroshima just because it was what everyone did, I would go during cherry blossom season, and take some time not just to see the museums, but to enjoy the tranquil beauty that the city offers during hanami. Every city with cherry trees is beautiful during the blossom viewing season, and Hiroshima is no exception.

The area has several other highly-recommended spots, such as the Shukkei-en Garden and Miyajima, but for me there was almost no question about where to see the blossoms - Peace Memorial Park, also containing the Peace Memorial Museum that is a must for anyone visiting Hiroshima. This expansive park was built on the site of Hiroshima’s original downtown area and is a poignant sight in itself. It is usually populated, and during my stay it was just as busy as I expected for one of the first warm spring weekends of the year.

I visited the park first, to relax, and returned to it after seeing the Peace Memorial Museum. There is surely no better place in Hiroshima for one to sit and think while gazing out at the river. The cherry trees line the riverbanks on both sides, offering a splendid view of the treeline from anywhere even remotely nearby. Like many city parks during this time of year, there are sometimes a few stalls to buy street food from.

Even though it was a busy weekend in the park, perhaps because I visited fairly late in the cherry blossom season, there was plenty of space to lay out a groundsheet right under a blooming tree and enjoy the way the petals settled onto it, and into my clothes and hair.

The river was alive with kayakers and pleasure boats, and despite my nervousness before coming, the welcome I got when I did end up talking to a resident - the elderly couple on the neighbouring patch of grass - was warm and friendly. My worries were for nothing. Perhaps, if you are in Japan or planning to visit during the season, you’ve never considered Hiroshima as a cherry blossom destination.

The trees in Peace Park are not as dense or well-advertised as other viewing spots, even in Hiroshima itself! However, for a picnic or some thoughtful contemplation after a visit to the park’s other attractions, it is perfect. You don’t even need a groundsheet - just have a seat on one of the many benches facing the river, and enjoy the scenic beauty.

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Find out more about Hiroshima Peace Memorial Park

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Ashley Haley

Ashley Haley @opelaceles

When I was young, I dreamed of going overseas and having a great adventure. By the time I was in university studying Japanese, I knew that place would be Japan. After three years teaching and learning Kansai-ben in the one and only Osaka, I returned to Canada. Lately I've enjoyed blogging and writing stories about my second home, so that others can share the places I knew and loved - I'll definitely go back there someday soon.

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Michelle Montaño 5 years ago
I'm looking forward to seeing the many rivers of Hiroshima lined with cherry blossoms, but I'm especially looking forward to the Peace Park area. It's already a strangely beautiful place; I'm sure it'll be stunning when the trees are in full bloom.
Ashley Haley Author 7 years ago
Perhaps it does seem disrespectful to some, but it's also great that the residents of Hiroshima are able to use the park for spreading joy and peace instead of regulating it to a sombre place! That map is great too - very useful and showcases some lesser known spots. Thanks!
JJ Walsh 7 years ago
It might seem disrespectful to some but Hanami parties in Peace park can get quite lively. I've been at a gathering that got so loud with people playing music and banging on drums that the police had to come and issue a warning. The areas under the trees along the river are lined with blue sheets and packed with hanami-goers enjoying the fun, lively atmosphere as well as food and drinks with friends or coworkers. You will find the freshman workers arrive early in the day to secure a good spot and set up the food and coolers of drink until later in the day when their coworkers arrive. Some people bring little hibachi grills to cook their own food while others bring beautiful bento boxes filled with seasonal delights (you can find these for sale in supermarkets around the city).
Couples will find a park bench or grassy spot and have a quiet drink while larger groups will gather to have a wilder party. I have seen Flamenco dance groups strutting their stuff under the blossoms, groups singing karaoke (yes they brought their machine and a generator), groups playing guitar and singing and families throwing around a frisbee or kicking a ball next to their picnic. If the weather is good and the cherry blossoms are blooming, Peace park transforms itself. Other popular areas in the city are Central park (Chuo Koen),and Hijiyama park. You can see the GetHiroshima Sakura (Cherry blossom) map of the city center (in English) here: http://www.gethiroshima.com/files/hanami_map.pdf