One, perhaps lesser known fact about Hiroshima prefecture, is that it houses the largest number of islands among all the prefectures on Honshu. Over 360 islands in the Seto Inland Sea belong to this prefecture, and many of them are easily accessible by public boat and ferry lines, making the waters around Hiroshima well worth some time to explore and discover, especially if you are the kind of traveler who is attracted by sun-drenched beaches and quaint island towns.
Ninoshima is a small island located very close to downtown Hiroshima. It is famous for its distinct shape made up by the mountain Aki-no-Kofuji or “Little Fuji of Aki”. Hiking this mountain is also the main reason why visitors go here today. The island was used as a quarantine stop for soldiers who had fought abroad during the first Sino-Japanese War, and also housed some war prisons during the First World War. It also became the base for a major field hospital that was set up after the atomic bomb was dropped on Hiroshima. Today the island has around 1,000 residents. Ferries depart roughly every hour from Hiroshima port, and a round trip ticket will cost 880 yen.
This is one of the bigger islands in the Seto Inland Sea, with an area of over 100 square kilometers. The island has about 25,000 permanent residents, and is a popular destination for cyclists, as there are scenic roads along most of the coastline. Rental bicycles are available at several different stations along the route. The island also houses a museum of naval history, located in an old base for the maritime self-defense forces. The orange fields as well as its many oyster farms are other features of Etajima that has helped put this island on the map for tourists. Both car ferries and high-speed boats depart from Hiroshima port, and the island is also connected to the mainland by bridges via Kurahashi Island.
On the far eastern end of Hiroshima Prefecture, you will find the small island of Momoshima. This island has seen a rapid decline of its population in the last couple of decades, and several schools and other public facilities has been abandoned since most of the islanders today are elderly. In 2012, renowned artist Yukinori Yanagi decided to do something about this, and with some help from the local authorities, he converted one of the abandoned schools into “Art Base Momoshima”, a combined art gallery and workspace for invited artists that also houses a small café and a shop selling souvenirs such as t-shirts and a small selection of art books. The project also involves the converting of an old cinema into a piece of art. If you plan to visit Momoshima, make sure to schedule your appointment beforehand through their website, as Art Base Momoshima doesn’t have any regular opening hours. High speed boats and ferries connects Momoshima with Onomichi in the eastern part of Hiroshima prefecture. The ride from the mainland takes about 20 to 30 minutes.
Shikoku is one of the four big islands of Japan, and consists of four prefectures, so it’s quite different from the other islands mentioned on this list. However, it deserves a mention as it’s very easy to get here from Hiroshima. Both Ferries and High-Speed Jet-boats connect downtown Hiroshima to Matsuyama, the largest city on Shikoku. The ride takes you across the Seto Inland Sea, and the many islands dotting the tranquil waters makes it a very enjoyable ride indeed. If your schedule permits, we highly recommend that you try catching the ferry so that you can watch the sun set during the trip, as this is by far the most beautiful time to cross these waters. The high-speed boat ride takes about 75 minutes and costs 7,100 yen one-way, while the ferry takes a little under three hours but only costs 3,600 yen one-way. The boat and ferry also make a stop at Kure Port on the way between Hiroshima and Matsuyama.