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HIROSHIMA AS A HAWK SEES IT – The Top 10 Places for an Elevated View of the Hiroshima Skyline

HIROSHIMA AS A HAWK SEES IT – The Top 10 Places for an Elevated View of the Hiroshima Skyline

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John Bryndal

The tallest building in Hiroshima (across from Hiroshima Station, housing a Bic Camera store, two-storey hotel, and then condominiums) rises 648 feet. For a quick comparison, Tokyo Tower, long since dwarfed by Sky Tree, is 820 feet, and the Empire State Building, now the seventh tallest New York skyscraper is 1,224 feet. So “tall” is relative here. Also, the four tallest buildings in Hiroshima are all condominiums that do not allow public access to upper floors. So the highest public access viewpoint I could discover in Hiroshima seems to be the 33rd Floor of the Righa Royal Hotel (see below) at 492 feet.

            To make this list I went partially off of subjective feelings, but decided to make it somewhat objective as well by ranking the locations on view (V) maximum five points, cost (C) maximum three points (for being free), and accessibility (A) maximum three points – how easy is it to get there. Thus, here are the top ten, with scores in parenthesis.

1. Fukuya – Hiroshima Station Square, Rooftop and Panorama Food Court [V5, C3, A3 = 11]

  The food court alone was guaranteed to be a top three finish all along, and if the roof was accessible (it is), it was going to be a top three contender as well. Since they are only a one-flight escalator ride apart from each other, I have to consider them as one, and then it’s far-and-away the winner on this list. My point system doesn’t allow me to accurately show why this is the best cityscape location in the city, so allow me to offer some explanations.

  First, of all, the food court. A long glass wall with multiple tables all facing the entirety of downtown Hiroshima. The designers were brilliant here, realizing that the department store location on the edge of downtown meant that one wall would face the entire cityscape. So they made it a glass wall. If you like looking at buildings for your cityscape viewing pleasure, there are more buildings to be seen from here than virtually any other vantage point in the city. As for the food, McDonald’s is the most popular option it always seems, but there is a good range of offerings, most decidedly more “meal”-like if you prefer. And there are full restaurants on the same floor, using the other three walls, as well. But it’s the view from that glass wall that appeals, more than the food.

            Now it’s time to take that escalator up. The entire top of the department store is open, with glass (plexiglass?) walls on three sides now, not just one. For a short time in summer months this becomes a beer garden, with open air tables, cold beer on tap, a buffet of food on an all-you-can-eat basis, and fantastic ambiance. But you don’t need the beer, just the view. And it’s available at any time until sunset. You can bring food up and sit on a bench and eat, or you can just stand by the walls and watch the trains come in and out of Hiroshima station on one side, or the whole of the city on the other, with a third side there too (dominated by the condominiums across the street, which is actually Hiroshima’s tallest building, but still a good view).

    If I had to nitpick I’d say that the plexiglass blocks the wind, so it’s not going to be as pleasant a spot in the middle of the day as number two on this list below. But the three-sided view, the zero cost factor, the ability to bring a lunch, and availability of air-conditioning and lots more food just one flight below, topped by being just right across the street from Hiroshima Station making it quite simple to get to and near many hotels, all combine to easily make this my favorite location in the city when it comes to cityscape views.

Note: There is also a Fukuya in the center of town. This number one ranking goes to the Station Square Fukuya.


I got to the food court when researching this list just before sunset. The escalator to the top floor was already closed down, but I had my pick of tables in the court area at that time, and I was treated to some gorgeous sunset colors from the window for an unexpected added bonus to the pictures I had intended to take. Just beautiful.

2. Motomachi Kuredo (Cred) Pacela Sky Patio (6F) [V4, C3, A3 = 10]

  I had nearly forgotten about this terrace as I work in a different area of town. It was taking photos from the top of Hiroshima castle that reminded me, and I headed right over the same day. It didn’t disappoint. Rather, it thrilled. I actually made a mental note to start occasionally lunching here, or going here when I have a few hours open in a morning or evening.

