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The history of the city of Hiroshima
Capital of the prefecture of the same name, Hiroshima is the most important city of the Chûgoku region, with more than one million inhabitants. It is universally known because of the bombings of 6 August 1945. Today, it is one of the main industrial and port centres in western Japan. It has also become a city symbolising peace and pacifism throughout the world.
Hiroshima was founded in 1589 on the largest islet in the delta where the Ôta River meets the Seto Inland Sea. The medieval lord Mori Terumoto (1553-1625) established his castle there to take advantage of its pivotal geographical location and the proximity of the island of Miyajima and its water shrine, Itsukushima. The city took on national importance at the dawn of the Meiji era (1868-1912).
The rapid industrialisation of the country transformed Hiroshima into a logistical base for the Japanese Imperial Army. The city, with a population of just over 80,000, took off economically and industrially. The port of Ujina, later renamed Hiroshima Port, was built in the 1880s. The Sanyo railway line was extended in 1894, bringing the city closer to the rest of the country. On the eve of the First World War, Hiroshima was a major economic, cultural and military centre of Japan. The Great War confirmed Hiroshima's role as a major military base for Japan, which was then on the side of the Allies.
The tragedy of the atomic bomb in Hiroshima
Initially spared by the American aerial bombardment, which was concentrated on Tokyo, Hiroshima was to become the first city in history to suffer an atomic bombing. While Nazi Germany surrendered on 8 May 1945, Japan refused to give up its weapons.
To force Japan to sign an armistice, the American president, Harry Truman, decided to use nuclear weapons. Hiroshima was chosen for its crucial role in the military supply of the archipelago. On Monday 6 August 1945, at 8.15 am, a B-29 bomber flew over the city and dropped an atomic bomb called "Little Boy". This bomb exploded at an altitude of 600 meters, above the Shima Hospital, in the heart of the city.
The damage was unprecedented. Of the 350,000 inhabitants of Hiroshima at the time, 75,000 were killed instantly. Radiation-related injuries brought the death toll to around 250,000 in the following months and years. About 70% of the buildings were destroyed. The city became a "charred plain" (yakenohara in Japanese). Attacked in the same way in Nagasaki on 9 August, Japan finally surrendered on 2 September 1945, marking the end of the Second World War.
Hiroshima after the war: a symbol of peace
After the trauma, a plan to rebuild Hiroshima was launched, notably through the Hiroshima City Peace Memorial Construction Act, passed by the government in 1949, which provided funding to revive the city.
The aftermath is invisible, and rapid and vital reconstruction has erased it. The ruins of the dome in the Peace Memorial Park, which stand in mute pain, are the only remnants still visible when one visits Hiroshima. Despite the reluctance of the American and Chinese governments, the monument was designated a UNESCO World Heritage Site on 5 December 1996.
The shadow of past suffering is imprinted on the smiles of these old women, on the quivering leaves of the surviving trees of the Ikari shrine. Yet in the face of despair, Hiroshima has imposed its faith in the future. Martyrdom and then miraculous, the city has seen the worst and the best of Man.
What to do in Hiroshima?
Today, Hiroshima is undoubtedly bustling and fascinating, like many Japanese cities. Perfectly connected to the other regions and cities of the archipelago by the shinkansen, it has become very touristy and many visitors linger there.
Peace Memorial Park and Genbaku Dome
A must-see in the city, a place of remembrance and reflection. The park is home to various memorials: the famous dome, the Peace Memorial Museum, the Cenotaph for the victims of the bomb, the Children's Peace Monument, the Peace Flame, the Peace Bell... Not to be missed, to remember better.
Address: 1-2 Nakajima-cho, Naka-ku, Hiroshima
The Shukkei-en garden
Shukkei-en was created in 1620 for a samurai lord and is a beautiful little Japanese garden. With its large pond, hills, bonsai trees and granite bridge, it offers miniature panoramas. A must-see!
Address: 2-11 Kaminobori-cho, Hiroshima
- Hiroshima Castle
Built in 1590, the castle was destroyed by the atomic bomb, but rebuilt identically in 1951. It now houses the city's history museum.
Address: 21-1 Motomachi, Naka-ku, Hiroshima
A little out of town, the Buddhist temple Mitaki-dera with its three waterfalls is a delight to discover, especially in autumn during the koyo.
Address: 411 Mitaki-yama, Nishi-ku, Hiroshima
- The Hondôri district and its shopping street
The Hondôri district in the city centre, with its covered shopping arcade of the same name, is a must for shopping, eating and drinking, and above all for experiencing the relaxed atmosphere of the city.
Address: Hondôri, Naka-ku, Hiroshima, 730-0035
Hiroshima is renowned for its gourmet cuisine. The great specialty of the city? Okonomiyaki, Hiroshima's version: noodles are added to the classic recipe. So there's nothing like going to Okonomimura, the temple of okonomiyaki, where about twenty restaurants are gathered.
Address: 5-13 Shintenchi, Naka-ku, Hiroshima, 730-0034
The Museum of Contemporary Art
In the heart of a unique and original building, the opportunity to discover the work of contemporary Japanese artists. The museum's esplanade also offers a beautiful view of the city.
Address: 1-1 Hijiyama-koen, Minami-ku, Hiroshima
To go further:
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All the themes of the city
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