Hiroshima is a 1.5 hour Shinkansen journey from Osaka and the next stop on my Like A Vegan Abroad journey! Like the other parts of Japan I’ve visited, Hiroshima shares similarities but also some significant differences. The coolest thing about this place is how green it is thanks to the tree-lined streets and luscious AF gardens. It also seems way more chill in the way that you don’t constantly feel like you’re slowly moving through a crowd. Oh, and the food is dope too!
We rushed for our bullet train and without a chance to grab a snack we were pretty starving so as soon as we checked in, we headed out in search of some eats. The vegan food sitch is nowhere near as plentiful but when it comes to vegan food in Hiroshima, it’s quality over quantity. We very quickly made our way to Art Elk Cafe and pulled up a seat in their light-filled space. The lunch menu is quite varied with plenty of vegan options and from what I can gather the staff speak pretty good English. I opted for the vegan lunch set with tempura as it was the first time I’ve had the opportunity for a big-ass Japanese selection plate since arriving.
The tempura had a neat little selection of veg with a super tasty dipping sauce. It was followed by a large tray consisting of miso soup, a tofu dish, edamame, onigiri and a little okra dish. All of it was absolutely amazing, one of the best meals I’ve had in Japan so far for sure.
When you think Hiroshima, unfortunately you think of the atomic bomb that destroyed the city and killed so many in 1945. No visit to Hiroshima should avoid the chance to learn more not only about the horrific event and its victims but also the brave survivors who have managed to rebuild their lives. Hiroshima Peace Memorial Park is the perfect place to learn and pay your respects while enjoying some beautiful scenery. I would recommend taking the time to visit the Hiroshima Peace Memorial Museum, Hiroshima National Peace Memorial Hall for the Atomic Bomb Victims, the Atomic Bomb Dome and the many monuments scattered throughout the park including the Children’s Peace Monument, which honours the lives of the children lost as a result of the atomic bomb. Atop the monument is a statue of Sadako Sasaki, the young girl who was diagnosed with leukemia as a result of the radiation of the bomb many years before. You would know her as the girl who made 1000 paper cranes in an attempt to grant her wish of a cure for her disease.
After a pretty intense afternoon of education and reflection, we made our way back to the hotel to freshen up before dinner. We were told that traditional Hiroshima okonomiyaki was a must-have so headed back past the park to Nagataya. We were greeted by a long line of people who obvs had the same idea but after a 30 minute wait we took a seat at a little bench. We ordered while in line so our meals arrived pretty swiftly and when you have a pretty well labelled vegetarian/vegan menu, you can’t really go wrong (make sure you ask for it!) I had the option with rice cake, corn, garlic chips, green onion and soba noodles. It was all crazy delish and so filling that I could barely finish half (I would love it if they came in mini sizes!)
The next day we hopped on a boat at Hiroshima Memorial Peace Park and headed off to Miyajima or “Shrine Island” (probs because of all the shrines, huh?) We made our way around the island pretty quickly, checking out the shops, shrines and sights like the huge torii gate. There are plenty of wild deer on the island which are incredibly cute and seem quite happy, not entirely sure how comfortable I am with that whole sitch tho!
With that we hopped back on our return boat and trotted along to Hiroshima Castle, which was rebuilt many years after the atomic bomb hit the city. The surrounding grounds are really something and the castle itself has a museum inside where you can learn more about how the castle was restored to its former glory.
After our exhausting day trekking around Hiroshima so couldn’t muster up the energy to grab dinner. The next day we hopped a cable car, Shinkansen, train and ferry over to Okunoshima or “Rabbit Island” as it’s more commonly known which was originally used as an island factory for producing chemical gas during WW2. You can walk around the island to check out some of the super creepy ruins from the factories as well as the Poison Gas Museum. The rabbits themselves are obvs adorable and hop all over the island at their leisure. We were there on a particularly warm day so many dug little holes to rest in or chose to kip under a tree. It seems a fair amount of effort has gone into making sure the rabbits aren’t disturbed with plenty of signage telling tourists what is and isn’t acceptable as well as lots of water bowls all around for them to drink from. Some say the rabbits were released as test subjects when the poison gas factories were shut down but apparently they were a new batch of rabbits introduced later on.
Another ferry, train, Shinkansen and cable car ride back to our hotel meant a quick and reliable dinner was in order, so we stopped back in to Art Elk Cafe on our way back to the hotel. The dinner menu is very similar but has a couple of additional side options. I decided this time to try the Hiroshima Yakiudon with chilli sauce, plus some garlic bread (OMG BREAD, FINALLY!) and then finished things up with a banana spring roll. I believe the woman working that evening was the owner and she was particularly interested in my reasons for becoming vegan. Although not vegan herself, she appreciates the movement and is happy to cater for us, which is so awesome considering there’s not a lot around these here parts. She also said I have lovely skin so naturally we’re BFFs now.
We didn’t have any big plans locked in for our last day in Hiroshima so we spent the day wandering the streets and checking out the many stores. The larger chain stores don’t seem to have as much to offer as the bigger Japanese cities but there are some super cute boutiques as well. I had heard that a new VEGAN place had opened up not too far from our hotel and even though bookings were recommended, we decided to take our chances. We found Vegan Cafe in the Shanti Yoga building and were greeted by lovely staff who invited us to take off our shoes and enter the dining room. You sit on the floor to eat and a lunch set is brought to you on a tray, ours had rice, miso soup, tofu, salads, pickles and a sweet potato cake which was then followed by tea (we chose matcha) and a chocolate orange cake. The staff were so beautiful and friendly, asking questions about veganism and how we had found the food in Hiroshima. They even took a photo of us for their Instagram which was pretty cute! For 150o yen the food is satisfying and the atmosphere is awesome, definitely a must-visit!
Despite the mixed reviews online we decided to give Indian restaurant Padma a go however when we arrived it seemed to be very much closed (not sure if permanently). With very little energy to suss out a new location to trek to (there are very few anyway), we decided to give MOS Burger a visit considering they had been a great back up on our last trip. Since then they’ve added soy patties to their menu and while I couldn’t decipher online whether or not they were vegan, I checked in with the staff who said they were (please feel free to let me know if this info isn’t right.) The buns are still a no-go as far as I know, so I opted for another new thing, getting the burger in lettuce instead! Super delicious and while I’m hoping there’ll be enough vegan options available for the rest of the trip, it’s good to know there’s solid backup if necessary.
And with that it’s sayonara to Hiroshima and konichiwa to Kyoto, TTYL!
Art Elk Cafe
1-7-23 Naka-hara bld 2F, Hiroshima, Naka-ku Otemachi (Hondori St Shopping Centre)
Hiroshima, Japan 730-0051
Shigeishi Bldg 1F, 1-7-19, Otemachi
Hiroshima, Japan 730-0051
Naka-ku, Mikawachō, 2−20
Hiroshima, Japan 730-0029
Naka Ward, Hatchobori 6-3
Hiroshima, Japan 730-0013