10 June 2022, 11:37
How Hiroshima was restored after a nuclear bomb

We want to take only the best practices for Ukrainian cities — and therefore we continue to explore how cities of other countries were rebuilt after the war, and what lessons they learned from it. Earlier, we told you about the experience of the British Coventry, as well as the Polish Warsaw and Berlin. It's time for Japan — Dutch scientist Karola Hayne shares the story of the restoration of Hiroshima.

Hiroshima was originally one of several cities that suffered almost no damage during World War II. However, on August 6, 1945, U.S. aircraft dropped a nuclear bomb on it. It was the first such incident in the world. The bomb exploded at an altitude of about 600 meters above the historic center of the city, its strength was about 3,000 B-29 bombers, which simultaneously dropped 5 tons of explosives each. The buildings in Hiroshima were mostly wooden, so the city burned to the ground — only a few concrete structures remained.


After the explosion, it was predicted that no blades of grass would grow in Hiroshima for the next 75 years. However, by the early 1960s, it was restored almost completely, and in 1985, more than a million inhabitants lived in the city.

Before proceeding to the description of the restoration of Hiroshima, it is worth noting several common features of Japanese reconstruction. The country had almost no special experience of reconstruction after the war because the island location protected it from direct invasions. However, Japan is located in a seismically active zone, so it repeatedly has had to recover from natural disasters. The result of one of these reconstructions in the early 20th century was the emergence of a new transport system, reduction of the density of construction, and landscaping of the territory. In addition, if in Western countries the buildings were built for centuries, the Japanese had buildings, renewed by each generation. For them, it was not the houses themselves that were the significant historical heritage, but the ability to create them and the involvement of citizens in this. One of Karola Hayne's tips for Ukraine concerned this particular aspect. She stresses that for a successful reconstruction, it is worth looking at our traditions regarding it.


As for Hiroshima, people began to return to it, even despite the lack of understanding of whether it was safe there after a nuclear strike. There was not enough money for a large-scale reconstruction of the city. However, in 1949, Hiroshima was designated a city of peace, and the state directed money from the budget to rebuild it. Now there is a memorial complex in the place where the bomb hit. Next to it is the Atomic Bomb Dome, the building of the Hiroshima Chamber of Commerce and Industry, which partially withstood the explosion.

In fact, this is almost the only clearly planned zone of the city — other areas are built up more chaotically. However, during the restoration of Hiroshima, as well as throughout the territory of Japan, it was necessary to consider the danger of earthquakes and other natural disasters. Therefore, the country borrowed the practices from the West and adapted them to its needs. In the end, the reconstruction combined Japanese traditions and a Western modernist approach.

Karola Hayne advises Ukrainian cities to first understand what should be preserved, and what should be changed. And then decide what you want to achieve, how to express your identity. In general, we need to begin with the general plan and explanatory notes to it on how we would like to see the city, and then start designing.

In addition, it is worth rebuilding residential areas and outskirts, with an emphasis on pedestrian spaces, the use of alternative energy sources, etc. We also need to think about creating places that have a dual purpose. For example, in peacetime, it is a public space, and in war, it is a place with food and water where you can hide from bombing.

As for temporary housing, Carola believes that if you approve and implement the general plan of the city and at the same time give people the opportunity to turn something temporary into something permanent, they will willingly invest in their own housing.

For a full recording of the conversation with the expert, visit the link.

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