            So what ranks it so high? Well, to begin with, open air with a great view of the castle and much of the heart of the city. I’ll grant that it’s a shame a 360-degree view is not possible, but the view that it is is quite wonderful and worth it. Throw in the chairs and tables and ability to sit and relax as long as you like while enjoying that view. Add the nice collection of greenery spread out to make you forget you are on a department store terrace (there is a reason it won an Urban Rooftop Design award). And finally, that it’s totally free. There is a restaurant right there that can serve onto the terrace, and other restaurants nearby that do takeout options. And you can bring food from home to picnic if you like. But if you just want to go up, enjoy the view, sit and relax, and forget the hectic city pace (in Hiroshima, that’s relatively speaking but still a valid point), then this is a little oasis in the city.

            Three other points to solidify its high ranking. First, there is also Free Wi-Fi offered here. It’s the Hiroshima city free Wi-Fi. Log in through Facebook or Twitter and get 30 minutes of connection at no charge, and then after you get bumped, no waiting period. Just sign right back in for another 30. So you can spend (and I intend to) an hour, or even several hours, if you just need to relax after all the other things you’ve done in the city. Second is that there are tables and chairs just inside the glass door as well, for those who want a brief bit of air-conditioning or to escape the sun for a while. And the third is what I call the “secret” terrace above the Sky Court. It’s marked as “Sky Walk”. If you see the stairs in the back corner, follow them up several levels and you get to a mini terrace. It’s admittedly the exact same view as below and farther back from the edge, but most times there is no one else up there at all. A great view AND privacy? Heavenly.

3. Hiroshima Castle top [V5, C2, A2 = 9]

   Hiroshima is a castle town, historically speaking. The castle was intentionally given a central location, and the town that is Hiroshima gradually grew outwards from those castle environs. Thus, logically, and historically, the best view of the city must be from the top of Hiroshima castle. And it does not disappoint. Views from all four compass points are truly gorgeous. There are several bonus perks to choosing this spot for your city view as well.

            First, and maybe my favorite point, all four viewpoints have photos posted to tell what you are looking at with major buildings and landmarks clearly marked. This is going to be especially wonderful if you are up there with children, because I know from experience, “What’s that?” gets asked often in these situations. LOL.  But truthfully, even as a long-term resident I found myself consulting the photo to confirm what I thought I knew, or even learn something new regarding a few buildings and landmarks.

            The second thing that makes the view from here so great is the peacefulness. The castle is still fairly well isolated. There is some traffic noise, but not much. Most of the noise is drowned out by the breezes. There is a constant breeze when you are up there, which aids in making it a relaxing spot as well.

            What stops it from topping this list is that there is no way to just sit and enjoy the view for a prolonged time. The tower has in inner room, and then an outer balcony-like walkway that encircles the top. Great for viewing, and enjoying the breeze, but there is no bench on that walkway that would allow you to just sit and look. The inner room does have benches if you are tired from walking up the five flights of stairs to get there. But from there you’ll only have photographs to look at.

            Accessibility scores a two out of three as well, because you do have to get through the castle grounds, then pay a (small) fee, then climb five flights of stairs, but it’s so close to everything else in the city that it’s not out of the way at all. Add in that those with great imaginations can try to transport themselves back in time (coming up through the museum will help with that) and stand there imagining life 500 years ago when the first castle was built, and then meditate on all the changes that one viewpoint as seen since then, and this really is a must-stop location.

4. Hiroshima Orizuru Tower [V5, C1, A3 = 9]

    To be frank – I’m a bit biased against Orizuru Tower simply because of the cost. When it first opened, I was excited. A tower offering a cityscape view of the Peace Park on one side and the heart of downtown on the other? Sounds amazing. Can’t wait to go up! Uh, tickets are 1,200 yen… Tokyo Tower is about 1,000 yen to go up 490 feet. Sky Tree’s 350th floor is 1,200 feet and 2,100 yen. But 164-foot-tall Orizuru Tower is 1,200 yen? Woah.

            That said – let’s be honest – the view really is amazing. And, I have to admit that in composing this list, I realized that most locations with a great roof view in downtown Hiroshima makes it a pricey bar-restaurant experience, but Orizuru Tower has an observation deck totally separate from the rooftop bar, so you can go just for the view if that is what you desire. I have much respect for that.

