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Hiroshima for Global Peace

I Illegal Structures

1 Black Market in the Hiroshima Station Area Immediately After the War

Food and clothing are basic human needs. If one’s home is destroyed, and a full replacement cannot be easily prepared, people will seek out some sort of temporary refuge. Moreover, in order to survive, they must immediately go and acquire food and daily necessities. This need is the driving mechanism behind the creation of black markets. Nonetheless, black markets are doomed to disappear once regular distribution routes are reestablished and policing becomes strict. Black markets were particular to this limited period.

On August 14, 1945, Japan accepted the Potsdam Declaration and the war ended in Japan’s unconditional surrender. As early as the end of August, it is reported that a black market had already appeared in the land in front of Hiroshima Station. The transition period of the area surrounding Hiroshima Station could be divided into the following phases1): Phase 1) Black market spontaneously appeared in the open space in the station square; Phase 2) The black market was forced to relocate to private land but shortly re-concentrated in front of the station; Phase 3) The market was forced to move to Matsubara-cho and “people’s markets” were created. (Figure 5-1); Phase 4) box-shaped stores appeared after “the people’s markets” burned down; and Phase 5) As land readjustment progressed and the area in front of the station developed, a department store named Hiroshima Hyakkaten opened. Finally, Phase 6) Preparations were made for the area’s redevelopment; redevelopment was realized; and commercial buildings constructed. It was during Phases 1 to 3 that the black market existed.

2 The Spread of Illegal Constructions

(1) The Main Locations of Illegal Construction

Illegally-built homes became a major problem in the reconstruction process of Hiroshima. Specifically there were three periods when illegal structures become prevalent. From around 1950 to 1955, there were clusters of illegal houses in the Peace Memorial Park, and from around 1960 to 1966, illegal buildings (including many stores) that sprung up along the bank of the Enko River in front of Hiroshima Station. And from around 1965 to 1978, in the last stages of the reconstruction process a major issue was dealing with clusters of illegally-built homes along the “Aioi Street,” on the bank of the Ota River in Moto-machi. While there were many other illegal homes in other areas of the city, particularly along the riverbanks, these three areas were the most conspicuous in their concentration of illegal buildings.

(2) Houses in the Peace Park

Illegal structures within the Peace Park were especially noticeable because they were recorded in the annual August 6 photographs of the Peace Memorial Ceremony and kept on record. In 1952, the photo taken at the Peace Memorial Ceremony, after the completion of the Cenotaph for the A-bomb Victims (Photo 5-1), there were many houses in the background, but curtains were hung behind the Cenotaph to hide them. The photos of the memorial ceremonies in 1953 and  1954 show the same situation. 2) Even a photo taken three years later at the 1955 memorial ceremony shows the curtains (Photo5-2). Over the years, as the number of participants and the scale of the ceremony continued to grow and became more orderly, curtains were still used to block out the background. Over the years, these photos showed that the houses in the background decreased little by little, and these had completely disappeared by the 1959 memorial ceremony. As evidenced in the photos, we see that there were still houses left in 1956, indicating that these houses were all demolished between 1957 and 1958.

This section of the Peace Park used to be the Nakajima district, in which houses, shops, and recreational facilities were densely concentrated before the atomic bombing. There were also many temples and cemeteries located here before the bombing, and being within 500 meters of the hypocenter of the blast, it suffered great damage. In many cases, whole families died, and many children who were moved to countryside under group evacuation were orphaned. (Group evacuations saved children from the direct exposure to the atomic bombing, but many of them lost their families remaining in the city by the bombing.)

The atomic bombing destroyed families that lived in the area and deprived others of their livelihoods. Then, the large area was designated as a park area. Of course, the designation did not nullify people’s ownership of the land. However, they were relocated to other places with reduced land area. The former residents in this area were not able to rebuild their communities and they had no choice but to live separately in different locations after the land readjustments. The land owners, entitled to receive land at the time of the land readjustment, were able to build new houses to live in or to rent or to keep shops to run business―they were able to maintain stability of their lives. Those without such foundations were, in many cases, left with no choice but to live in illegally-built housing. The reconstruction process was closely linked with the appearance of these illegal buildings.


1. Ishimaru, Norioki. Hiroshima Ekimae Yamiichi no Hensen to Sono Tokucho” (The Changes and Characteristics of the Black Market in front of Hiroshima Station). Hiroshimashi Kobunshokan Kiyo: Dai Juhachi go. 2005: pp. 1 – 34.

2. Hiroshima Toshi Seikatsu Kenkyukai (Ed.). Hiroshima Hibaku Yonju Nenshi: Toshi no Fukko (Reconstruction of Hiroshima, Pictorial History: Forty Years since Atomic Bombing). Division of Culture, Planning and Coordination Bureau, City of Hiroshima, 1985: pp. 93 – 96.

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