Hiroshima: Urban Development Post Impact

Kevin Palma
March 5, 2016

Submitted as coursework for PH241, Stanford University, Winter 2016


Fig. 1: Hiroshima Memorial Park. (Source: Wikimedia Commons)

As the stakes of World War II rose in 1945, United States President Harry S. Truman would make a decision that would affect a Japanese city for decades to come. On August 6th, at 8:15, the first atomic bomb would level the city of Hiroshima. BBC news estimated the bomb to be 200,00 times more powerful than any bomb to date in 1945. [1] The bombing of Hiroshima killed an estimated 135,000 people. Within five years after the bomb was dropped, approximately 140,000 died due to the exposure to large amounts of Neutron and Gamma radiation. This powerful weapon devastated an entire nation as it turned a thriving city into mere ashes and shells of what use to be large building structures. The infrastructure of an entire city would need to be rebuilt.

The Rebirth of a City

Today the city of Hiroshima, shown in Fig. 1, is once again a thriving city that houses over 2.8 million people, but there was a long process to raise this city from the ashes. Approximately 65% of the population, and 70% of the buildings were lost in the blast. John Hersey interviewed and voiced the aftermath of the bombing of Hiroshima. [2] The six residents of Hiroshima gave a strong insight to the destruction of their home, and the struggle of survival and recovery. Recovery efforts were negatively impacted by the lack of funds and government infrastructure. The first post-impact task was perhaps the toughest. This was to survey the areas and collect/burn the remaining corpses, as well as clear all of the rubble and debris. These areas amassed nearly 2.4 million square miles and took four years to complete. Soon after completion, the first special law in Japan, the Hiroshima Peace Memorial City Construction Law, was put into place August of 1949. [3] This was the Japanese Government's first involvement in the Hiroshima rebuilding process. Reconstruction of the city began with the Hiroshima Memorial Park, located in the crater of the A-bomb's blast. The government later introduced other laws to promote municipal mergers in 1953 and 1956, this lead the surrounding villages to merge under the city of Hiroshima. In return this lead to a faster growth in urban redevelopment within the city. With the opening of an airport, rail-way, and major interstate, Hiroshima acquired a population of over 400,000. Over the next 20 years the city of Hiroshima would add a total of 13 neighboring villages, increasing the city population to over 500,000 by 1975. As more developments and additions of new municipalities, the population of Hiroshima boomed and was over 1.1 million by 1995.


From seeing a prosperous city of approximately 400,000 residents turn to ash as only 140,000 survive, to being reborn and rebuilt. The city of Hiroshima has seen an eye opening turn around following horrific events. The involvement of the Japanese government allowed the city of Hiroshima to add surrounding cities, and this is what catapulted the population and redevelopment back onto the right track. These additions allowed the city to create infrastructure and acquire the necessary resources in order to truly begin the rebuilding process. As the city began to thrive, it became more attractive as a metropolitan city and began to add more and more surrounding areas. The unity of these towns, cities, and villages have blossomed into the Modern city of Hiroshima, leaving August 6th, 1945 in the past but not forgotten.

© Kevin Palma. The author grants permission to copy, distribute and display this work in unaltered form, with attribution to the author, for noncommercial purposes only. All other rights, including commercial rights, are reserved to the author.


[1] "US Drops Atomic Bomb on Hiroshima," BBC News, 6 Aug 1945

[2] J. Hersey, "Hiroshima," The New Yorker, 31 Aug 46.

[3] B. Powell, "How Hiroshima Rose From the Ashes," Time, 26 Jul 05.