            So with an open mind I had to rate the view with max points, and its location next to the dome maxes out its accessibility. To my own surprise it nearly cracked my top three.  Being new and popular you can find many photos already online. I enjoyed looking at them myself. So it fairly earned its high rank in the end.

5. Mt. Misen in Miyajima [V5, C1, A2 =8]

   I had to include the top of Mt. Misen in this list (1,755 feet), because it’s probably the most spectacular view to be found. Of course, since this is meant to be a cityscape list, it drops from the top spot. There is some of the city visible from the top, but not much. Add to it the cost and time of getting there, with trains, ferries and cable cars along the way, and I probably should have rated its accessibility a little lower. The reason I did not is because it’s the most well-marked destination probably of all of these, with an expectation that any tourist to Hiroshima will be going to Miyajima already anyway. So while there, why not pop on up for an amazing view of the Seto Inland Sea, many, many islands, and a little cityscape as a bonus.

6. Futabayama Hill Peace Tower [V4, C3, A1 = 8]

   This is my personal favorite on the list, despite coming in at No. 6, because it’s a hidden gem even many Hiroshima natives don’t know about. Hiroshima’s best hiking trails are a fairly well kept secret for some reason. This tower is actually just the launching point to a whole network of trails that lead to multiple shrines in the mountains. But back to the view from here. It’s gorgeous. If you’re not much for walking up mountains, the Maple Sightseeing Bus does seem to have a route up the hill, but I would imagine the bus is quite infrequent. It’s about a 30-40 minute walk from Hiroshima station, if you have good G.P.S. I pretty well knew where I was going (I usually go there by a mountain trail on the side, not from the station), and in fact made it there with zero wrong turns without consulting G.P.S. along the way, but I could find not a single sign even in Japanese to confirm for me that I was on the correct road. I just went with the philosophy of keep walking “up”.

            The tower was built in 1966, on a hilltop roughly 400 feet or so high … And “tower” is a bit of a misnomer. Its top can be seen from the station above the trees, but when you get up close you discover that its base is surprisingly short. That said, it’s beautiful, and more importantly, the view is wonderful. There are several benches where you can just sit and stare at the city away from almost all noise. It’s one of the most peaceful places in the Peace City that is Hiroshima, and made even more so by its relative anonymity. There were a total of six other people when I was there, and I was the only one who walked up the road from the station. For me, the walk is always worth it. Accessibility is the only reason this is not a top three, or even top five.

7. Hijiyama Park [V3, C3, A2 = 8]

   You’ll be able to read elsewhere about the art museum and manga (comic book) library at the top of Mt. Hijiyama. But the view here, 240 feet up, is very nice as well. The problem is that most of the best views are blocked by trees. The greenery of the park areas are what make it enjoyable on the one hand, but for the purposes of seeing the city, those trees become an obstacle. The right angle and a great view can be found though. For the overall experience it would be worth the visit.

8. Righa Top Bar, Righa Royal Hotel 33F [V5, C0, A2 = 7]

  As far as I have been able to determine, this is the highest point in the city that absolutely anyone can go to. If your wallet is big enough. No observation point, only a bar-restaurant, and an upscale one at that. But at 33 floors it is perhaps as high as you can get. It’s the fifth highest building in Hiroshima, and the other four are for residents only. In Hiroshima, 150 meters up is as impressive as it gets, but you’ll have to determine if a minimum cost of 6,000 yen is worth the view.

9. Hotel Granvia Rooftop (21F) [V4, C1, A2 = 7]

  This is a gorgeous beer garden restaurant. Great view, great atmosphere. Right next to the station it should score high on accessibility, too. However, it’s only open “in the summer”, which generally is only July and August, so its limited time factor drops it down the list.

10. The Ferris Wheel at Marina Hop [V4, C1, A1 = 6]

If you want the combination of city and water view, without going to an expensive bar like the Grand Prince Hotel and without glass windows, the top of the Ferris wheel is an option. Gorgeous view makes it well worth it, though the cityscape near there is less appealing than the water. If you are already spending some time at Marina Hop the wheel is well worth it. But it’s not a particularly high wheel, so it would be a long way to go for just the wheel top view.