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Hiroshima History – Two targets for destruction

Hiroshima and Nagasaki are two port cities. The former has the access to the Inland Sea, which separates four main islands of Japan and serves as a waterway between the Pacific Ocean and the Sea of Japan. Nagasaki has been an important international port since the very beginning of its history. During World War II both cities had developed military facilities, produced arms for the war and were of strategic importance for the Japanese government.

The cities were chosen by Americans as a target for atomic bombing. The bombing used the new weapon and its goal was to terminate the war and to limit the amount of the war victims on both sides. The goal was achieved; the Japanese government was intimidated by the total destruction which the new weapons brought. At the same time many civilians were killed without having any chance to evacuate. They were simply burnt alive within a second. The invention of the atomic bomb threatens the life itself. The consequences of its discovery testify that great military and scientific inventions may bring immeasurable harm to the humanity.

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Hiroshima history

Hiroshima had been formed for many centuries. The city is located in the delta of the Ota River. The first settlements appeared on the territory in the ancient times. During the Middle Ages the land came from the hands of one feudal to another. There were continuous battles of clans for the territory. Rice was the main culture grown on the territory. People measured someone’s prosperity by the amount of rice in his possession.

The first references about the formation of the city itself go back to the 16th century. First, the area was called Gokamura, which had a meaning “five villages”. Later, the feudal of the area, Terumoto Mori, built a castle on the delta. He called the castle Hiroshima. The locality was soon named after the castle. Terumoto Mori invited workers from other areas to build a castle town on his land which would look like Kyoto. The Hiroshima town was passed on to other clans, as a trophy of the battles, which were common at that time. Each new ruler of the land introduced new changes to the town.

The first roads were built there in the early 17th century. Many small towns and villages were established near the Hiroshima Castle town. The latter was considered the largest of those located on the inland sea shipping route, that’s why many ships from other Japanese towns sailed to the shores of Hiroshima. Trading was well developed on the area. Besides, many goods from the surrounding areas, like cotton from the coastal area, paper and vegetables from the basin of the Ota River as well as seafood from the Hiroshima bay, were brought to Hiroshima to be shipped off to greater cities of Japan. In 1871 feudal domains were abolished and Hiroshima Prefecture was established. Later, with the establishment of the system of municipalities, many smaller towns were merged into Hiroshima City. The construction of the Ujina Port was completed in 1889, later on, in 1932, it was renamed Hiroshima Port. The railroad line appeared in the city in 1894.

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The First Sino-Japanese War (1894) had its impact on the city. Improvements to the sea and land transportation facilities which were carried out for the sake of war contributed to the economic welfare. During the war Emperor Meiji used the Hiroshima Castle for the imperial military headquarters. The negotiations between Japanese and Chinese representatives to end the Sino-Japanese War were also held in Hiroshima. The Kure naval port of Hiroshima Prefecture became a principle military base during the Russo-Japanese war in 1904. The Kure railroad line connected the port with the city. So, due to many military facilities which were built in the wartime, the city had become a military center.

In 1912 horse-drawn carriages were replaced by trains of the Hiroshima Electric Railway, which were running along streetcar lines. Improvements to the urban transportation contributed to the formation of the economic centre of the city – the Hatchobori area. Industrial modernization led to improvements of the port facilities. Besides, the Hiroshima Port was a place for the barracks of soldiers who would be soon dispatched overseas.

On August 6, 1945, the atomic bomb “Little Boy” was dropped by the American bomber Enola Gay over the center of the city and it detonated 600m above Hiroshima. About 80, thousands people were instantly killed and 77% of the city buildings were turned into ruins. There were reports which claimed that the city would be uninhabitable for the next several decades. But the opinion was wrong. The restoration of the city began with the enactment by the Japanese government of the Hiroshima Peace Memorial City Construction Law on August 6, 1949. The territory of the city was considerably expanded when the outlying villages were merged into it. By 1964 the population of the city was 500,000 and exceeded the maximum of the pre-war period. Hiroshima became a metropolis in the middle 60s, when the Hiroshima Airport was opened, the Hiroshima Station was completed and the Shin-Hiroshima Bypass on National Highway Route 2 was opened.

