Rebuilding of Nagasaki After The Atomic Bombing

Xuanbing Cheng
March 25, 2018

Submitted as coursework for PH241, Stanford University, Winter 2018

Damage of the Bombing

Fig. 1: "Fat Man" atomic bomb replica in Wright-Patterson Air Force Museum. (Source: Wikimedia Commons)

Three days after the first combat nuclear weapon "Little Boy" bomb dropped on the Japanese city of Hiroshima on August 6, 1945, on August 9, 1945, the second nuclear weapon "Fat Man" (Fig. 1) was dropped on Nagasaki. The bombing caused a massive devastation. It is estimated that 39,000 people were killed, and 25,000 people were injured by the atomic bomb. The greatest total number of deaths occurred less than a second of the detonation of the bomb. [1] Including heavy structures, many buildings were also demolished because of the bombing. However, thanks to the uneven terrain of Nagasaki that served as natural buffer of the bombing, even though the "Fat Man" bomb had a 23 kiloton explosion yield, which is more than the explosion yield of "Little Boy" that is 13 kilotons, the bombing did not cause as much damage as the bombing in Hiroshima. [2] Nevertheless, Nagasaki was uninhabitable right after the bombing, and in desperate need of reconstruction.

Rebuilt after the war

Nagasaki was rebuilt after the war, but it was not a smooth process. There were 22 designated relief stations, and 327 persons were organized to service these stations after the bombing. [3] However, most facilities including Nagasaki Medical University were demolished and burned. Workers were either killed or severely injured by the bombing. The number of casualties was so great that they flooded all relief stations. Although there was a lack of medical supplies, the relief work was carried on by the surviving medical staffs as well as the help of medical relief teams from surrounding areas of Nagasaki. But there were still a large number of victims left the city after the bombing. Outside areas received thousands of injured people, but it was reported that about 20% of these people died within a month or two. [3]

Fig. 2: Nagasaki Atomic Bomb Museum. (Source: Wikimedia Commons)

In early 1949, Hiroshima officials went to Tokyo for the May 10 National Diet meeting in order to propose the Hiroshima Peace Commemoration City Construction Law to ensure its exclusivity in culture and city reconstruction - leaving out Nagasaki that had also gone through the atomic bombing disaster. Learning about this situation, Nagasaki officials rushed to Tokyo for the National Diet meeting to establish their own reconstruction law. In the end, on May 10, the National Diet passed the Hiroshima Peace Commemoration City Construction Law as well as the Nagasaki International Cultural City Construction Law. Hiroshima maintains its unique word of "peace" representing the significance of city after the war, especially the bombing. However, the loose usage of "international culture city" made Nagasaki resemble other cities like Kyoto and Nara that also promoted "achievement of the ideal of everlasting world peace". But losing the unique usage of "peace" encouraged Nagasaki to get through the bombing tragedy by embracing its history while maintaining a foundation of peace in the present. [4]

The passage of the construction law promoted the rebuilding of Nagasaki while providing greater funds for its reconstruction. More importantly, the way people perceived Nagasaki helped its development as a site of atomic-bombing tourism. Nagasaki also built a memorial museum called Nagasaki International Cultural Hall in 1955 under the guidance of the reconstruction law, which then became a very popular tourist site to help boost the economy of Nagasaki. It was replaced by the Nagasaki Atomic Bomb Museum in 1996 (Fig. 2). By 1969, the average annual number tourists to Nagasaki reached 2,500,000. The blooming economy helped the city population rise to 241,818 by 1950, which was close to the population of 270,000 before the atomic bombing. [5] As more developments took place in Nagasaki, surrounding towns like Nomozaki and Sanwa were officially merged into Nagasaki.


The 1945 atomic bombing in Nagasaki wiped out many lives and the living environment in Nagasaki. We can see the survivors' will to live on and rebuild the city by helping each other and make way for their own future development. With the will of peace and development carried on by generations of people, Nagasaki was successfully rebuilt after the war, and has become a thriving city greater than it had been before.

© Xuanbing Cheng. The author warrants that the work is the author's own and that Stanford University provided no input other than typesetting and referencing guidelines. 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] The Manhattan Engineer District, The Atomic Bombings of Hiroshima and Nagasaki (FQ Books, 2010).

[2] J. Malik, "The Yields of the Hiroshima and Nagasaki Nuclear Explosions," Los Alamos National Laboratory, LA-8819, September 1985.

[3] M. A. Harwell and T. C. Hutchinson, Environmental Consequences of Nuclear War, Ecological and Agricultural Effects (Volume 2) (Wiley, 1990).

[4] C. R. Diehl, Resurrecting Nagasaki (Cornell University Press, 2018).

[5] C. R. Diehl, Resurrecting Nagasaki: Reconstruction and the Formation of Atomic Narratives (Cornell University Press, 2010).