If you are in Hiroshima on August 6, be prepared for many events dedicated to the memory of the World War II atomic bomb attack on the city. People begin gathering at the Peace Memorial Park before dawn to pay tribute to the victims of the attack, though the official program does not start until 8:00am. At 8:15am (when the bomb was dropped), the Peace Bell is rung and sirens go off throughout the city, followed by a minute of silence for the people who died. At the memorial ceremony, the mayor also reads the city’s peace declaration calling for the abolition of nuclear warfare.

Mid-October, there is the annual Sake Festival just outside of Hiroshima City in Saijo. It's about a 30 minute train ride- and definitely worth it. In Saijo, several tents line the streets right outside of the station- filled to the brim with festival food and treats. Walk along the street and eat up before arriving at the main event. For around 2,000 yen, you can buy your own sake cup and access to thousands upon thousands of sake from around Japan. Organized by prefecture, you can drink til you drop... and you will. (This year's festival is October 9-11.)

There are also a number of other holidays that are widely celebrated in Japan but unknown in the West. The Emperor’s Birthday (December 23) is a national holiday, and there are usually special events for holidays such as Culture Day (November 3, which celebrates national culture) or Health and Sports Day (2nd Monday in October).

If you have the good fortune of being in Hiroshima during early April, make sure you go on a cherry blossom viewing party. As in other cities throughout Japan, people swarm into parks to see these beautiful flowers bloom for a week in early spring. The cherry blossom tree is highly valued in Japan as a symbol of national culture, so it is no surprise that many people in Hiroshima celebrate its short flowering period with lavish parties. During this time, some smaller shops in town may be closed as the owners flock to enjoy the view as well.