… a remarkable place that has not only turned its seemingly desperate circumstances completely around in the past 75 years, but its entire focus and purpose as a member of the world community.
The timeline expressed above probably gives away the city’s identity, but it would hard to imagine any city having been more resilient than Hiroshima, Japan.
Many cities across the globe have faced disaster and withstood the challenge. And disasters can come in many forms – natural, economic, environmental, military, accidental, health, and financial. Just look at Chicago after the Great Fire of 1871, or San Francisco after the 1906 Earthquake, or many European and Asian cities following World War II. Even places like Pittsburgh, Manchester, and Detroit have had to bear significant economic and financial calamities.
But, in Hiroshima’s case, its entire existence was essentially wiped off the map in a nano second by the first atomic bombing in Earth’s history. One can argue the need, morality, and legitimacy of such an act by the American government, but one cannot argue the remarkable resilience of the city and citizens of Hiroshima since that fateful 6th day in August of 1945.
Just imagine trying to come to terms with all the death and destruction resulting from the bombing, while also trying to get an entire city back on its feet. The pain, despair, shock, anger, and grief alone would be difficult to overcome, let alone the resulting economic, structural, medical, financial, and other stresses. Essentially, Hiroshima had to endure all the disaster maladies listed above in a single event!
But, the good people of Hiroshima who survived the attack and those of Japan who came to their aid were not going to let this city die and fade away into the history books as a casualty of war. Instead, they quickly began the long process of rebuilding their community, literally piece-by-piece, and bit-by-bit. In fact, the resilience demonstrated just within the first days and weeks following the atomic bombing are downright remarkable given the death, destruction, and the looming menace of radiation. These include:
“The lights came back on in the Ujina area on 7 August [one day after the explosion], and around Hiroshima railway station a day later. Power was restored to 30% of homes that had escaped fire damage, and to all households by the end of November 1945, according to records kept by the Hiroshima Peace Institute.”
“Water pumps were repaired and started working again four days after the bombing, although damaged pipes created vast puddles among the ashes of wooden homes. The central telephone exchange bureau was destroyed and all of its employees killed, yet essential equipment was retrieved and repaired, and by the middle of August 14 experimental lines were back in operation.”
“Eighteen workers and a dozen finance bureau employees at the Hiroshima branch of the Bank of Japan, one of the city’s few concrete buildings, died instantly, yet the bank reopened two days later, offering floor space to 11 other banks whose premises had been destroyed. Tellers worked under open skies in clear weather, and beneath umbrellas when it rained.”
“A limited streetcar service resumed on 9 August, the same day Nagasaki was destroyed by a plutonium bomb, killing more than 70,000 people. With the need to move people and supplies into the city growing more urgent by the hour, the Ujina railway line started moving again on 7 August; a day later, trains on the Sanyo Line started running the short distance between Hiroshima and Yokogawa stations.”
In no way should we minimize the monumental task that laid ahead for the citizens of Hiroshima. In fact, little more than a month after the bombing, the city was struck by a second major catastrophe, when Typhoon Ida plowed through the city killing more than 3,000 people in the area. While the typhoon was a significant setback for Hiroshima, it had one silver lining – much of the radiation from the atomic bombing was washed into the sea and resulted in drop of radiation levels.
It took many years, detailed planning, and a lot of hard work to rebuild Hiroshima from ashes. The fact that they were successful is a testament to the fortitude and perseverance of its people. By 1958, the city had recovered to the extent that it finally reached it’s pre-war population of 410,000 residents. Today, the city is home to more than 1.2 million people.
A Lasting Legacy
What truly stands out about this remarkable city is after the atomic bombing, Hiroshima dramatically altered its purpose to humanity. Prior to World War II, Hiroshima had a long military legacy dating back to 1589 when it was founded as a castle town on the Ota River Delta. Hiroshima was an important location for the Imperial Army during the First Sino-Japanese War and the Russo-Japanese War. And during World War II, the city was an important military outpost, serving as home to a national and local army, as well as a marine army.
In the aftermath of the atomic bombing, Hiroshima, with the support of the Japanese government, became Japan’s Peace Memorial City and was officially declared a “City of Peace” in 1949. These steps, advocated by then Mayor Shinzo Hamai on behalf of the citizens of Hiroshima led to the establishment of the Hiroshima Peace Memorial Park and the city becoming a global hub for peace education, nuclear disarmament, and peace advocacy. Hiroshima has continued to fulfill these noteworthy and admirable roles ever since. In fact, the prefecture that includes Hiroshima has adopted a Global Peace Plan. Its 3 x 3 approach towards creating an international peace community includes:
THREE (3) CHALLENGES THREE (3) ACTIONS
Nuclear abolition Generating theories and promoting studies
Reconstruction and peace building Implementing practical programs for peace building
Envisioning a new security system Disseminating peace messages
Furthermore, the plan includes a section which identifies the five (5) Roles of Hiroshima as a Global Peace Hub. These are:
- Supporting the roadmap for abolition of nuclear weapons
- Reducing the risks of nuclear terrorism
- Developing human resources for creating a peaceful international community
- Creating ideas for nuclear disarmament, conflict resolution, and building peace
- Building a sustainable peace-support mechanism
In this professional planner’s humble opinion, several of the planet’s top peace and atomic (nuclear) oversight organizations should be relocated to Hiroshima, so that all the delegates, ambassadors, attendees, and employees are constantly reminded of the folly of wars (and other forms of violence), but in particular of nuclear weapons. These include the United Nations (UN) with its Security Council and the International Atomic Energy Agency (IAEA). There is no better way to advocate for the cause of peace than to locate such groups in a city like Hiroshima, that epitomizes both the tragedy of war and the ultimate victory of peace.
To the people of Hiroshima:
Congratulations for your resilience, strength, determination, patience, and perseverance in he wake of the atomic bombing of August 6, 1945. You have endured so much and have shown the world how to overcome incredible adversity. As an American, this author and peace advocate wishes to express his heartfelt apology for the atomic bombing of your city (as well as Nagasaki) and the great suffering and trauma that resulted.
May your ongoing efforts as a global leader championing world peace and nuclear disarmament be fully successful. The entire human race owes Hiroshima an enormous debt of gratitude for all of its efforts.