The Japanese parliament has proclaimed Hiroshima the City of Peace. The Hiroshima Peace Memorial Park created in 1954 is the main attraction of tourists today. Many conferences on peace are held there. The city advocates peace and stands for the elimination of nuclear weapons throughout the world.

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Nagasaki history

The references to the settlements of Nagasaki Prefecture go back to the 2nd century. They were listed in Chinese historical documents as the cities, which had links with China. Nagasaki itself remained a small fishing village until Portuguese explorers came to the area. The Portuguese started sailing there continuously for the purpose of trading, which was profitable both for the Japanese and the Europeans. Those trading relations had brought the necessity of establishing a port and port facilities in Nagasaki.

European missionaries brought Christianity to Nagasaki. In the early 17th century the city was nicknamed “Little Rome”, because the Christian faith flourished there. The mighty Japanese feudal, Hideyoshi Toyotomi, and others persecuted Christianity, because they thought that it was the means of conquering Japan. 26 Christians including Spaniards, Italians and Japanese were crucified and later canonized by the Pope as the Japanese martyrs. Many peasants and citizens who took the Christian faith in Japan were killed. In the 1630s the third Tokugawa Shogun started the policy of national isolation. This policy prohibited the Japanese to leave their country and to have trading relations with the world.

The only city, in which the trading was allowed for the Dutch only for the next 200 years, was Nagasaki. Nagasaki became the place of international exchange. The famous Japanese porcelain and other goods of Japanese culture were exported from the Dutch East India Company’s Japanese trading post to Europe. Many people from all over Japan came to Nagasaki, because interesting curiosities from Europe were sold at its markets. Besides, European books brought there by ships attracted many scholars and artisans, who wanted to find new knowledge in the books. Later these people contributed to industrialization of the locality.

Nagasaki had a leading role in industrialization of Japan. In 1859 a free international trade was legalized in Japan. Ships from the whole world started coursing to Japan, and Nagasaki, of course, was one of the most popular destinations. They brought goods which served well for the modernization of Japan. Some European merchants stayed in Nagasaki and ran their business there. For instance, Thomas Glover, a Scottish merchant, developed coalmining on islands near Nagasaki Port. There architecture of the city bore some Western-style elements, because rich European merchants built in Nagasaki their mansions. The Italian composer Giacomo Puccini wrote an opera called “Madam Butterfly”, the main character of which lived in Nagasaki.

Heavy industry became well developed in Nagasaki during the Meiji period. Ship-building was a leading industry there. There were located such plants as the Mitsubishi Steel and Arms Works, Mitsubishi Arms Plant, the Akunoura Engine Works, Mitsubishi Electric Shipyards, Mitsubishi-Urakami Ordnance Works. 90% of the labor force of the city was engaged in work at the plants and docks.

On August 9th 1945 the atomic bomb “Fat Man” was dropped by the American bomber over the northern part of the city and it detonated 500m above it. As a result, about 35,000 people were killed, about 70,000 were injured. The bomb destroyed the northern part of the city, sparing the other parts, due to the terrain peculiarities.

The reconstruction of the city was slow. War industries were redeveloped into shipbuilding, fishing and trading. Many Christian temples have been built there. Nagasaki has also survived some natural disasters, like floods and earthquakes. The people of Nagasaki have become used to the tribulations of the fate, but they remain to be consolidated and united when it comes to the question of welfare of their city. They also appreciate peace and the Nagasaki Atomic Bomb Museum is a remembrance to the disastrous bombing.

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The treasure of the country

The cities of Hiroshima and Nagasaki have managed to rise from the hellish fire. They know what a horrible notion “ground zero” means from their own experience. The cities were still reconstructed, due to the fact that the Japanese are persistent and hard-working people. Severe natural disasters and destructive atomic bombing have not broken the spirit of the Japanese. The Japanese have always had leading positions in technology and trading. No doubt that this country and its citizens deserve respect and the Japanese may be considered the main treasure of the country. The cities have also become the places of commemoration of the victims to nuclear weapons. They advocate peace in the world.