is the capital of Hiroshima Prefecture, and the largest city in the Chūgoku region of western Honshu, the largest island of Japan. It is best known as the first city in history to be targeted by a nuclear weapon when the United States Army Air Forces (USAAF) dropped an atomic bomb on it at 8:15 a.m. on August 6, 1945, near the end of World War II. The city's name, 広島, means "Wide Island" in Japanese.
Sengoku period (1589–1871)
Hiroshima was established on the river delta coastline of the Seto Inland Sea in 1589 by the powerful warlord Mōri Terumoto, who made it his capital after leaving Kōriyama Castle in Aki Province. Hiroshima Castle was quickly built, and in 1593 Terumoto moved in. Terumoto was on the losing side at the Battle of Sekigahara. The winner of the battle, Tokugawa Ieyasu, deprived Mori Terumoto of most of his fiefs including Hiroshima and gave Aki Province to Masanori Fukushima, a daimyo who had supported Tokugawa.
Imperial period (1871–1939)
After the han was abolished in 1871, the city became the capital of Hiroshima Prefecture. Hiroshima became a major urban center during the imperial period, as the Japanese economy shifted from primarily rural to urban industries. During the 1870s, one of the seven government-sponsored English language schools was established in Hiroshima. Ujina Harbor was constructed through the efforts of Hiroshima Governor Sadaaki Senda in the 1880s, allowing Hiroshima to become an important port city.
The Sanyo Railway was extended to Hiroshima in 1894, and a rail line from the main station to the harbor was constructed for military transportation during the First Sino-Japanese War. During that war, the Japanese government moved temporarily to Hiroshima, and Emperor Meiji maintained his headquarters at Hiroshima Castle from September 15, 1894 to April 27, 1895. The significance of Hiroshima for the Japanese government can be discerned from the fact that the first round of talks between Chinese and Japanese representatives to end the Sino-Japanese War was held in Hiroshima, from February 1 to February 4, 1895. New industrial plants, including cotton mills, were established in Hiroshima in the late 19th century. Further industrialization in Hiroshima was stimulated during the Russo-Japanese War in 1904, which required development and production of military supplies. The Hiroshima Prefectural Commercial Exhibition Hall was constructed in 1915 as a center for trade and exhibition of new products. Later, its name was changed to Hiroshima Prefectural Product Exhibition Hall, and again to Hiroshima Prefectural Industrial Promotion Hall.
During World War I, Hiroshima became a focal point of military activity, as the Japanese government entered the war on the Allied side. About 500 German prisoners of war were held in Ninoshima Island in Hiroshima Bay. The growth of Hiroshima as a city continued after the First World War, as the city now attracted the attention of the Catholic Church, and on May 4, 1923, an Apostolic Vicar was appointed for that city.
World War II and the atomic bombing (1939–1945)
During World War II, the 2nd General Army and Chugoku Regional Army were headquartered in Hiroshima, and the Army Marine Headquarters was located at Ujina port. The city also had large depots of military supplies, and was a key center for shipping.
The bombing of Tokyo and other cities in Japan during World War II caused widespread destruction and hundreds of thousands of deaths. For example, Toyama, an urban area of 128,000 people, was nearly destroyed, and incendiary attacks on Tokyo claimed the lives of 100,000 people. There were no such air raids on Hiroshima. However, a real threat existed and was recognized. In order to protect against potential firebombings in Hiroshima, school children aged 11–14 years were mobilized to demolish houses and create firebreaks.
On Monday, August 6, 1945, at 8:15 a.m., the nuclear bomb "Little Boy" was dropped on Hiroshima by an American B-29 bomber, the Enola Gay, flown by Colonel Paul Tibbets, directly killing an estimated 80,000 people. By the end of the year, injury and radiation brought the total number of deaths to 90,000–166,000. The population before the bombing was around 340,000 to 350,000. Approximately 70% of the city's buildings were destroyed, and another 7% severely damaged.
The public release of film footage of the city following the attack, and some of the Atomic Bomb Casualty Commission research, about the human effects of the attack, was restricted during the occupation of Japan, and much of this information was censored until the signing of the San Francisco Peace Treaty in 1951, restoring control to the Japanese.
However, worldwide, only the most sensitive, and detailed weapons effects information was censored following the bombing. There was no censorship of accounts written by survivors ("Hibakusha"). For example, the book Hiroshima written by Pulitzer Prize winner John Hersey, was originally featured in article form and published in the popular magazine The New Yorker, on 31 August 1946. It is reported to have reached Tokyo, in English, at least by January 1947 and the translated version was released in Japan in 1949. Despite the fact that the article was planned to be published over four issues, "Hiroshima" made up the entire contents of one issue of the magazine. Hiroshima narrates the stories of six bomb survivors immediately prior to and for months after the dropping of the Little Boy bomb.
The oleander is the official flower of the city of Hiroshima because it was the first to bloom again after the explosion of the atomic bomb in 1945.
Postwar period (1945–present)
On September 17, 1945, Hiroshima was struck by the Makurazaki Typhoon (Typhoon Ida). Hiroshima prefecture suffered more than 3,000 deaths and injuries, about half the national total. More than half the bridges in the city were destroyed, along with heavy damage to roads and railroads, further devastating the city.
Hiroshima was rebuilt after the war, with help from the national government through the Hiroshima Peace Memorial City Construction Law passed in 1949. It provided financial assistance for reconstruction, along with land donated that was previously owned by the national government and used for military purposes.
In 1949, a design was selected for the Hiroshima Peace Memorial Park. Hiroshima Prefectural Industrial Promotion Hall, the closest surviving building to the location of the bomb's detonation, was designated the Genbaku Dome (原爆ドーム) or "Atomic Dome", a part of the Hiroshima Peace Memorial Park. The Hiroshima Peace Memorial Museum was opened in 1955 in the Peace Park.
Hiroshima was proclaimed a City of Peace by the Japanese parliament in 1949, at the initiative of its mayor, Shinzo Hamai (1905–1968). As a result, the city of Hiroshima received more international attention as a desirable location for holding international conferences on peace as well as social issues. As part of that effort, the Hiroshima Interpreters' and Guide's Association (HIGA) was established in 1992 in order to facilitate interpretation for conferences, and the Hiroshima Peace Institute was established in 1998 within the Hiroshima University. The city government continues to advocate the abolition of all nuclear weapons and the Mayor of Hiroshima is the president of Mayors for Peace, an international mayoral organization mobilizing cities and citizens worldwide to abolish and eliminate nuclear weapons by the year 2020.