column 3 A City that Rebuilt, A City that Remembers
Once known as a military capital, Hiroshima was annihilated by a single atomic bomb. Still, in the hopes of creating a city of peace, the citizens rebuilt the city from the ruins and altered the cityscape forever. Still, the pain and memories of that day will never vanish.
1. The changed cityscapes
Two parks were created in the heart of Hiroshima City after the war—the Peace Memorial Park and the Chuo Park. The Nakajima district where the Peace Memorial Park is located used to be one of the liveliest places in the city, with houses lined up, and there were even banks and movie theaters before the atomic bombing. The district was located directly beneath the epicenter and annihilated. It was then transformed into a park to commemorate lasting peace. This park is the venue for the Hiroshima Peace Memorial Ceremony held every year on August 6, the day of the atomic bombing. The park houses many monuments, including the Cenotaph for the A-bomb Victims (Memorial Monument for Hiroshima, City of Peace). The Hiroshima Peace Memorial Museum and the Hiroshima National Peace Memorial Hall for the Atomic Bomb Victims in the Park convey the reality of the atomic bombing to visitors from all over the world.
Another site that symbolizes Hiroshima’s transformation is Chuo Park. It is located in the Moto-machi district virtually in the center of Hiroshima City, with the landmark Hiroshima Castle as one of its features. Before the atomic bombing, the area around Hiroshima Castle housed the headquarters of the military district and many other military facilities. When the military was dissolved after the war, emergency housing was constructed in this large area for those who lost their homes, transforming it into a living space for the people. Public facilities such as the high-rise apartment buildings in Moto-machi, a library, and a gymnasium were later located there functionally through redevelopment projects, and the area was reborn as a park in the city center.
2. Passing down the memories of tragedy
In 1915, a European-style modern structure appeared on a bank of the Motoyasu River. It was the Hiroshima Prefectural Commercial Exhibition
Hall, designed by the Czech architect Jan Letzel. Not only was this the base for promoting the sale of the prefecture’s products, it held art exhibitions and was a famous spot in Hiroshima and a symbol of the city.
In 1944, when the name of the hall had already changed to the Hiroshima Prefectural Industrial Promotion Hall, it ceased to be used for its original purpose because of the war. It was instead used as offices for government agencies and regulation companies.
With the Aioi Bridge as its target, the atomic bomb was dropped, and exploded about 600 meters in the air above the Shima Hospital, located southeast of the bridge. The damage to the Industrial Promotion Hall, which was only 160 meters northwest of the hypocenter, was extreme. All the people inside were killed instantly, and the building was utterly destroyed and burned to the ground. However, a portion of the wall escaped collapse because the pressure from the blast came from almost directly above the building. Today, it remains a symbolic figure, together with the iron central structure. Citizens began to call it the Atomic Bomb Dome around 1950. As the reconstruction began to progress, opinions became divided on whether to preserve or demolish it; and the Hiroshima City Council unanimously decided to permanently preserve the A-bomb Dome in July of 1966. In December 1996, it was recorded as a World Heritage Site and has become a symbol of the city, recalling the horror of nuclear weapons.
In the city of Hiroshima was ruined by the atomic bombing, buildings that were still standing served as important guideposts for those fleeing in confusion, while bridges became important evacuation routes. These buildings became shields for preserving lives, accepting the injured and later supporting the postwar reconstruction. The reconstruction process removed much of the landscape that preserved the memory of the atomic bombing, but a portion of the buildings, bridges, and trees that were A-bombed still exist today. These markers continue to serve as quiet reminders of that day, fighting against the natural process of forgetfulness.
(Shoji Oseto and Hitoshi Nagai)
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Hiroshima Prefectural Office
Street address:10-52, Motomachi, Naka-ku, Hiroshima-shi, Hiroshima-ken, 730-8511